Hundreds of people marched to the neighborhood of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Sunday, shouting the name of a pregnant Black mother killed by police in 2017 at the start of their march and continuing their persistent calls for the city to invest more in communities of color and cut the Police Department’s budget by half.
The march took protesters from Warren G. Magnuson Park — near the apartment where Charleena Lyles, 30, had lived when she was shot by police three years ago — to a street organizers believed to be where Durkan lived.
The location of Durkan’s home has not been publicly
disclosed in the past because of her law enforcement background as a former
U.S. attorney. It was not clear how organizers had determined her address.
Demonstrators said it was important to bring their demands “to her doorstep” after a full month of marches and protests in the city, sparked in late May by anger over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. The marches in Seattle — and across the globe — quickly evolved into a broader movement against systemic racism, use-of-force by law enforcement, and the militarization of police.
There was no visible police presence at Sunday's event, though scores of civilian cyclists flanked the crowd and rode ahead of the group to block off intersections as protesters approached.
During Sunday’s peaceful gathering, protesters rejected a recent proposal by Durkan to cut the police budget by $20 million, which amounts to a roughly 5% reduction. Organizers also sought to underscore demands outlined by the family of Lyles as they seek answers into her death through an inquest process.
“On the heels of the three-year-anniversary of her death, we still don’t have any answers,” said Katrina Johnson, a cousin of Lyles who was among those who marched on Sunday. “That is extremely traumatizing.”
Lyles was shot seven times by two white officers in her home after she called 911 to report a burglary in June 2017. The officers said there was no evidence of a burglary and that she had suddenly threatened them with one or two knives.
An inquest to determine the facts and circumstances of
Lyles’ death has yet to be held. In December 2017, King County Executive Dow
Constantine called a halt on inquests because of perceptions that they were
held to clear officers and were unfair to families.
Constantine then ordered new inquest rules, which drew legal challenges from the King County Sheriff’s Office and the cities of Kent, Renton, Federal Way and Auburn. Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes announced earlier this month that the city of Seattle would drop its challenge.
The family of Lyles called for the legal challenges to be dropped. They also want Durkan to resign, Johnson said.
A spokesperson for the mayor said Durkan was at City Hall on Sunday evening and not at her home.
As protesters gathered at the park, Durkan tweeted that she hears "the voices demanding change at the local, county, state, and federal level," and was discussing with Seattle police Chief Carmen Best "how we reimagine policing and community investments and how that is reflected in the budget."
"I'll continue to meet with people that have different points of view. It is my job to listen and act," she tweeted.
Wes, a member of the Seattle Democratic Socialists of America, which helped organize the Sunday march, said the decision to center the march on the calls of Lyles’ family set the event apart from others. Wes, who spoke on Saturday, does not use a last name.
Other speakers included Roxanne White, a Seattle-area activist who is an advocate for families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. She listed the names of Native Americans killed by police, including John T. Williams, who was shot in Seattle in 2010.
For Eliyas Abdulkadir, a 24-year-old R&B and hip-hop musician who performs under the name NESTRA and lives near Magnuson Park, the protest was one of the only ones he has been able to attend because a member of his household has a compromised immune system. While he has been careful during the coronavirus pandemic to stay away from crowds, he made an exception Sunday because he was performing at the rally before the march and because the rally was in his neighborhood. He noted most residents in the area are white.
Once the march reached Durkan’s neighborhood, several people stood in front of their residences to watch the protesters’ procession through the streets.
“Everyone is probably here because of Black Lives Matter,” Abdulkadir said. “But maybe some people are here because they are curious.”
Seattle Times staff reporter Sara Jean Green contributed to this report.