Roughly 7,000 Black Lives Matter activists in Seattle banded together to crowd the streets of downtown, protesting the economic inequality that so many people within America’s black community face.
On Saturday, April 15, The Black Freedom Front of Seattle hosted the Facebook event titled, “BlackLivesMatter – March on Seattle 2.0,” a three-mile march that started at the Downtown Westlake Center, passed the Federal Courthouse and looped back to Westlake.
The Facebook event expected about 18,000 people to attend, and 37,000 people were interested.
Among the marchers was Levi Clum, a sophomore studying global development and philosophy at Seattle Pacific University.
“I felt that it was important that I act if I personally claim to care about [racial injustices],” Clum said. “I felt that it was important I join my brothers and sisters in solidarity for their freedom to live life without discrimination.”
Many rally signs read “white silence = violence,” addressing the role that America’s white community plays in the Black Lives Matter movement and one that rang true for Clum.
“The U.S. has institutionalized racism to the point where people of color experience it every day, and my white community lives oblivious to its existence,” Clum said.
“My [white community] is constantly influenced to take part in discrimination, even when we think that we are being inclusive,” he said. “We live a privileged lifestyle that provides a security based in a private law which we take part in, but one which also excludes people of color.”
At the rally, speakers stood up to address the crowd, leading the thousands who were gathered at Westlake Center in rally chants. The speakers focused on today’s economic and social discrimination that racial minorities face, taking a special interest in taxation as mentioned on the event’s Facebook page.
“So it’s time to stand up and say as the people of the United States that everyone pays an equal share of taxes regardless of economic status and that Black people, people of color and marginalized people stop taking such a hard economic blow when paying taxes,” the statement read.
Earlier that day Seattle had also held a Tax March downtown.
According to its Facebook event page, “Tax March Seattle is a non-partisan community of citizens who value transparency in government, and a fair and equitable tax system.” Tax marchers protested the inequality within the U.S. taxation system, which included demanding that Donald Trump release his tax forms.
Following the tax march, the expected protesters for the “BlackLivesMatter” march lined the streets, and it seemed that they were joined by many tax marchers who stayed for the afternoon.
The tax marchers held their toupee-decorated signs that mocked President Trump, and one woman’s dog wore a poster inscribed with “Dig Up Trump’s Taxes.”
At about 2 p.m., the march was underway. Participants walked through the streets of Downtown Seattle, holding high their rally posters. Among the many signs were bold ones that said “Black Lives Matter,” “Defend the oppressed, fight the oppressor” and “Respect existence or expect resistance.”
Young children climbed on their fathers’ shoulders chanting, “Hey hey, ho-ho, this racism has got to go!”
At the courthouse, the marching participants gathered on the steps and spilled into the streets.
One of the speakers Khadija Hassan, a refugee from Somalia, spoke on the persecution of immigrants in the United States, especially toward women.
“My sisters are having their hijab ripped off. They’re having their pictures taken,” she said. “They are being arrested for protesting.”
For Hassan, “Silence speaks volume. Now is not the time to wait for a leader. Now is the time to step up and resist.”
She then led the crowd on a “speak up, speak loud” chant.
Another speaker, Michael Wansley, addressed the issue of identity in the conversation surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement.
He said, “I’ve had a number of people tell me, ‘Now wait. Don’t all lives matter?’ Do you know what I tell them? If your house is on fire, your house matters. Until black lives matter, no lives ever will.”
According to Wansley, “BLM is a movement like anti-slavery. It’s a movement that took hundreds of years to happen. Know your history. We stand together today for those who died alone.”
Wansley asked the crowd to recognize that “we are all one people.”
“We are the only species on this planet who kills each other for pleasure,” Wansley said. “We are hell-bent on division, rather than unity. Look to your left and to your right, and if that person looks different, then put your fist in the air.”
The Black Freedom Front of Seattle is hosting another march on May 1.