SEATTLE (AP) — Protesters that have been active in an “occupied” protest zone near downtown Seattle held a news conference Thursday saying the goal of their movement is to dismantle systemic racism.
“We fight for equality and human rights including those of Indigenous peoples, immigrants, LGBTQ+ communities and the differently-abled,” said Naudia Miller of Black Collective Voice.
The collective of protesters, activists, educators and volunteers in the Capitol Hill Organized Protest was born after clashes with police who tear-gassed people protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
After the police left the East Precinct last Monday, people met each other, camped in the park, grew gardens and provided food, security and medical care, Miller said.
“Our shared experience of police brutality and media misrepresentation — instead of generating fear — brought us closer together. The truth is even if they force activists out of CHOP it will not stop us or this movement,” Miller said.
She, along with other collective representatives Jesse Miller and Marcus Henderson, said the group wants its demands met, including defunding the Seattle Police Department by at least half and using that money to fund community restorative justice, housing, and healthcare, as well as releasing all jailed protesters.
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said earlier this week she believes a community-led re-envisioning of community safety — and the police department’s role in it — is needed and that the department is committed to doing this work.
Mayor Jenny Durkan has expressed support for the protest, calling it “a peaceful expression of our community’s collective grief and their desire to build a better world,” and the city has provided barricades to better protect participants. She has asked the police department to prepare models of what 20%, 30% and 50% budget cuts would look like.
But following several recent shootings in the area, Durkan said this week the city would wind down the protest zone, at first by encouraging demonstrators to leave, and that police would return to the precinct. But neither she nor Best have given specifics on when that would happen.
Naudia Miller said Thursday that the collective rejects the narrative that protesting police brutality caused the recent crime she said has always been prevalent around Cal Anderson Park.
“Homelessness, substance abuse and gun violence are long standing issues in the area, across our city and our nation,” she said.