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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 23, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 04
'Black Lives Matter' - Huge MLK Day march, police arrest 19 in civil disobedience
Section One
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'Black Lives Matter' - Huge MLK Day march, police arrest 19 in civil disobedience

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

As many as 10,000 people marked Martin Luther King Day in Seattle with a march from Garfield High School to the Federal Courthouse. Later, police arrested 19 people in civil disobedience actions on State Route 99.

Ferguson, Missouri, protest leader Jelani Brown was the keynote speaker at the pre-march program in the Garfield gym. Wearing a black hoodie emblazoned with the Organization for Black Struggle logo, Brown told the crowd that change comes from proactive organizing as much as from protest marches.

The high point in the program was recognition of student activists who led walk-outs and die-ins in their schools to protest the complete absence of accountability for police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

'Look at all the teens and young marchers here,' said James Williams, chair of the MLK Celebration Committee. 'This is powerful. This is a movement.'

The gym, traditional kick-off point for the 33-year-old march, was filled to overflowing with students, community activists, and union members.

The crowd's numbers continued to grow as people reassembled outside the high school to prepare for the march through the center of town to the Federal Courthouse. In addition to banners representing more than a dozen organizations, marchers carried signs that read 'Fight for your rights in 2015!' and 'Black lives matter!'

The march stopped for brief speeches at the youth detention facility on 12th Avenue, the new Yesler Terrace development, King County Jail, and the Seattle Police headquarters downtown, to highlight ongoing issues troubling local communities of color.

Standing in the street between the police headquarters and City Hall, NAACP president Gerald Hankerson denounced excessive use of force by Seattle police.

'The folks in that building [pointing at police headquarters] send patrolmen out to beat down our community, and the folks in that building [City Hall] write laws to let them get away with it,' Hankerson said to loud applause.

After a second rally in front of the Federal Courthouse, much of the crowd dispersed, but some demonstrators continued to march to Mercer Street and Highway 99.

Eight protestors locked themselves together, blocking the northbound lanes on 99. They were eventually removed after police cut through the PVC piping linking them together. Additional protestors were removed from southbound traffic lanes and from the Mercer Street I-5 ramps.

After the confrontation on 99, demonstrators continued to march through the South Lake Union area, splitting up to evade police cordons and then reuniting to block traffic.

In all, police said they arrested 19 people. While the demonstrators were not violent, at least one police officer was reportedly injured, with a possible broken leg, and Garfield teacher Jesse Hagopian - who spoke at the Federal Courthouse rally - was pepper sprayed by officers.

According to CNN, MLK Day marchers confronted police in a number of cities.

Some 60 demonstrators in the San Francisco Bay Area closed the San Mateo Bridge until arrested by the California Highway Patrol. In nearby Oakland, protestors also shut down a Bay Area Rapid Transit station. A march in Los Angeles, on the other hand, went off entirely without incident.

In Minnesota, demonstrators shut down I-94 before converging on the state Capitol in St. Paul.

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