May First is tradition rooted in upholding principals of labor and respect for workers in Seattle and globally. This year people marched for worker’s rights in Mexico at the Driscoll Berries plant, for an end to police violence, and for curbing deportation in battleground states. It was a vibrant, positive march downtown, but as the daylight disappeared, the divide between police and civilians widened. Around 9pm I witnessed a young man named Samm (yes, with two m’s) stand between a crowd of young people and a wall of officers on bikes, and take a megaphone from a young woman yelling aggressive, accusatory things at the unmoving officers. “We have to stand together!” He yelled. “It isn’t us against them, it’s all of us trying to thrive in a system that is against us.” The crowd rebuffed him, then as his acuity became clear, they listened, and the mood changed. The police walked away, and the crowd dispersed into the lively streets of Capitol Hill. Regrettably, I didn’t have my camera at this point. I did approach Sam as he left his sidewalk stage and walk alongside him for a while. He told me that growing up,he was embarrassed when he had to tell friends that his mother was a police officer, but that he”s sick of that and it shouldn’t be that way. We are individuals. Some of us will abuse our power, and that needs to be addressed, but others are there to protect, there to serve, or maybe just there for a job. It is worth remembering. that there is never one side to a story that merits listening.
March 15th celebrates the Hungarian revolution of 1848. Despite widespread discontent with the recent actions of the government, Budapest was filled with Hungarian flags held high and the voices of the exuberant masses. At one point during the march I was informed that the crowd was yelling “Fuck the Government!” If not for my friend’s translation I never would have known this, people appeared to be in high spirits and their voices did not sound aggressive at all. Some of the older revelers were dressed in the garb of the mid 19th century, when the revolution took place, while others of my generation sang American rock songs such as “We will Rock You!” It was a very amicable, and somewhat eclectic gathering of thousands of proud Budapest citizens.
Last Monday, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., more than 1,000 Seattleites marched from Garfield High School to Downtown Seattle chanting phrases such as “Who’s lives matter? Black lives matter?” and “No justice, No peace, No racist police!” The march paused in front of the downtown municipal building and the juvenile jail where speakers made the street their stage. Key topics were reforming police brutality and addressing the inherent racism present in the courts and the prison system at large. Rejecting the proposed building of a new “Mega-Jail for children” was one of the more Seattle-specific concerns voiced throughout the march. In one of the final speeches, Gerald Hankerson, the president of the NAACP Northwest put forth a call to action to attendees,
“I’m calling on all of you today, to as you walk away thinking about why you celebrate MLK 2015, think about this, what has happened differently since 2014 when we were down here? What has happened differently since 2013 when we were down here? The question before you is, what is going to happen in 2016 if we don’t do something different?”
“We’re putting our police officers on notice right now, if you break the law, we’re going to hold you accountable just like you’d hold one of us accountable, and if the law can’t protect us, it damn sure can’t protect you!”