- Randy Rowland
Here is a photo from this year's MLK march in Seattle. As always, it was well attended, with all sorts of folks from infants to the aged participating. Grandparents bring their grandchildren, so they, too, can be among those who have marched for freedom. Organizers announced from the stage downtown that about 7,000 people marched this year.
The photo is of the front of the cop shop on 12th Ave. The route was a bit different this year, and took us along 12th, to turn and head downtown at that corner. Police commanders had ordered barricades placed into the street, with a platoon of officers to protect the station from the marchers.
I first noticed this sort of behavior during the Seattle WTO protests in 1999, when the cop shop was similarly protected, like a fort for the police, from which they sent robocop-suited sorties out to harass the demonstrators. Now, on the occasion of the most peaceful and uplifting march Seattle sees every year, they were doing it again. And in this, we get a visual reminder of how they really see us. They're in their fort, surrounded by potentially hostile citizens. That two-lane air moat tells it all. Not about how we see them, and our relationship to authority, but how they see us, and their relationship to the community that they clearly do not see themselves a part of.
In all fairness, the police union donated $500 to the MLK Day rally and march, so these comments are not directed toward the officers on the beat, but rather their commanders, or whoever is in charge. No other building on the march route was similarly protected. To have such a graphic reminder of how the authorities see us on this day of unity, and celebration of how far we've come, and what it will take to get to what Martin Luther King called the "Sacred Community," is a bit grim, but useful. It reminds me of the old demand from the Black Panther days for community policing. It made me think of the irony of a police force that asks us to trust them, but so clearly does not trust us, and the gap, measuring 2 lanes this year, between us and them.