Statement on the Shooting at the Capitol Hill Organized Protest

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Saturday, June 20, 2020

Our deepest condolences go out to the loved ones of the black protester who was tragically killed this morning by gunfire at the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP). Socialist Alternative and I stand in solidarity with the family and friends of the victim, and with the injured protester now in the hospital, as well as with all community members and fellow activists.

Though we await confirmation of the details of the killing, there are indications that this may have been a right-wing attack. If so, this would not be the first such attack on the Capitol Hill Black Lives Matter protest. As many recall, an armed man drove into the protest action on June 8, and shot black activist Dan Gregory, who had heroically intervened to stop the driver. 

We need immediate solidarity with the protest at the CHOP, and unity in our movement against reactionary violence. Our movement refuses to be intimidated.

It is no accident that right-wing hate and violence has grown dramatically with Donald Trump in the White House. If this killing turns out to be a right-wing attack, President Trump bears direct responsibility, since he has fomented reactionary hatred specifically against the peaceful Capitol Hill occupation, and even threatened to intervene with federal troops. Also responsible are the conservative and corporate media outlets, both locally and nationally, which have themselves whipped up right-wing hate by completely misrepresenting the nature of the peaceful protest occupation, and who are continuing to do so even now, claiming that this shooting proves the CHOP is descending into chaos. Seattle’s establishment Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best also share responsibility for having portrayed our protest movement as violent.

It is crucial that the CHOP occupation has developed a self-defense committee, which has played an important role at the encampment, and that general assemblies to ensure ongoing political discussions have been taking place. Socialist Alternative and I believe we should further develop both these important initiatives and the democratic structures of the CHOP with regularly scheduled general assemblies to vote on decisions for the movement, and democratically agreed plans around self defense. Elected committees of self defense have historically played vital roles during general strikes, occupations, and in mass movements, in order for the working class and marginalized people to defend themselves and carry out necessary functions in place of the forces of the state. Our labor movement has a crucial role to play in the protest movement, and should provide people and resources to assist in the defense and organization of CHOP.

Our movement should also demand and insist that the Seattle Police fully investigate this attack and be held accountable to bring the killer(s) to justice. Because of the repressive role of the police under capitalism, and often with developed links to reactionary groups, police have historically frequently failed to prosecute violence by the right – even going as far as to shield the perpetrators. For decades in the South, law enforcement across the country did not lift a finger to stop the KKK’s lynch mobs, and often participated in them. It is being reported that police resources nationwide have been used to spy on, repress, and infiltrate the #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd protest movement, and to surveil protest occupations like the CHOP. But on the other side, how much time has been spent investigating the right wing, with their threats and acts of real violence? Just in recent days, neo-Nazis have been making public statements calling for the killing of protesters. Yesterday, on Juneteenth, the day of celebration of defeating the confederacy and ending the institution of slavery, many far-right and reactionary figures have made calls to start a new Civil War. We must demand accountability and justice, and if the police fail to thoroughly investigate and bring the killer(s) to justice, we may need to launch an independent community investigation.

We must show our solidarity with the victims of this violence by continuing to build our movement and fight for our demands: to defund Seattle police by at least 50 percent; for the immediate release of all protesters without charges; for the East Precinct to be permanently brought into community control; for at least 1,000 publicly-owned affordable homes in the Central District and the Amazon Tax to fund citywide affordable housing and green jobs with priority hire for marginalized communities; and for an independent elected community oversight board with full powers over the police, including hiring and firing.


Kshama Sawant