There was no business as usual on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Seattle. Responding to the call from Black leaders, Seattle reclaimed MLK day as a chance to demand revolutionary change through several creative actions across the city. JVP-Seattle is inspired by all of the powerful actions that occurred, and we are especially proud of our members who participated in a collective act of civil disobedience that shut down SR 99 for over two hours.
The day began with the distribution of The Seattle Crimes—a fake front page folded over the Seattle Times, which imitated the look of the newspaper, but whose content highlighted the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement. Articles included an argument against the new King county youth jail, a critique of racism in the Seattle Police Department, and an examination of gentrification in Seattle’s historically Black Central District.
Following the huge MLK march and rally, community members occupied two major highways. A group led by Black youth and people of color marched from the Federal Building to the Mercer onramp of I-5 where the Seattle Police Department assaulted marchers with pepper spray and arrested several people.
Simultaneously, eight community members, who mostly identify as Jewish and queer, including several JVP members, intentionally linked arms in lock boxes and blocked SR-99, stopping all north bound traffic for two hours. All eight individuals and three supporters were arrested, and have since been released.
Participants in the lock down aimed to use their bodies to stop traffic for four hours and twenty-eight minutes to represent the time Mike Brown was left in the street after being killed by a police officer. They were calling attention to the heartbreaking fact that every 28 hours a Black person is killed by the police, security, or vigilantes. Using their white privilege to refuse complicity in a racist system, these individuals honored the lives of Black people killed by a racist police state by reading their names during the protest.
Jewish Voice for Peace-Seattle is proud that our members helped to shut down business as usual in order to amplify the demands coming from Black leaders in both Ferguson and Seattle.
To support MLK day actions, including legal fees, go to the Tumblr site.