9/30/10

Welcome Back - Fall ISO Plans

Welcome back to fall quarter at UW!

The UW Socialists are affiliated nationally with the International Socialist Organization (ISO) the largest revolutionary organization in the US with branches and members in more than 65 cities across the country. Check out our About Us page for more info on our politics and the national organization. We hope you'll check out the ISO and get involved in our organizing.

The UW ISO Branch hopes to engage in political discussion and debate to educate people about socialism and the real Marxist tradition, as well as participate in struggles for social justice today. This Fall we are part of the UW for 1098 Coalition to tax the rich in WA and raise $2 billion for Education and Health care. We have been part of the ongoing battle against budget cuts at UW, we’ve participated in S.O.L.E. in the struggle for LGBT rights, helped with immigrant rights actions, we support Palestinian rights & the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions of Israel, contribute to Ruckus, as well as fight city-wide against teacher layoffs and school closures. But what we do each quarter depends on our members’ interests—so Join and Bring your Passion!


 
The UW ISO meets every Wed. at 7pm in Savery Hall
(room TBA)

This Fall we will rotate educational and organizing meetings every other week. We've planed an educational series: The Revolutionary Ideas of Karl Marx to address key questions for socialists (see list below), and on the Wednesdays between those meeting we'll have organizing meetings to work on our campaigns & events and discuss news and political issues of the day.
 

Fall Schedule:

10/6 - Why You Should Be a Socialist: What is Socialism and How do we get there?
Are you fed up with endless war? Racism? Homophobia? Environmental destruction? Islamophobia? Corporate greed? All of the above? Come to a meeting on Why You Should Be a Socialist! We live in a world of poverty, war and environmental devastation. A world where living standards for working people plummet while an elite few enjoy lives of unbelievable wealth and power. An alternative to capitalism is desperately needed. The word "socialism" has returned to the mainstream of American political debate. But there are widespread misconceptions about what socialism is—and what it isn't. Socialism is really about the struggle to oppose discrimination in all its forms and to put the needs of working people before corporate profits. Come discuss the idea of socialism—and socialist strategies for changing the world.

10/13 - Intro to the ISO Organizing Meeting 
Come find out more about the ISO--the politics of the national organization, as well as what we're up to at UW.  Meet members of our group and hear about our campaigns on campus and how you can get involved. There will be a short presentation and lots of time for questions -- so if you want to know more about us, what we think about political issues, how we organize, why we organize the way we do, and how to get involved come check this meeting out!


10/20 - The Right Turn in U.S. Politics: How it Happened and What We Can Do About It
A year and a half ago, when Barack Obama was moving into the Oval Office, it seemed like the demoralized Republican Party would face years as an ineffectual minority party in Washington. Not anymore. Now the Republicans are setting the agenda in U.S. politics, and their right-wing attack machine—from Fox News to the crusaders of the Christian Right—is on the warpath, supremely confident that they can get away with anything, from blocking the construction of a religious center in New York City to appropriating the iconic image of Martin Luther King speaking at the Lincoln Memorial for a right-wing circus presided over by Glenn Beck. Come discuss how we can fight the right and build a real left-wing alternative with Special Guest speaker Jennifer Roesch, a longtime activist and member of the ISO in New York City. She is on the editorial board of the International Socialist Review. Her articles have been featured in the ISR as well as CounterPunch and Socialist Worker.


10/27 - ISO Organizing Meeting 

11/3 - How Capitalism Works & How it Doesn’t: A Marxist Primer on the Great Recession
We are facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. But while billions of our tax dollars have been used to bail out the same Wall Street bankers who caused the crisis in the first place, funding for schools and badly needed social services is on the chopping block, while millions are losing their jobs and homes. Capitalism–our current economic and political system–looks out for the profits of the few at the expense of the needs of the many. How does capitalism work (or rather why does it NOT work)? Join the ISO for a discussion on Marxist economics, which explains why exploitation, greed, competition, and economic crisis are at the heart of a system that devastates our lives, and why socialism is the only humane and viable alternative.

11/10 - ISO Organizing Meeting 


11/17 - Reform or Revolution: Can Capitalism be Fixed?


11/20 - Saturday Teach In: The Case for Socialist Revolution
A special teach in on the topic of mass democratic revolution featuring special guest speakers for three meetings: Why the Working Class Can Change Society, State and Revolution, and What kind of Organization Do We Need: The Theory of the Revolutionary Party

11/24- ISO Organizing Meeting 

12/1 - From Jim Crow to Juan Crow: A Marxist Case for Fighting Racism

Make Washington's richest pay

Ethan Boyles makes the case in favor of a ballot initiative in Washington state that would impose an income tax on the richest 1.2 percent of residents.
A RED specter is haunting Washington state these days.
No, the Evergreen State isn't on the verge of a working-class uprising, although such a specter would be a sight for sore eyes. Instead, this red specter, which is haunting states across the country, comes in the form of massive budget deficits, coloring state balance sheets in red.
Fueled on the one hand by the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and on the other by massive tax breaks for the wealthy over the last several decades, rising budget deficits are leaving in their wake nothing but apparitions of the services once funded.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Members of the International Socialist Organization at the University of Washington are working with other organizations and concerned students to ensure I-1098 passes.
Come to a meeting to organize around this issue at the University of Washington's Seattle campus at 12 p.m. Contact isouw@uw.edu for the building and room number. All are welcome.
In Washington state specifically, $3.4 billion has already been cut from the state budget for the 2009-2011 biennium in an attempt to keep the red menace at bay. Updated projections estimate Washington is facing an additional $2.6 billion deficit. Another $3 billion deficit is expected for the 2011-13 budget cycle.
Public services, including education and health care, have thus far been the primary victims. Tuition has increased up to 30 percent in the last two years, while funds to reduce class sizes have been cut by 70 percent. Over 40,000 Washingtonians have lost state-supplemented health care coverage. State funding for child vaccinations has been eliminated. More than 2,600 public sector employees were laid off between 2007 and 2009.
But cuts to public funding aren't the only way to stop the red specter. I-1098, an initiative on Washington's ballot this year, presents a different solution: tax the rich. I-1098 would institute an income tax to be paid by individuals with annual incomes over $200,000, or couples with incomes over $400,000. This amounts to a tax on only the wealthiest 1.2 percent of Washington's residents.
In addition, I-1098 would reduce the state property tax by 20 percent and eliminate the business and occupation tax for small businesses. In its entirety, I-1098 is estimated to raise $2 billion per year, revenue that is explicitly earmarked to fund public education and health care.
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WASHINGTON IS one of seven states in the country that lacks any kind of income tax. To pay for public services, a majority of the state's general fund revenues comes from sales tax.
Such over-reliance on the sales tax hurts working Washingtonians in a couple ways. For one, whenever the economy takes a dip, and consumer spending falls with it, state revenue dries up quickly and the red specter rears its ugly head. And secondly, the current tax structure in Washington is the most regressive tax system of any state in the country.
Dependency on the sales tax means the poorest Washingtonians, those making an average of $11,00 a year, pay 17.3 percent of their income in state taxes. Compare this to the richest, who make an average of $1.8 million a year and only pay 2.6 percent in state taxes. As Eli Sanders, a reporter for Seattle's Stranger, writes, "It's like a sliding scale that's sliding in the wrong direction. Or trickle-up economics. Or a subsidy for moguls and CEOs."
And Washington has more than its fair share of moguls and CEOs, who, despite the economic recession, are doing pretty darn well. Forbes magazine recently released its list of the top 400 richest people in America. As it turns out, four of the top 20 richest Americans live in Washington state, including America's richest person, Bill Gates.
The combined wealth of just these four individuals, $92.4 billion dollars, could not only cover Washington's state budget deficit with ease, but could in fact pay for all of the state's 2006 pre-recession expenditures three times over! The billions more they make in income every year could go a long way in fending off Washington's ghastly deficit.
But the truth is, even with the passage of I-1098, the vast majority of income of the richest people in the state would flow untouched into their personal coffers. This is true because the initiative would only tax individual income above the $200,000 threshold (or above $400,000 for couples). And even then, individual income between $200,000 and $500,000 ($400,000 and $1 million for couples) would only be taxed at a 5 percent rate, while a 9 percent rate applies to individual income in excess of $500,00 ($1 million for couples).
By national standards, this is an extremely low income tax. Suppose we have an individual who makes $350,000 a year. Washington, under I-1098, would tax this person less than any other state that has an income tax.
Despite the relatively weak taxation structure proposed by I-1098, those in favor of economic justice and fairness should be in full support of the initiative. Not only will the $2 billion in annual revenue generated by I-1098 help protect public education and health care, but the grassroots nature of the campaign will build the organizations and confidence of Washingtonians to fight for more down the road.
As with Measures 66 and 67, which were passed in Oregon earlier this year and which increased taxes on the richest Oregonians, a winning campaign in Washington will demonstrate to a country drowning in the venom of right-wing tirades that progressive politics can win the day, so long we take a principled stance in favor of them. As Oregon socialists Tim Koch and Adam Sanchez wrote, "The passage of [Measures 66 and 67] in supposedly anti-tax Oregon should make it apparent that people are sick of budget cuts, and are ready to make the rich pay their fair share."
I-098 should be seen as a stepping-stone to replace the red specter of the budget deficit with the red specter of mass working-class organization and fight-back. The money already exists to fully fund the vital public services that millions of Washingtonians depend on. The task now is moving that wealth from the hands of those who neither need it nor are willing to spend it in the current economic climate, to the hands of those hardest hit by both the economic recession and Washington's current regressive tax structure.
As Sanders points out, Washington's budget deficit is leading to cuts that "will land hardest on those who already pay the highest percentage of their income in taxes." We need to take on this red specter before the last of our public services disappear.

9/28/10

Plain murder is what it is

Activist Johnny Mao reports on the struggle against police brutality in Seattle, following the killing of Native American John T. Williams by police in August.
ON SEPTEMBER 16, by 2 p.m., the gray sky over downtown Seattle had dominated yet another day in the Pacific Northwest. However, this day was different. It was a memorial march for John T. Williams, who had been stopped and killed by Officer Ian Birk just over two weeks earlier.
On August 30, while driving, Birk saw Williams, pulled over and shot him four times within a span of 60 seconds. Williams died moments later. He had been peacefully carving a block of cedar wood with a 3-inch carving knife (legal in Seattle) as he stood on the corner of Boren and Howell. Williams was a Seattle resident and a Ditidaht member of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations of Canada's Vancouver Island.
At Williams' memorial march back at the busy intersection, the crowd spoke of John as if he had been alive. Indeed, he was alive in spirit, and in their hearts and minds.
"John T. was a man who was beautiful. When I first met him when I first moved here, he met me with a smile, and he was like--I've got a story to tell you... and about three hours later I walked away," said Northwest Coast artist Dallas Singhurst. He continued:
I see cameras pointed at me. Well, my people, keep pointing...Today, there are four new lenses. Four new ways of viewing the world, and they're the bullet holes in John T.'s back. Four. It's the truth. Told in all four directions. The four winds.
He was making a thing of beauty [that] the world has deemed as art--we have taken on this phrase--and he was a fabulous artist. He carved from his heart with the blood that coursed through his veins, of the multitude of carvers that preceded him--called his family. It is a thing that is customary to all Native Americans.
He went on to add:
Like this tree, the Western Red Cedar that they've almost stolen every one of...They've been fascinated with us the moment we were supposedly "discovered." If I walk into any good person's house, and "discover" their couch, the keys to their Cadillac and their home, and I kick them out, am I any different than Columbus?
People stand there, tell us to take these laws, and tell us we must abide by [them]. And the dust on our shoes is the dust of our ancestors, the same dust on that cop that put bullet holes in his back in less than 60 seconds!
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
SOON AFTER a prayer song led by Pat John, the crowd began a march to Seattle's West Precinct, with drummers and singers leading the way. Members from Suquamish, Tulalip, Squaxin Island, Lower Elwha, Ahousaht and Alaskan canoe families sang another prayer song at the West Precinct before the crowd marched to City Hall, through the blocked off streets.
Speakers at City Hall included Sweetwater Nannauck, Cecile Hansen (Duwamish Tribe chairwoman), Ramona Bennett, Rev. Harriet Walden (Mothers for Police Accountability), Antonio Flores (El Comite), Pat John and Jay Westwind Wolf Hollingsworth.
Organizations that have endorsed the movement for justice for John T. Williams include the NAACP, American Friends Service Committee, Mothers for Police Accountability, El Comite, Going Coastal Productions, Jobs with Justice King County Organizing Committee, Lutheran Public Policy Office, Spinningwind Productions, Pride At Work, CLEW and APALA, May 1st Action Coalition, the Progressive Caucus, Native American Caucus with the Washington State Democrats, King County Democrats, Justice Works, Defender Association Racial Disparities Project, and the Washington State Democratic Disabilities Issues Caucus.
Organizer Sweetwater Nannauck, of the American Friends Service Committee, spoke before the crowd at City Hall after a blessing and moment of silence:
Deputy Chief Nick Metz mentioned that he has had the little access to the Native American community or any previous formal dialogue with the city's Native Americans. I would like to share some of our cultural beliefs and ways with you now.
Our people in this community have been involved in an undeclared war for many years...My grandmother used to say, "Be careful what you say and do, because people are watching you." Now, I know what she meant. Today, people are watching Seattle and looking to everyone here for leadership on how to work together to bring peace and not more fear or anger.
I would like to acknowledge recent changes made by the Chief Diaz: mandating further de-escalation training; racial profiling training; expanding the Taser program and training; the new emphasis on community relations and training techniques; [and] systematic assessment of [the police force's] disabilities practices in accordance with the city's Race and Social Justice Initiative...This is a great first step in a direction that must continue to be addressed.
But Nannauck and other activists believe the police must do more, including: "immediate hiring of a tribal liaison to be housed in the mayor's office to strengthen the way city government engages the Native American/Alaska Native community and provides services" and "cultural sensitivity training with all peoples of color and disabilities."
Nannauck also mentioned a mandatory call for backup prior to an officer-initiated stop, "'because [John Williams] was well-known by the cops. If they had called someone like the bike cops, they would have known he was harmless."
After the rally at City Hall, Nannauck and others directed their demands to Mayor Mike McGinn in a meeting behind closed doors.
"We talked to the mayor yesterday and he would not commit to hiring another tribal liaison, but it has been brought up by many organizations supporting much-needed policy change," said Nannauck.
When asked what the next step would be if the city of Seattle did not fulfill the demands, Nannauck replied:
We are working on a mass e-mail campaign to the City Council, mayor, and Chief Diaz...We would like to work with city of Seattle employees to develop a community advisory committee to represent the diverse racial and marginalized communities of Seattle, to implement strategies to implement the city of Seattle's "Race and Social Justice Initiative" and "Best Practices" criteria to increase the Seattle Police Department's police accountability and bring peace, unity and healing to our community.
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THE DAY before the memorial, police Chief John Diaz announced a review of police training and declared efforts to improve police-community relations his top priority. Diaz agreed to submit the complete investigation of the shooting to police departments outside of the region for "peer review."
Later that same day, the City Council's Civil Rights Committee held an open meeting, chaired by Councilmember Bruce Harrell, to show solidarity with the City of Seattle Native American Employees (CANOES) and to listen to community voices about the shooting of John Williams. The packed audience at took aim at the Seattle City Council, wanting answers and, most of all, action.
"If you kill another man, this is plain murder is what it is," said a man identified as a descendant from Chief Sealth. "These Natives are restless. We need some answers."
"It is time for people all across America to take a stand against the unrestrained use of force by the law enforcement community," said Neal Lampie of Real Change News.
Activist Anwar Peace, to applause from the crowd, told the council: "This stuff must stop...I am demanding change, we are demanding change."

9/23/10

9/29 - The Paris Commune - Fundamentals of Marxism Study Series discussion

Join us for our last meeting in the 
Fundamentals of Marxism Summer Study Series 

The Paris Commune -- Wed 9/29
7pm in Savery Hall 139


Anyone Reading The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels can't help but be amazed at the pamphlet's relevance after 150 years. But already by 1872, on one critical point, Marx himself was convinced that the Manifesto was "out of date." The occasion for this revision, not just in the Manifesto, but in one of the fundamental tenets of Marxism, was the epic struggle in 1871 of the Paris Commune, a mass movement of workers and the poor that for the first time in history established a short-lived workers' government in Paris. Although ultimately unsuccessful, the Commune was a spectacular demonstration that the future belonged to the world's working class.

The central lesson of the Commune, which had Marx and Engels scrambling to rewrite Marxism's founding document, is of such importance that socialism is ultimately impossible without it. "One thing especially was proved by the Commune," writes Marx. "That the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes." In order for workers to govern themselves, the workers must first assure that the bourgeoisie cannot simply use their military forces to repossess what they have temporarily lost.

Recommended prerequisite:

Main Reading:
If you prefer to buy the books: The Civil War in France: The Paris Commune

9/20/10

9/22 - Building the Struggle We Need

Join us for this week's Organizing meeting
7pm in Savery Hall Room 156

1. News & Politics Roundup: Building the Struggle We Need
We'll discuss the mid-term elections and how Socialists and other activists can take advantage of the opportunity presented by the October 2 "One Nation" rally in DC to put forward our solution to the crisis -- We'll read Socialist Worker's article How do we build the fight we need? and two articles from the International Socialist Review on The political terrain of the mid-term elections Preparing for a Republican comeback? By Lance Selfa and The Democrats’ broken promises by Phil Gasper


2. Local campaign update: Initiative 1098 organizing at UW
We'll get updates from the first UW for 1098 campaign coalition meeting of the quarter (1098 would tax the rich and raise $2billion for health care and education in WA state,) and discuss plans for Dawg Daze campaign outreach.

3. Business
We'll discuss fund-raising plans going in the fall quarter at UW (house party in the U-district??) and other business.


NEXT WEEK:
Fundamentals of Marxism Summer Study Series session six:
The Paris Commune -- Wed 9/29
Anyone Reading The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels can't help but be amazed at the pamphlet's relevance after 150 years. But already by 1872, on one critical point, Marx himself was convinced that the Manifesto was "out of date." The occasion for this revision, not just in the Manifesto, but in one of the fundamental tenets of Marxism, was the epic struggle in 1871 of the Paris Commune, a mass movement of workers and the poor that for the first time in history established a short-lived workers' government in Paris. Although ultimately unsuccessful, the Commune was a spectacular demonstration that the future belonged to the world's working class.

The central lesson of the Commune, which had Marx and Engels scrambling to rewrite Marxism's founding document, is of such importance that socialism is ultimately impossible without it. "One thing especially was proved by the Commune," writes Marx. "That the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes." In order for workers to govern themselves, the workers must first assure that the bourgeoisie cannot simply use their military forces to repossess what they have temporarily lost.

Recommended prerequisite:

Main Reading:
If you prefer to buy the books: The Civil War in France: The Paris Commune

9/14/10

9/15 - Fundamentals of Marxism Study Series #5: The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

This week is discussion #4 in our Fundamentals of Marxism Summer Study Series
7pm  Savery Hall Room 156


The Politics of Social Classes

The Class Struggles in France was Marx’s first attempt to explain a piece of contemporary history -- the 1848 French Revolution -- by means of his materialist conception, on the basis of the prevailing economic situation. He continues to analyze France in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, a pamphlet looking at historical events leading up to Louis Bonaparte's coup d'├ętat of December 2, 1851—from the viewpoint of his materialist conception of history. Together with Marx's contemporary writings on English politics, the Eighteenth Brumaire is the principal source for our understanding of Marx's theory of the capitalist state.

Recommended prerequisites:

Session Five: Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis
Bonaparte -- Wed 9/15
If you prefer to buy the books: The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte or The Marx-Engels Reader

9/8/10

Shot down by Seattle cops

In what kind of world does a homeless man carrying a piece of wood and a small knife for carving deserve deadly force? Amy Smith reports on a police murder in Seattle.
A press conference called by the Chief Seattle Club to mourn the police killing of John T. WilliamsA press conference called by the Chief Seattle Club to mourn the police killing of John T. Williams
A HOMELESS Native American man named John T. Williams became the latest victim of the brutal Seattle police when an officer shot him four times on August 30, killing him on the spot.
In what the Seattle Times called "an unusual cluster of recent incidents in which police in the region have shot suspects," Seattle-area residents had six violent encounters with police in a six-day period spanning the end of August and beginning of September--and five times, the incidents turned out deadly.
Seattle police officer Ian Birk says that when he saw John Williams holding a knife and piece of wood on the corner of Boren Avenue and Howell Street downtown, he stopped his car, switched on his emergency lights and stepped out to confront the man. After telling Williams to drop the knife three times, Birk fired four rounds at Williams from approximately 10 feet away, killing the homeless man. The entire reportedly incident lasted about a minute.
So far, no one has come forward with a video of the killing, but the officer's description of what happened isn't matching up with what witnesses describe.
On the day of the shooting, Seattle Police Department spokeswoman Renee Witt said, "The male stood up and made advances toward the officer. The officer yelled very loud commands for the gentleman to stop and to drop the knife, at which point he did not."
But witnesses tell it differently. "When I heard that story, I was really upset because it was just total counter to what I witnessed," one onlooker told King 5 News. According to this witness, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Thomas, Williams was actually walking away from Officer Birk.
Thomas reports that the bullets must have gone into Williams' side and back because he never turned around. Another witness, Gregory Reese, remembers seeing Williams turn, but said that he didn't move toward the officer or pose a threat.
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FRIENDS, FAMILY and acquaintances of Williams have all come forward in the past week to say that Williams may not have even heard the officer's demands. "I wonder if the officer knew he was hard of hearing; he told me he could not hear out of one ear," said a local business owner acquainted with Williams. "If it was my guess, I would just say he was standing there and the officer was trying to get his attention and John didn't hear him."
In addition, Williams had a drinking problem, which often made him slow to respond or understand what was going on.
The weapon that allegedly posed such a threat to Officer Birk was a knife with a three-inch blade that Williams used to carve wood. Williams was a Ditidaht member of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, a native group that forms a small community on the west coast of Vancouver Island. He was a regular at the Chief Seattle Club, a nonprofit group that provides meals and services to Native American and First Nations people.
Williams was also a seventh-generation carver--that's why he was carrying the knife and the wood. He often carved miniature totem poles that he sold to buy food, and sometimes alcohol--but also to buy food and gifts for his friends. According to friends of Williams, the day he died, he was on his way to sell his art at Pike Place Market.
Immediately following the shooting, an unnamed homeless man approached Williams' body, clearly upset, angry and frightened. Other police officers on the scene ordered the man to show his hands, and when he didn't move fast enough, they wrestled him to the ground and arrested him.
The people of Seattle have responded to this terrible act committed by the police. On September 2, more than 200 community members turned out for a candlelight vigil to celebrate the life and mourn the loss of John Williams. In a news conference the next day, Native American and Canadian First Nations leaders called for a full investigation into the shooting, and also demanded that the department change the way it relates to Native American communities.
"This tragedy should never have happened," Jenine Grey, director of the Chief Seattle Club, said. "We are worried about our most vulnerable community members who suffer regular harassment and abuse on the streets of Seattle." Grey added that, in a city named for an Indian chief, it was incredible that a Native American man carving wood could be perceived as a threat.
"In what moral universe does a man carrying a piece of wood and a three-inch fishing knife find himself stopped by police and, without any apparent provocation, get shot dead on the spot?" asked Tim Harris, director of Seattle's homeless newspaper Real Change. "A universe in which the lives of the very poor have little to no value."
Harris concluded, "In Seattle today, to be poor, to have no social status, is to live in fear; to have one's own utter expendability pressed up against one's nose."
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UNFORTUNATELY, THIS has been true for a long time, and the use of excessive force has become the norm for the Seattle Police Department (SPD).
In April, Seattle police officer Shandy Cobane was filmed stomping on a Mexican American man and telling him that he was going to "beat the fucking Mexican piss out of you, homey. You feel me?" while other officers watched. Shortly afterward, the officers realized that the man being detained wasn't connected to the assault that the police had allegedly stopped them for.
These incidents are just the most recent and notable incidents committed by a police force that is violent and racist to its core.
A look at who is arrested in Seattle exposes the SPD's targeting of racial minorities. According to a report by the Marijuana Policy Review Panel, African American men represented 57 percent of all marijuana suspects in a city that is only 8 percent Black. And an investigation by the Seattle Post Intelligencer reported that African Americans in Seattle are arrested for "obstructing an officer" eight times as often as whites.
"At this time, our community seems to be in an abusive relationship with law enforcement," Seattle/King County NAACP President James Bible told the Seattle Medium. "We're living in a hostile environment for people of color, and a hostile environment for people in poverty."
Unnecessary violence committed by Seattle police is increasing--and affecting more people. The American Civil Liberties Union reports a clear trend in reports from the City of Seattle's Office of Professional Accountability:
It is distressing to see how many of the excessive force complaints begin with minor street confrontations: over jaywalking, possible impound of a car, or even, in one case, refusal to show an officer a "receptacle" for disposing of dog waste.
Citizens often do not show officers respect or attention when confronted over such minor offenses. When they verbally challenge or disregard orders given, it often leads officers to respond more harshly than warranted. I made comments about these underlying situations in 10 different cases. In four of them, the physical situation developed with witnesses, rather than or in addition to, suspects.
The police are trying to justify their crimes, especially the death of John Williams. "The police have dehumanized [Williams]," says Real Change's Harris. "They mention his criminal record, but don't mention his name. They paint the situation like we need to reserve judgment. What I see is self-justification and the closing of ranks."
But community members deserve to know the truth about Williams' death--and Williams deserves justice.
Chris Mobley and Leela Yellesetty contributed to this article.