Socialist Alternative

#BlackLivesMatterFriday : Over 1,000 People Disrupt Black Friday in Seattle

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[youtube id=”VsneA8RBkkk” width=”620″ height=”360″]“We shut down two downtown malls, a train station, and several intersections. The police tried to keep us from exercising our democratic right to protest in downtown Seattle, setting up barricades and even throwing two flashbang grenades at us. But we outmaneuvered them,” reported Patrick Ayers of Socialist Alternative.

The whole system is guilty! Photo: Seattle Socialist Alternative
The whole system is guilty! Photo: Seattle Socialist Alternative

Upwards of 1,000 people participated in Seattle’s #BlackLivesMatter protests on Black Friday, November, 28. The protests grabbed headlines, and effectively shut down the city’s Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. Protesters got around police barricades and even got to the speakers platform, forcing the corporations that run the event to end it 3 hours early.

The protesters – who were lead by black youth – were overwhelmingly peaceful, and at times tried to check the passions of others. The Seattle police, on the other hand, used violent tactics to provoke confrontation. It’s also likely there were police provocateurs in the crowd – as there were in 1999 when the Seattle PD violently attacked WTO protesters.

Protestors in solidarity with Ferguson. Photo: Socialist Alternative Seattle
Protestors in solidarity with Ferguson. Photo: Seattle Socialist Alternative

The corporate media chose to focus on the outrage of ordinary shoppers, rather than the issues raised by protesters or the violent tactics of the police. The protesters did not target shoppers, and not all shoppers were upset by the protests. Many actually joined in the protest and others showed their solidarity by putting their hands up for the “Hands up, don’t shoot” chants.

The only aim of the action was to fight for justice for Mike Brown, to demand that Darren Wilson be indicted, and to challenge the blatant racism against black people and people of color by declaring #BlackLivesMatter.

“With the failure to indict Darren Wilson, the US criminal justice system has once again shown it is completely stacked against black people and workers,” explained Socialist Alternative member Jess Spear, who was at the protest. “On top of this, the two-party dominated political system has completely failed working people. It’s clear the only choice we have is to build a powerful independent mass movement in the streets to bring justice for Mike Brown, and the youth of Ferguson have led the way.”

Socialist Alternative member Aila Barbour gives a first hand report below:

This was a powerful protest and one of the best I have been to so far.

The protest started at 1pm, but I did not arrive till around 2pm. At that point the group was demonstrating outside Nordstrom. Cops/Security guards wouldn’t let anyone in and Nordstrom staff repeatedly opened and closed their metal guard doors.There was a small scuffle between cops/security guards/protestors.

Later the people took to the streets and made their way to Pacific Place. The crowd poured into the mall with hundreds of people chanting and taking over both sets of escalators. At the top we stopped and chanted/banged on the wooden posts.

Next the group headed up towards Capitol Hill. They stopped at the intersection of Broadway and Pine. There people talked and later we had 4.5 minutes of silence in respect of Mike Brown’s dead body being left out on the street for 4.5 hours. We stopped at multiple intersections and different protestors and youth talked with a passion to break down the racist system we live under.

SPD forms a barricade with bikes. Photo: Pat Ayers
Seattle cops form a barricade with bikes. Photo: Pat Ayers

The group then headed back towards downtown for the final goal of disrupting the lighting of the Christmas tree happening in Westlake Square. At that point we were met with police in riot gear. People chanted with their hands up. Later we ran to the other street to try to get past the riot cops, but ran into cops on bikes. The cops put their bikes together and blocked us off. Scuffles started so the cops threw down a couple flash bombs and pepper sprayed the crowd.

I was one of the unlucky one’s who got pepper sprayed. Solidarity is everything and I thank the few people who poured milk into my eyes and helped me out. Even though my face and lips still tingled I pushed onward.

At this point the crowd split up in an effort to make it downtown. The couple dozens of people I went with cut through a park near Hubbell. We made it within a block of the Christmas tree, but there were hordes of cops everywhere blocking each intersection. They threw some people on the ground and arrested them. After a bit they just let us go through since they couldn’t keep the streets completely blocked when there were so many people there to enjoy Black Friday shopping and the tree lighting ceremony.

We started to chant near the Christmas tree. A lot of people went into Westlake Center and rode the escalators all the way to the top. From that point we went out onto the balcony where the DJ/Announcer people in charge of the event were.

When we said we would shut shit down we meant it. It was so awesome to scream “Black Lives Matter!!!” looking down at a sea of people there for shopping and festivities. Once the cops showed up on the balcony people started to back off, but others continued to chant on the ground around the Christmas tree. It was around 5:30pm when I left the protest.

Mike Brown’s death = the spark that lit ablaze everyone’s last straw!

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