Seattle has been famous for major protests since the mass demonstrations against the World Trade Organization attracted worldwide attention in 1999. There have been numerous anti-war marches, Occupy Wall Street encampments, civil rights rallies, Black Lives Matter protests, etc., over the last two decades. Our annual Martin Luther King Celebration Day marches remain some of the largest in the country.
On Saturday, Jan 21, an amazing and unprecedented number of people participated in the Seattle Women’s March in solidarity with marchers all around the globe. Estimates of the local march range from 130,000 to 170,000 people.
Last weekend another huge crowd gathered and marched in downtown Seattle to demonstrate against Donald Trump’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim countries. Although I haven’t seen any indisputable estimates, my guess was that around 20,000 participated throughout the night; 17,000 had registered for the rally on Facebook.
Westlake Park was overflowing with protesters at that massive immigration rights event. Crowds of enthusiastic people spilled out into the streets. Overhead video from news helicopters showed an enormous crowd. There were so many folks at the rally that most of them couldn’t even hear the speeches at the microphone. Nonetheless, the sound of the audience was thunderous that night as they cheered a long list of speakers that included many local civil rights activists and political representatives.
The day before that rally at least 3,000 folks had converged on Sea-Tac Airport, where airline passengers from some of those countries on Trump’s ban list were being detained. At these events Gov. Jay Inslee, Mayor Ed Murray, City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and other local political representatives spoke out against the immigration policy.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is filing a lawsuit to challenge the immigration ban. Even locally based corporate giants like Microsoft and Starbucks have expressed their opposition to these policies.
Of course, it’s not just Trump’s ban on immigration that has caused so many people to take to the streets in protest. There’s a large list of issues that Seattleites find highly objectionable, including but certainly not limited to: his pro-fossil fuel environmental and energy policy, his proven disrespect for and discrimination against women, repeated verbal attacks on the media that threaten freedom of the press, the corporate right-wing nature of his cabinet appointees and controversy over his new Supreme Court nominee.
So let it be said that the vast majority of people in our community are dedicated to opposing pseudo-fascist elements that may be attempting to set policies for our government. Trump’s admiration for Vladimir Putin and the personal Mussolini style of leadership that he has displayed in office are simply not acceptable in a democracy, especially to residents of the Capitol Hill and surrounding neighborhoods, where around 80,000 people have a longtime tradition of standing against racial, ethnic, religious and sexual discrimination.
Seattle has a recent history of leading the way on many cutting edge social justice issues. It’s evident that this tradition will continue in the face of Trump’s right-wing agenda. We can look forward to more record-breaking marches and protests led by our local political and community representatives.
At least in this city there is a strong sense of solidarity and commitment to our unique values. In many cases we have shown an unshakable dedication to the protection of human rights.
We are not a perfect community by any means, and our civil emergency due to homelessness is one issue that has not been adequately addressed by large corporate interests or in City Hall. Still, at least there is a growing sense of opposition to the current misguided policies coming out of Washington, D.C.
As the rest of the world looks on, I am confident Seattle will hold its ground as a progressive sanctuary for people who have been oppressed by other communities and by intolerant governments.
As they say during the protests, “The whole world is watching!” Seattle can serve as a fine example of a truly progressive city that stands up for the rights of all the people. This is what a democracy looks like.