Civil Rights

Seattle Activists Had a Lot to Protest on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

"We are here because of violence and poverty."

By Hayat Norimine January 15, 2018

After a tough year for civil rights movements, thousands of Seattle activists marched through the Central District on Monday for a somber Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, organized by dozens of organizations from labor to faith groups. 

Signs displayed a medley of different movements—protesting President Donald Trump, displacement, police deadly force on people of color, restrictions on women's rights, health inequity, even nuclear weapons. An estimated 10,000 people marched up 23rd Avenue, then up Union Street in the historically black neighborhood, leading their children and carrying images of Martin Luther King Jr. 

Khadija Hassan, a 23-year-old Somali American, riled up the crowd with a megaphone as she spoke out against the country's history of imperialism and Trump's refusal of refugees.

"We are here because of violence and poverty," Hassan said. "I am here in solidarity (with) any person who is suffering."

Some protested the death of people of color in the hands of police, chanting "say her name" as a reminder of Charleena Lyles, the 30-year-old pregnant black mother of four who was killed by officers last year. Many carried signs supporting football players' protest of police killings by taking a knee during the National Anthem.

Others demonstrated more broadly against the federal administration, carrying "Dump Trump" and "Drive out Trump/Pence fascist regime!" signs. Labor groups also marched against the Central District's planned New Seasons, a Portland-based, Whole Foods-type grocery store activists fear would lead to more gentrification and drive out union jobs. 

Fifty years since Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, Hassan said people of color are still living in a white supremacist system in the U.S. and aren't surviving in that system. 

"We can bring everybody to the table," Hassan said. "Doesn't mean everybody's going to eat."

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