Black Lives Matter

Seattle Portraits of Protest

What drives a person to the streets? We asked.

Photography by Mike Kane By Benjamin Cassidy June 8, 2020

They Sharpie their demands on cardboard held high above their heads. Keep the Seattle Police Department under a federal consent decree. (Check.) End curfew. (Check.) Reallocate police funding to health and social services. (Not yet.)

By now, if you don’t know what Black Lives Matter-inspired protesters seek in Seattle, you’re not paying attention. But a vast spectrum of personal experiences underlie these broader calls for justice. Photographer Mike Kane captured some of them for us.



Bree Solomon, 27

I came out here to peacefully protest. I will say that first. I do not condone violence with anyone. My message here is to spread dialogue. I want dialogue, and I want action—not just with the police, but with everybody. Seattle is definitely lacking diversity, and it’s something that we constantly are faced against here, being one of the only Black people. I want to open up the dialogue so that when things are wrong, people stand up and say something. When you see something wrong, when you see a coworker being treated [unfairly], something in the street, something in the bus, it needs to be addressed. Someone say something. That’s how we build policies, that’s how things get talked about, that’s how it becomes more common for these things to happen less often. And I want that to be our main focus from here on out. Especially when you see police brutality, those things happen in the middle of the street. There needs to be someone out there, someone saying something, calling someone, doing something—those are what we need to do. So if we open up dialogue, if you check on your friends of color, if you want to talk about maybe something you’ve had a problem with, maybe you aren’t educated on the African American race, anything, I’m trying to open up that dialogue so that it becomes more common. Without the dialogue, people don’t care.  


Anthony Boutte, 31

I understand that you’re not going to get immediate change doing it this way, but then again, the alternative is what, Bolshevism? You can’t have that, can’t have the French Revolution happening again. Can’t do that. But I came to be a part of incremental change. That’s really what it is, because if you see this happening every day, something’s got to give eventually. Like it did with civil rights.


Michael Ohene, 39

What it takes to overcome something like this is really strategy. When we look at pictures of people looting and protesting, it’s great for image and emotion, right. But that emotion has to translate to real strategy that can put enough pressure on people in power to where they say, "You know what, even though I don’t want to do this and I don’t want to change the status quo, I have to change it, because the pressure’s too much.’ So, this is nice, but I think it’s about a two on a [scale] of 10 of what it could be in terms of really impacting decision-makers.

In every kind of protest, there has to be some goal. You have to be marching to access something. What I believe it should be is something on a small scale, like have a petition—I can make it—have a petition where we go up to [Seattle mayor] Jenny Durkan, go up to [King County prosecuting attorney] Dan Satterberg, and [say], "Here’s a petition that we want you to sign, official recommendation to the police associations of whatever, organized societies, to recommend a policy.’ And have them sign it. That will be the goal. That will be the accomplishment.

Thomas Webb, 26

We were in Kirkland yesterday and it was pretty peaceful, just like this one here, but it wasn’t as big. I’m hoping it’s just like this. It’s all we need. We don’t need no violence, no rioting, all that shit is just too much, inappropriate—there’s no need for all that. In a way we’re hurting ourselves more for doing that. See how easy it is? Everybody gets to express and say how they’re feeling.

[We're] all coming here to support the same cause and unite as one to get the word out to everybody across the world that this kind of stuff—it needs to stop. That’s the only way we can move forward. Other than that we’re just going to be killing innocent people left and right, and nothing’s going to change.

Mychal May, 17

I came out here because when there is injustice anywhere, there is injustice everywhere. We’ve all heard that. And there is injustice everywhere, whether it be systemic oppression of minorities or outright police brutality. We are not seeing this. People aren’t recognizing the fact that we’re being killed and the fact that we’re being held down and oppressed every single day of our lives. I wake up Black. My dad wakes up Black. I’m sometimes worried that my dad will not make it home, just like George Floyd’s daughter, just like all the people that have been killed by police. They are not able to see their family members, and their family members are not able to see them anymore. I know who my dad is, but a police officer doesn’t.

Sam I'Am, 28

I’m a white person, and I have a lot of privilege, and I have a lot of friends with privilege that have the ability to provide things. So, I was able to get groceries and milk and water and Gatorade and the things that you need to be out here days and days and days in a row. I have a vehicle, I have a little bit of extra money from friends, and a large network. To see people out here every single day, it’s the least I can do to give everyone a bottle of water, you know.



Milla Espinoza, 20

One of the reasons I came out here is to support my friends and support all the minorities that are being killed by the police and the fact that this police brutality just needs to stop. It’s gone on for way too long, and we’re out here to support each other. I’m here to do my part.

James May

There's a real possibility that we could continue this pressure to address all the different fractures in this system that really need to be addressed. I think this is an example of the coalition and diversity of people who are upset with whatever their cause may be, they’re finding a common purpose here tonight. I believe that adding my number, my contribution to this number, helps to sustain that pressure. I am hoping that this will spur great change, and the powers that be will listen and pay attention and realize that we’re at a watershed moment.


Renee McCoy, 62

It's just flat out wrong. You just can’t kill someone. I don’t care who you are, you need to be accountable for it. Black people have been discriminated against.

I know legislative process. Protests are one of the first steps in positive change. However, I am steadfast on peaceful marches and no destruction of property or arming people. I’ve lived here for 33 years. I’m a city girl—woman. So, it hurt my heart too to see burning. It’s like, wow, buildings could’ve potentially burned up. [But] freedom of speech and—you know, marches, protests—are basic, strong, fundamental rights, extremely important.


Sofia Espinoza, 14

I want to support my friends and my family that have been dealing with this crisis for 400-plus years.

I’m worried every day that, eventually, my friends won’t be here because of the police. I’m scared they’re going to walk out of the house, and then they’re not going to be able to come back, or the last time I say "I love you" is going to be the last thing they hear from me. It just hurts me to think that. I know that there are a lot of young kids having to deal with the fact that their daddy’s never going to come home, their mom’s never [coming] home, or they’re not ever going to come home. So I just want to protest against that. I want to make sure that everyone gets home safely.


Rebecca Abay, 28

As a Black person in America, Black woman at that, we’re always carrying the awareness of the inequality and the injustices that are enacted upon us. These sort of situations, they’ve been happening hundreds of years in America. They’ve been publicized for decades, and things have changed in many ways, but it’s essentially more of the same. Everything has stayed the same in many ways. And I feel like as a people, as a Black community, or people of color, they’re always having to deal with events and episodes like this that are essentially trauma, trauma [and abuse]. And maybe because we’re part of a community, maybe there’s more of a connection that we have to our community. We are very aware of it, and I know within my own circles of people of color or Black people, we talk about it all the time. All the time we’re thinking about it. And I think that these highly publicized events, they bring about awareness in the greater community, and it makes them think about it in the ways that we do all the time. It’s a constant weight that is carried around and it really affects our lives at baseline, and these events just constantly weigh you down, on your spirit, on your mind. 

There's something called acute stress disorder. For example, if you mourn somebody, eventually over time the grief response goes away. But if the stress keeps happening, it’s a chronic stress disorder. You’re constantly under the stress. So coming here is just kind of showing at least that there’s an awareness to that burden that we carry. 

I feel like the response this time is great. I wonder if things will change, though, because this has happened before. I wonder if anything [will] change. I’m here in hopes that it will.


Saturday, June 6, 2020

Jonathan Keyes, 26

I was really not only inspired but frustrated and angry by all of the things that I was seeing on the news. I talked to my dad. I told him, “Hey, do you want to come out here today and just be a part of this, hopefully, change?” I don’t regret coming out here.

I’ve been kind of skeptical about coming out here just because of the current situation with the pandemic and everything. But I realized, you know what, people are dying and this situation is not going to solve itself. And more people will die if this does not change.

I’m looking at all the people chanting and holding up their signs, and it’s really encouraging at this point, because I think this is kind of a breaking point for America. I think there’s no turning back from this. You can’t ignore it at this point. And I think that’s really encouraging for the future.  


George Keyes, 57

This thing has been going on for a long time, and hopefully it’s not something that you’re born with, it’s something that you’re taught. And hopefully the people that are here continue to stay true to who they are. I’ll never forget—I had a conversation with Dr. Cornel West. One of the things he told me is: Make sure you stay true to self. So, as long as everybody stays true to self, true to the cause, then I think we’ll make a huge difference.

Ellen Kuwana, 51

I’m the mom of two teenage girls. They marched earlier in the day. I just feel like everybody needs to show up.

As a parent, we want to make the world better for our kids, and as a mom, I want to feed the people who are protesting [through nonprofit We Got This Seattle] and who’re out here all day and just trying to have a peaceful protest.

In Seattle, we’ve been sheltering in place, locked down, for 11, 12 weeks now, so I think people really want that sense of community. This is a great way to do that and connect with people outside in a safer way, but still try to make a difference in the world.


Evelyn, 28

It really feels like the movement is making change really quickly and really dramatically. We’ve seen it—we went from one cop charged with third-degree murder to second-degree murder, and all four of those cops who killed [George Floyd] are behind bars now. And we’re seeing it all over the United States…. We have this momentum, and we’re making these really important changes that I really, really believe in. So, it’s the right thing to do to be here and raise my voice in support of those awesome causes.

I’m standing here with this sign advertising free food because the entire Seattle community is out here supporting each other, to make sure everyone’s fed and watered and taken care of. Giving out masks, because we’re still in a pandemic, and just this sense of community—everyone coming together to support each other—it’s a beautiful message.

Andrew Hahn, 39

I think this is a really important issue. It’s a public health and public dignity and public safety issue. And the time has come to make it a major focus for us. The reason I’m here with my kids today is that we want to teach them about the importance and the power of protest, and the importance of standing up to make a difference when you can—or when you can’t, but trying.

I think the focus on the lives of the people who were lost and who they were really appeals to me. I think as a sort-of frontline worker myself, it’s hard when the more, sort of, vehement attacks on the police—I’m definitely more in the reformer camp. It pulls on my heartstrings to see things from the other side—if one person in my profession did something bad, I wouldn’t want people screaming [to], you know, tear down the profession.

This is a time of intense anger and rage, and it can’t all be necessarily focused and skillful at all times. But, this is a time of anger and rage and hopefully change.

Joy Sgobba, 45

I’m here because one of our team at Seattle Off Their Plate [a nonprofit feeding communities in need] is African American. I want to support. She was one of the ones that helped put this together for the food [for protesters]. And I’m also here because I have Black family members, I have—my best friend, her son is Black—I have a lot of people in my life that I want to support. This is really important to me. So, I need to do something.

I can take care of the people so they can stay and keep protesting, with the hopes that if they’re taken care of, people can stay and then protest longer. Then change will happen.


Cameron Cooper, 27

I personally feel the need to be out here, being a person of color myself and seeing all the injustices throughout my whole life with family, friends. I grew up in St. Louis in the Midwest, so needless to say it definitely happens out there on the regular.

Seeing the news and how little is being done to address the issue from many voices of impact and power throughout the country is unacceptable. And the only thing we’re asking for is to be treated like people and for those that can’t do their job properly on the taxpayer dime to be held accountable for their mistakes.


Linh Ho, 26

I’m compelled to be here today because I want the system to change. My parents are immigrants. We came here when I was a baby. I have, actually, a half-Black mom, so growing up I dealt with a lot of remarks, being a quarter Black. I already dealt with a lot of remarks for being a quarter Black from my Vietnamese side, and my mom got even worse, so I can’t even fathom and imaginepeople who are Black-passing, who are actually Black, [what they're facing] in this country.

I grew up in Sacramento, California. The schools [are] predominantly Asian, Mexican, Black, a lot of immigrants, and we’ve been put in this system where it’s a constant race and a battle to try to fight for your life, to try to pursue a better life, whether it’s education, better jobs. But we’re constantly being kept out. And I think it’s because—I mean, look at who we have in the office right now—President Trump. We have people, still, like him, wide and rampant, running around, extremely racist, trying to enforce policies that are really against people who are trying to be better.

We need to break down racism, which this country is built on. It's like a house, right? To build a new house, we need a new foundation. And the foundation we need to be building upon is that everyone is equal and, to start with, that we need equal opportunities: education, jobs, you know.

The Black Lives Matter movement, it’s not something new. It’s been around since Ferguson, 2014, when Mike Brown was killed. Now, I think it’s amazing that everyone’s jumping on, but we needed these voices yesterday. We needed that in 2014. We needed empowered people to not be afraid to speak their voices. I think a lot of people were on board with Black Lives Matter since then, but I think it was a little shaky. People don’t want to be political. People don’t want to shake things up. People don’t want to tear down relationships that make other people uncomfortable. But I think sometimes, for us to go further, they have to become uncomfortable with it. We have to challenge ourselves. The only way we can really start building new foundations is: Let’s talk about the foundation that’s already bad. Let’s break that down. You know, come together. That’s why I’m here—to support my Black brothers and sisters.

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