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Sawant Credits Black Lives Matter Street Protests for Historic Chauvin Trial Verdict

“It is a testament to the power of mass action with multiracial, working-class solidarity. All credit goes to the rank-and-file activists in the Black Lives Matter movement for this victory.” 

Press release – April 20, 2021

SEATTLE Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), chair of the Council’s Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee, sent the following statement in the wake of the jury verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd: 

“In a rare measure of justice under capitalism, Derek Chauvin was convicted on all counts for the brutal murder of George Floyd. We should be crystal clear that this verdict is entirely due to the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, which became the largest protest movement in American history. It is a testament to the power of mass action with multiracial, working-class solidarity. All credit goes to the rank-and-file activists in the Black Lives Matter movement for this victory, and particularly to the leadership of the youth. My congratulations and solidarity to the 20 million courageous protestors, many of whom faced down tear gas, rubber bullets, police violence, and arrest to demand justice for this racist murder and deeper, systemic change.

“We have to build on this historic victory to win far-reaching reforms. We need to fight for democratically-elected community oversight boards across the country with the full power to hold the police accountable, to set department policy, and to hire and fire officers. We need to fight to cut bloated police budgets to fully fund social services, restorative justice, and affordable housing. And we need to begin to take society in a direction different than that offered by capitalism, for a society free of oppression and police violence. 

We have to be sober that the ruling class – including the Democratic Party establishment that presided over George Floyd’s death – would essentially sacrifice one “bad apple” to try to prop up their rotten tree. And this guilty verdict only happened because the ruling class is on notice, with millions of young people ready to fight. The criminal justice system, and the capitalist system it serves, are still intact. Just this year, already 319 people have been killed nationally at the hands of the police.

“Seattle’s socialists, labor movement, and anti police-brutality activists have an urgent responsibility to build on this momentum. We have to demand that the King County Prosecutor bring charges on the Seattle Police Department’s cops responsible for the killings of 32 community members – disproportionately Black, Brown, and indigenous – just since 2010. Seattle police killed Native American woodcarver John T. Williams in 2010, prompting mass outrage and forcing the city’s Democratic establishment to agree to place the Seattle Police Department under federal oversight. A decade of federal oversight, reams of studies by City commissions, and dozens of press releases by mayors and other establishment figures have done nothing to rein in police violence and build true accountability. 

“To win community control of police, or any other major reforms, we will have to fight for mass community meetings to democratically decide next steps in the movement. We saw last year how after making grand promises, all 8 of the City Council Democrats broke their promises to defund police by at least 50 percent. Just two months ago, these Democrats shamefully pushed in loopholes in our movement’s hard-fought ban on police use of weapons like tear gas and rubber bullets on peaceful protests. 

“We simply cannot afford to put any faith in the Democratic Party or the system as a whole. It was no coincidence that the Tax Amazon movement won a historic victory during the height of the summer protests. It was because Tax Amazon was a rank-and-file-led movement with accountable, elected leadership independent of the establishment, and because it received overwhelming support at the BLM protests!

“We need to demand that the Seattle Police Department fire officers with a history of racism, sexism, bigotry, or violence. We must cut the police budget by half, and increase the Amazon Tax to fund a major expansion of affordable, social housing. It’ll take building a multiracial mass movement of the working class to dismantle this racist system.”

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Police killings in Seattle since 2010

  1. John T. Williams     8/30/2010
  2. Eric Blaine Evans                  10/23/2011
  3. Mike Kwan-Yu Chen             09/10/2012
  4. Henry Frankie Lee, Sr.          09/23/2012
  5. James David Anderson         01/27/2013
  6. Jack Sun Keewatinawin        02/26/2013
  7. Joel Douglas Reuter              07/05/2013
  8. Martin Anwar Duckworth       08/12/2013
  9. Leonid G. Kalyuzhnyy           11/29/2013
  10. Andrew Joseph Law              01/20/2014
  11. Cody Willis Spafford              04/03/2014
  12. Oscar Eduardo Perez-Giron  06/30/2014
  13. Austin James Derby              07/01/2014
  14. Larry Andrew Flynn               07/20/2014
  15. Stephen Porter Johnston      08/30/2014
  16. Sam Toshiro Smith                07/17/2015
  17. Shun Ma                               12/03/2015
  18. Raymond Azevedo               12/06/2015
  19. Che Andre Taylor                  02/21/2016
  20. Michael L. Taylor                   10/11/2016
  21. Damarius Butts                     04/20/2017
  22. Charleena Lyles                    06/18/2017
  23. Kyle Gray                              12/11/2017
  24. Jason Seavers                      02/19/2018
  25. Iosia Faletogo                       12/31/2018
  26. Danny Rodriguez                  02/07/2019
  27. Ryan Smith                           05/08/2019
  28. Elliott Yearby                         12/16/2019  (died in crash after a police pursuit)
  29. Shaun Lee Fuhr                    04/29/2020
  30. (unidentified)                         05/19/2020 (African-American homeless man in mental distress, shot 5 times in Queen Anne)
  31. Gregory Taylor       2/9/2021
  32. Derek Hayden     2/16/2021
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