For the second year in a row, Black Lives Matter protesters shut down Black Friday in downtown Seattle, privileging the struggle against racism and police brutality over the profits of downtown merchants. Liberation News was on the scene from the beginning of the protest which started at 1 PM with protesters gathering in Westlake Park, near several malls and department stores, with banners and signs featuring the names of Black people murdered by police.
Last year, the demonstrators peacefully entered several malls, and managed to disrupt the business oriented Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. The Chamber of Commerce was appalled that their celebration of commercialism was disrupted by people using their First Amendment rights to protest racism. As a result, this year a not-so-small army of police swamped the streets, failing however to outnumber the demonstrators. Liberation News witnessed the police command center on the second floor of Westlake Mall, and experienced first hand police violence in the interests protecting their corporate paymasters.
At about 1 pm, one of the main organizers, Mohawk Kuzma, got the event going by offering his bull horn to attendees who wanted to speak of their experiences of police brutality and racist police terror. All was fine until the concert stage set up on Pine Street near the park for the evening tree lighting ceremony began playing holiday music so loud no one could hear the speeches. In an outright attempt to squash the people’s organizing against injustice the park was consumed with holiday season music; the people responded by taking control of the streets.
The mass of people marched around the block that hosts Westlake Park before converging into the Macy’s mega department store to call attention to shoppers that Black lives are more important than Black Friday. Protesters made their way around the entire perimeter inside the department store before exiting onto the street to head east towards the rear entrance of the Westlake mall, where things got seriously dangerous.
Protesters worked to hold the entrance door open to allow others to enter but found themselves in a game of tug of war with Seattle Police. Cops tried to close and lock the door by prying their fingers off the door only to fail and begin punching their digits. After three warnings the police won control of the door but protesters quickly swarmed to another entrance where one attendee was blocking the door with her entire body. Liberation was up close to this action and recorded footage of Seattle police fighting activists for the door only to randomly nab a protester to arrest him inside. SPD eventually got violent by kettling activists including a Liberation reporter by shoving their bikes into them. When another person told them there wasn’t room for their bikes they pushed her. Another man was grabbed by his hair by SPD and shaken like a dog would shake a stuffed toy.
Demonstrators then moved to Pacific Place, another upscale mall hosting various designer brands. After some protesters got inside, the police responded by locking protesters inside and severing the protest into two groups. After a standoff the people inside were let go but the Seattle Police came out in full riot gear to further intimidate demonstrators. Protesters then infiltrated the crowd headed for the tree lighting ceremony back at Westlake Park. In a creative approach, protesters released “Black Lives Matter” helium balloons as the tree was lit up. Demonstrators remained downtown for hours after the tree ceremony. Police announced that two people had been arrested. However, no amount of repression and police violence can stop this movement for freedom and justice.