Our Open Letter to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan

Dear Mayor Durkan,

We are angry and appalled at the actions of your office and the Seattle Police Department during the protests that have taken place downtown, in Capitol Hill, and across the city this past week. These protests are calling out the brutality of both our local police and police departments across the country following the murder of George Floyd. Your office and the SPD have responded to these protests with by brutalizing protesters, including children, needlessly escalating peaceful protests by inciting violence, and imposing curfews – more of the very conduct that is being challenged in the first place.

We are grateful for your support of our work over the years, and consider you a partner in this work to advance justice for LGBTQ+ people and our families. We see it as our responsibility in this moment to call upon this partnership and to utilize our organizational voice to call for accountability.

You must do better and you must do it today.

We are eight days into Pride month. It bears remembering that what we commemorate every June was an uprising—days of passionate resistance to the brutal violence of the police against our communities, especially the Black and Brown trans women who led this fight, that had been going on for decades—centuries even.

Stonewall was a rebellion of people who had been oppressed for their sexuality and gender identity both interpersonally and by the police and other institutions. While they might not have been thought of as such, many of the patrons of Stonewall Inn were grassroot leaders and organizers. Most of them were people of color, trans women, femmes, butches, and drag queens cast away by society and often the broader gay community for their focus on issues like incarceration and demanding that their humanity be recognized and valued. Their spirit of interruption, resistance, and liberation is still alive today. It is bursting forth in the local and national responses to the murders of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, Manuel “Manny” Ellis, and too many more.

This is the history of our movement. History that has paved the way not only for the rights and access we have today as an LGBTQ+ community, but also the opportunity for our people to be in positions of leadership and power like you currently are. We ask that you honor the history that allows you to be where you are today by doing everything in your power to end the racist violence and police brutality our community has been fighting against for decades—and centuries.

I hope you can see that these protests—these acts of resistance—are the culmination of centuries of pain, grief, and anger about the violent, brutal racism that Black people in the United States live with and experience every single day.  They are about changing the world as we know it and crying out for better. I hope you can see what is truly at stake. Windows can be replaced. Buildings can be rebuilt. We will never, ever get our family members, our beloveds, these human beings back. Their lives are not disposable.

Pride Foundation’s mission is to fuel transformational movements to bring justice for all LGBTQ+ people—this means movements that are fundamentally challenging the oppressive, racist systems and institutions that are preventing the liberation of our community. What we are witnessing across the nation and right here in Seattle is exactly one of those transformational movements. It is a movement to dismantle the systems that have oppressed Black people for generations.

Pride Foundation is in unwavering solidarity with the people, communities, and movements who are challenging the violence and systemic oppression that undermines the humanity of Black people, and working to dismantle white supremacy and the rippling effects of its violence.

The reality laid bare right now compels us to get very, very clear about who we are fighting for and what justice looks like. I implore you to deeply consider both of these in your next course of action.

Justice, in this moment, looks like accountability and real, swift change. We echo and add our support to the demands of the movements happening in Seattle:

From the WA Black Trans Task Force

  • We demand that the City Council, WA State Legislature, and Congress consider decreasing funding for the police and instead fund Black & indigenous trans-led organizations who can and do serve our communities better
  • We demand the immediate release of any and all transgender and transgender/non- binary protesters in custody. We demand that these persons not be prosecuted as the criminal justice system is lethal to our community and subjects us to COVID-19 exposure, misgendering, violence from officers of the law, and the potential for violence from other incarcerated persons
  • We demand that Black trans and Black trans/non-binary leadership be represented at every negotiation table where Black Lives Matter and protection against police violence is on the agenda

From COVID-19 Mutual Aid Seattle, a network of organizations and individuals who came together in response to COVID-19 to demand an abolitionist, anti-racist public health response to the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Seattle’s Mayor and City Council must immediately defund Seattle Police Department (SPD). The city faces a $300 million budget shortfall due to COVID-19. Seattle City Council should propose and vote for a 50% cut from the $363 million already budgeted for
  • Seattle’s Mayor and City Council must protect and expand investments to make our communities safe, prioritizing community-led health and safety strategies. Full access to affordable housing, community-based anti-violence programs, trauma services and treatment, universal childcare, and free public transit are just a few of the non-police solutions to social
  • The Seattle City Attorney must not prosecute protesters, including those arrested violating curfew, and those living in encampments. Protesters took to the streets to call for the end of the murders of Black people by police, and SPD unnecessarily escalated tensions and

Beyond these demands, their needs to be accountability and an investigation into the conduct of the SPD and the decisions you and your office made: to escalate police, state trooper, and national guard presence at peaceful protests; to fire tear gas at peaceful protesters, shoot them with rubber bullets, spray them with pepper spray, use flash bombs on them; to instruct and allow police to turn off their body cameras and cover up their names and badge numbers that is a visible symbol of trying to avoid accountability, and to impose curfews with little notice to prevent assembly of peaceful protesters. We demand that this investigation be community-led and include Black trans people.

We will continue to gather, protest, and speak out against the systems, institutions, and individuals that are oppressing, targeting, and brutalizing Black people in this country and in this city. Now is the time for you to listen to the demands of the community you serve and take action.

In solidarity,

Jeremiah Allen, Director of Programs

Katie Carter, CEO

On behalf of the Staff and Board of Pride Foundation

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