Black organizers planned a Black takeover or “Black Out” of the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) during Juneteenth. However that celebration of Blackness was interrupted by a shooting that left one Black man dead and another man in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center.
The aftermath of the shooting was captured by Omari Salisbury, whose prolific frontlines video reporting has followed the protest from the blast balls and clouds of tear gas to more triumphant moments recently for protesters. It was CHOP’s own volunteer medic team that provided first aid, and licensed paramedics were part of this response, one medic confirmed.
Police arrived 20 to 30 minutes after the shooting in a phalanx of riot shields, guns drawn. Volunteer medics had already transported the first victim–the Black man who died–to Harborview in a private vehicle by this time. Protesters kept a wary eye on the police and some chanted for them to leave. As Salisbury’s video showed, police roved around for a little while and then left. About 40 minutes into Salisbury’s video, volunteer medics loaded the second victim into a van for transport, likely to Harborview, which is the premier trauma center in the region.
“No matter what happened, I am heartbroken to know that on the one day when CHOP was turned into a space specifically for Black people and Black lives, someone decided to enter that space and kill a Black man,” Seattle activist and bestselling author Ijeoma Oluo wrote in a social media post. “Regardless of what you think happened at CHOP or why, I hope you prioritize your feelings for this life lost and this man’s friends and family, and try to understand the pain and fear of the Black community in Seattle right now.”
Oluo and other Black leaders have raised concerns that White supremacists were the shooters. Armed White militia types have been seen circling the edges of the CHOP in the past week.
“Do NOT let Seattle PD and Pro-Cop Mayor Jenny Durkan twist this story and make it about them,” activist and journalist Dae Shik Kim Hawkins tweeted. “A black man was shot and killed at CHOP after hours of celebrating Juneteenth. We have been getting reports of armed white nationalists threatening to ‘take back the precinct’ for weeks.”
In more conservative circles, calls to disperse the CHOP and crack down on protesters were already being raised this morning and Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) president Mike Solan went on Fox News‘ “Fox & Friends Weekend” to lament the lawlessness, the City’s chemical weapons gas ban, and the lack of “backbone” from Seattle’s leaders. “Violence has now besieged the area known as CHOP,” Solan said. “It’s no longer the summer of love; it’s the summer of chaos.”
Solan emphasized that police were denied access to the area to “locate victims and/or render aid,” but failed to mention that police did not respond until almost 30 minutes after the shooting when the first victim had already been attended to by licensed paramedics and transported to the hospital. Instead, he framed it as a culture war and launched into political attacks on Seattle electeds and on the MLK County Labor Council, which voted to expel the police guild from their ranks on Wednesday.
“It can’t stand in America,” Solan said. “This is a direct result of City leadership–elected officials–failing the reasonable community of Seattle to enforce the rule of law. And this isn’t just the area occupied in a six-block zone where police are still forbidden and still don’t have their East Precinct. This is now impacting our entire city. And last night as well our flagship precinct, the West Precinct Downtown, was defaced with anti-police graffiti, and again we’re left wondering what’s next.”
“Elected officials have removed our ability to have less lethal chemical munitions that are effective enough for us to disperse violent unruly crowds to protect those police facilities let alone ourselves,” Solan continued. “You’re going to have to have the political backbone to finally enforce the rule of law, because if this continues to spiral down like it did early this morning with a homicide, I don’t see what the remedy is.”
If the thirst for tear gas wasn’t inflammatory enough, Solan seemed to promise that police training would be the first thing the guild seeks to cut if SPD received a budget cut–and Seattle City Councilmembers are planning to cut SPD’s budget. “Separating the good cops from the bad is all about training,” Solan said. However, the evidence for that belief is scant, and SPOG has refused to admit they have a problem. Under the banner of Defund The Police, protesters are urging a 50% cut to SPD’s budget, arguing that police are too often the problem rather the solution and better remedies exist in many situations.
Seattle Police Department (SPD) also seemed to fan the flames in their SPD Blotter blogpost. “Officers attempted to locate a shooting victim but were met by a violent crowd that prevented officers safe access to the victims,” SPD wrote. “Officers were later informed that the victims, both males, had been transported to Harborview Medical Center by CHOP medics.”
The Seattle Times coverage wasn’t much better as the story failed to mention Juneteenth or the CHOP Black Out taking place that day. The “graffiti” on East Precinct did warrant a mention as did the closing of a Molly Moon’s ice cream shop, but the race of the man shot and killed didn’t. The only Black commentary on the shooting in their story is Salisbury’s video.
Police appear set on using a homicide–which could prove to be an assassination carried out by White nationalists–to shut down Black-led protest at the CHOP and turn East Precinct back into a police-occupied bunker. However, one would would hope Seattle is smarter than victim blaming and self-serving police narratives. Let’s stay focused on racial justice and public safety rather than repressing protests.
The featured image is a still from Omari Salisbury’s video and is courtesy of Converge Media.
Doug Trumm is the executive director of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.