“Black Lives Matter” is a common household phrase that sometimes falls on deaf ears. Sequim, a small rural town in Washington state, has recently been thrust into a nationally noted political drama as the town’s mayor faces opposition for his association with the QAnon conspiracy movement. Locals have been known for their “live and let live” ideology, but the spark of activism ignited by the Movement for Black Lives made its way out of the big city and is spreading. At the height of the Black Lives Matter protests last year, this sunny slice of the Olympic Peninsula held rallies with record-breaking attendance.
Sequim’s first rally was so well-attended — by 400+ people — that it spontaneously turned into a march half-way through and lasted a total of six hours. It rattled the town so much that local right-wing vigilantes led by a gun store owner called his goons to arms. They surrounded the dwindling crowd at the end of the event with guns and attack dogs when only women and children largely remained.
This same right-wing call to action led to the “Incident at Forks, Washington” where a politically left-leaning family was confronted, terrorized and chased out of town. Roughly 200 attended the anti-racist vigil that followed and 450 people showed up to the silent march that stretched for multiple blocks.
After months of inaction, local activists and community leaders Rachel Anderson, newly appointed to the Sequim City Council, and Cat Munnerlyn wanted to see the people of Sequim back out on the streets supporting and reminding us that “Black Lives Still and Will Always Matter!”
Anderson and Munnerlyn took action. Social media and the video conferencing boom has made it easier for working-class people to engage in political struggle. The two posted an event page via Facebook and had an estimated 50 people gather for a sign waving rally on Feb. 28 in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives.
The event invited local business owners and community organizations to have a platform to show their support for the BLM movement. The Party for Socialism and Liberation set up a literature table and other organizing efforts in the area. Information about the newly formed Sequim Good Governance League, the Jefferson County Anti-Racist Fund, and the Washington BLM Alliance was also available at the table. Action items included those that could be done from your phone: like signing the Justice in Denver petition, or helping Nadine’s Kitchen, a local Black-owned business, get a permanent space through a GoFundme campaign.
Children were dancing and painting signs. Chants of “Black Lives Matter” were heard while a man played folk music on his banjo. Sign wavers chose a number of slogans to express themselves: “More Social Workers, Less Cops,” “No Room for Racism,” “No Justice, No Peace,” and “Remember Heather Heyer, Stop Racist Hate!”
One sign read: “Derek Hayden: His life matters,” referring to a Sequim local enrolled as a graduate student in Seattle University, who was killed by police during a mental health crisis on Feb. 16.
Another sign read, “Mayor Armacost, RESIGN!” In the wake of the Sequim City Manager being forced to resign, residents continue to protest QAnon and demand proper representation. Since recalling the mayor would result in taxpayer dollars being used for his defense, people are demanding his resignation. Meanwhile, the majority of the city council have not been elected; they were appointed over the last year. All this has caused locals to form the Sequim Good Governance League, organizing efforts for transparency in government.
The slogans “Abolish Prisons,” “Defund The Pentagon,” “The People Demand, Cancel the Rents,” and “Jail Killer Cops” could also be seen. No matter the sign, the vibe expressed working-class solidarity on the Olympic Peninsula to abolish capitalism and demand that the United States “Stop the war on Black America.”