Afternoon Jolt

Neighborhoods Rising

The idea of a Trump administration is reinvigorating Seattle's neighborhood movement.

By Josh Feit December 5, 2016

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Mayor Ed Murray tried to shake up Seattle’s traditional neighborhood movement earlier this year by severing the city’s formal and financial ties with the 13 community councils around the city. Noting that the councils didn’t dovetail well with the new seven council districts and also citing stats that the older, white, homeowners who'd been signing in to the meetings didn't represent Seattle’s demographics—for starters, the majority of Seattleites are renters—Murray has since set out to create new neighborhood conduits to city hall.  

But it now looks like none other than Donald Trump may have done more to galvanize a new neighborhood movement in Seattle. For the second time in less than a month, an ad hoc group of activists focusing on resisting Trump drew hundreds of people to a community mass meeting with an emphasis on neighborhood organizing; the first meeting took place on Capitol Hill on a rainy night in mid-November, shortly after Trump’s election. And the second meeting was held last night—a cold Sunday night— in the International District.

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People from all over the city showed up to both meetings, and each time they broke up into neighborhood contingents to sync up with the city’s council districts. At the first meeting, they brainstormed with butcher paper and markers in hand to itemize their fears about the Trump administration; mind you, this came even before the recent white power rally in a D.C. hotel made headlines, and before Trump had chosen a parade of radicals to head up federal agencies like voucher advocate Betsy DeVos for education,   Gen. James Mattis for defense, and religious fundamentalist Ben Carson for housing and urban development.

At last night’s meeting at the International District Community Center, with about 500 people on hand, the group formed seven “Neighborhood Action Councils” to represent each district and identify specific projects they want to work on to fight on behalf of “targeted communities” under the pending Trump regime.

It all still seems a bit inchoate at the moment  (yet in earnest); notes from Southeast Seattle’s seventh district group, for example, mention “join[ing] the fight for housing affordability” and perhaps forming “a rapid response team in the case of an unwanted visit from ICE or a direct action, protest or phone bank as the details and pressures of a sanctuary city become more clear.”

And the notes from the District Three, Capitol Hill group, talk about “creat[ing] a calendar of events and actions and also create a survey of our resources and put them in a spreadsheet to share and provide mutual aid to targeted communities” plus “having call-ins where we get together and make calls to politicians and groups to tie up phone lines and speak against Trump Policies that threaten vulnerable communities.” 

It does seem like mayor Murray’s attempt to bust up the old-school homeowner agenda is having its day at these neighborhood confabs, though. Kaya Axelsson, a spokesperson for the group (who has also worked as the advocacy director at the Gender Justice League), says: “There was a lot of talk about how to keep away from ‘NIMBY’ politics based around the self interests of neighbors in the particular area, and how to act on national and global issues from a localized base.” 

Axelsson added: “The most common threads I heard were around reaching out to local mosques to see how we can support them, creating a network for supporting immigrant-owned businesses and creating a resource document to provide mutual aid to neighbors targeted most heavily by the Trump Administration.”

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