The Court of Appeals handed prison abolitionist groups Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) and #NoNewYouthJail (NNYJ) a substantial and calculated victory Tuesday morning that could potentially close the money spigot for the youth dentition center they’ve been opposing.
After the death of Charleena Lyles, a black pregnant mother shot and killed by two Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers, Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant requested a public hearing at the UW’s Kane Hall between the Lyles family and SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole.
The chief, however, declined to participate. O’Toole’s response stated Sawant’s request via email had “a disappointing level of ignorance of SPD policies and clear disdain for the investigatory process and review that SPD is court mandated to follow.” SPD has, however, done such public hearings before. The department held a heated public discussion last year with family after Che Taylor, a black man, died at the hands of SPD. O’Toole went on to write that had Sawant “expressed any interest in our work over the past three years…we would have gladly welcomed the invitation to engage.”
Regardless of SPD’s presence, the public hearing wasn’t cancelled, but rather became a space to heal. The event was moderated by Michele Storms, the Washington state American Civil Liberties Union deputy director, who permitted Lyles’ family to speak at any time. Charles Lyles, Charleena Lyles’ father, first explained his daughter’s name is pronounced with a hard “ch-,” not a soft “sh-.” The family had repeatedly heard “Say Her Name” over the past week only to have it pronounced incorrectly.
Charles Lyles brought up how the media blamed his daughter for her own death and denounced such conclusions. He explained Charleena Lyles was harassed by her ex-boyfriend. She even called the police and requested a protection order prior to this incident, but that went reportedly disregarded. The call she placed with SPD on June 18 was for burglary. The police who responded, however, discussed that she was too poor to have those type of belongings in the first place on their way to killing her.
“This one has to be the last straw that broke the camel’s back,” Jennifer Cobb said during her testimony.
She mentioned the death of Ben Keita, a Muslim teenager who was found hanging from a tree in Lake Stevens earlier this year.
Seattle community members repeatedly asked for the councilmembers to hold themselves accountable. It was requested that the officials put their phones away, twice. People asked that more be done for de-escalation training, and to remove paid administrative leave for the two officers under investigation.
One woman, Roxanne White of the Yakama Nation, moved the audience to tears.
“This nation has never served our people, both the Native Americans and African Americans,” White said. “Our lives matter as women, we are sacred, we are the backbone … until they respect us, nothing else will happen to change this community.”
National and local patterns where people of color die disproportionately at the hands of police
Seattle’s jagged mountains were shaded blue the morning Charleena Lyles was fatally shot by Steven McNew and Jason Anderson of the Seattle Police Department (SPD), matching that of the community’s reaction to such police violence: tragic and somewhat jaded, topped with anger as sharp as the rocky skyline.
Lyles’ death tacks on yet another name to the list of people killed by police since 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot in 2014, when the nation decided it had enough and finally started taking note. Lyles was a mother of four, and was reportedly pregnant.
The planning was set over the course of a week, organized by three core members. This year’s Pride Parade would feature a surprise altar for Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old pregnant mother of four killed by Seattle Police Department officers Steven McNew and Jason Anderson on June 18.
Over the summer, Seattle’s #NoNewYouthJail movement’s future steps seemed unclear. After more than five years of protests, demonstrations, teach-ins and community outreach, it appeared the “youth jail” people had been fighting vehemently against would soon be constructed on 12th and Alder in the Squire Park neighborhood.
However, a hearing Tuesday evening showed the fight against King County’s $210 million “Children and Family Justice Center” — which, along with courthouses and youth program space, will house a 92,000 square foot juvenile detention center, replacing the current one — is far from finished.
A slew of unpublicized errors made by Seattle City and King County Councils was that evening’s focus.
While hundreds turned out Saturday for a months in the making Black Lives Matter March 2.0 , another event sprouted up nearly two weeks ago among activist’s Facebook feeds: A “Displacement Stops Here” rally and block party. The latter gathered local Black organizers, local artists, and resources all in one place Saturday afternoon at 23rd and Union, a historically Black neighborhood.
The Seattle Black Book Club, a central group to many of the city’s black liberation movements, expressed concerns over issues between the organizer of the BLM march, “Mohawk” or Miles Partman, and Black organizers, specifically women. In a Facebook post, the group said that he was not the leader of any BLM movement.
by Kelsey Hamlin
It’s been well documented that Seattle has a problem when it comes to racial gaps in learning, discipline, and opportunities for all of its school children. Some of these systemic issues can be traced all the way back to redlining, Seattle’s historic practice of effectively restricting designated residential areas to certain races.