Mayor Jenny A. Durkan’s remarks on the shutdown of CHOP

Following are Mayor Durkan’s remarks delivered on July 1, 2020:

Thank you to everyone for being here.

Today, City departments and I will provide quick updates on Capitol Hill, but I’d like to largely focus on the continued work we are doing and must continue to do to live up to this moment in our nation’s history, and to meet the demands of community to reimagine policing and to invest in our communities.

For weeks, we had peaceful demonstrations on Capitol Hill. While thousands have peacefully protested in the area over the last weeks, the public safety threat in recent weeks have been well documented. The multiple acts of gun violence have resulted in tragic deaths of two individuals, both teenagers. Multiple others were seriously wounded.

For weeks I have been consulting with city Departments and particularly with Chief Best and Chief Scoggins, on the best ways to reduce the number of people in the area, provide services to homeless individuals, reduce impacts to neighbors and increase public safety.

Despite our continued efforts to de-escalate and bring community messengers in, including personally having a conversation with demonstration organizers on Friday, the deteriorating conditions and repeated gun violence required us to immediately address public safety concerns.

From conversations over the weekend, it was clear that many individuals would not leave and that impacts could not be reduced and public safety improved until they did.

An operation of this scope and magnitude takes significant resources and planning, particularly by the Seattle Police Department. Over the last two weeks, city departments and SPD under Chief Best’s leadership have been devising a range of operational plans. I am very grateful for her leadership and SPD’s work. For days they have had to design and practice the operation that began this morning.

So late last night, after consulting with Chief Best and other Departments, I issued an Executive Order asking City Departments to work together to address public health and public safety concerns as well as sustained damage to Cal Anderson Park and the East Precinct area.

I am hoping to meet with the families of those gun victims, so I can directly express my condolences for the loved ones lost in those senseless acts of violence. I know they too have been on Capitol Hill.

These acts of violence hurt our whole community and are also in direct contrast to the message ringing from the streets that Black Live Matter.

I will continue to refocus our energy on the hard but critical work to answer the voices demonstrating and demanding change, to reimagine with Chief Best what policing looks like in our City and to invest in the true health and safety of our communities.

No city, including Seattle, will dismantle centuries of systemic racism overnight. But we must act now. We must answer to history.

I said from the onset that Capitol Hill has a rich history of being at the epicenter of protest and change. I marched and participated in many events on Capitol Hill, particularly for LGBTQ rights. Capitol Hill is the heart of the gay community.

Cal Anderson Park is named for the first openly gay state legislator and East Barbara Bailey Way that leads to the park is named for Barbara Bailey, a lifetime community leader and friend.

But now that space has a new and shared history for civil rights. There is no question that we must find a way to memorialize the history that has transpired there over the last month.

Our Parks and Arts departments are actively working with the individuals who were maintaining the community garden and with artists to preserve their work. But we also will engage community, residents and businesses on how we can memorialize the protests in the public realm, such as through a new garden, a speaker’s corner or new art.

For the many arrests this morning, I believe charges should not be filed against individuals arrested only for misdemeanor obstruction, failure to disperse or trespassing. I fully support SPD’s operations this morning and the arrests and bookings were appropriate. But as we move forward in healing, alternatives to charging and criminal sanctions are important.

In a moment I will speak more on how I am thinking our City priorities can answer community demands, but I want to speak briefly about the future of the East Precinct and Capitol Hill Community.

Part of rethinking policing should also be the long-term failures of how police and community resources are present in our communities. We need to have true community spaces, with connections to community-based organizations, health clinics and restorative justice programs.

Capitol Hill also was the entrance to the Central District, where the black community and communities of color can no longer call home. When I grew up, the CD was 75% African American families. Today it is less than 14%. Their histories, shops, their homes, their gathering spots have largely been erased. But strong reminders of the work we have to do remain. One of our city’s oldest churches established in 1886, First AME sits just a block for the precinct.

I have been working and talking with black leaders on a plan to create a space on Capitol Hill to support community voices in rethinking and reimagining policing and the greater investments that we need to make in black prosperity, health and brilliance. These conversations are ongoing and must be led by the community itself. We hope to have more to share on that soon.

In addition, I want to thank again Rev. Harriett Walden for her leadership in reminding us of the importance of the East Precinct, whose history is rooted in Black-led organizing. In addition to resources in the budget, she will be leading outreach about the long-term future of the East Precinct.

I truly believe we can reimagine this space [as] a shared space, including a community room in the East Precinct and things in and around Capitol Hill and East Precinct.

In order to move forward, we must recommit to the message that brought tens of thousands of residents from in and around the City to the streets demanding change.

We must remember that it was the unjust murder of George Floyd that ignited a global movement, including here in Seattle, calling for changes to policing, a concerted effort to undo centuries of systemic racism, and broad investments in community.

I am committed to this work, and its there where I will spend and focus my energy.

After meeting with community leaders and organizations, demonstrators, businesses, and residents in the last three weeks and hearing their demands for change, my administration and I are focusing on key areas to address systemic inequities in Seattle:

o First, Investing in Black Communities

o Second, Investing in Young People

o Third, Rethinking and Reimagining Policing, Including Culture and Budgets

o Last, Accountability and Reform. Including Statewide Reforms of Police Unions

Investing in Black Communities
True public safety comes from a healthy and resilient community and that is only possible if we invest in them.

For the last year, we have been working to return legacy properties to black ownership. These include Byrd Barr Place (formerly CAMP) and the Central Area Senior Center.

We’ve been in close communication with Africatown about them acquiring Fire Station Six. Last week, their architect and the City had a walkthrough of the facility, and we look forward to continued discussions.

Community leaders have stated that the long process is part of the problem, and I agree. We are going to expedite it [and examine other properties to de-gentrify the community].

I’ve also committed to investing $100 million in my 2021 budget directly into community organizations focused on improving the lives of BIPOC communities.

Investing in Young People and Youth Opportunity
We cannot achieve justice without educational justice.

This truth is what has guided our City programs over the last two years of being Mayor, including making free college for Seattle high school students a reality and ensuring that we have free transit passes to get them to and from school or anywhere in the City.

As an immediate action, as part of my budget rebalancing package, I committed $5 million for mentoring and summer learning for black youth.

My office has been working with DEEL and community stakeholders on a proposal to allocate those funds, and they should be ready to announce soon.

Black youth are not just the future of their community, they are the future of Seattle. We must invest in that future.

Rethinking and Reimagining Policing, Including Culture and Budgets
We will be rethinking and reimaging policing, including budgeting, and have been working very closing with Chief Best who is one of the best leaders in this country on policing and herself is committed to seeing that we can protect public safety and at the same time reimagine how her department does its work.

This means deploying the right person with the right skills into a situation – and sometimes that’s a mental health specialist, domestic violence counselors, or addiction counselors.

We’ve created programs like this in Seattle to reduce 9-1-1 calls for service including Seattle Fire Department’s Health One, which is a mobile medical clinic that addresses low acuity situations and added nurses and social workers can show up. We’ve also added nurses to our homelessness shelters. And we will continue to expand on programs like this.

Creating, training and building these new health centered responses will not happen overnight. But we know what works, and more importantly community knows what works.

As an immediate step, tens of millions of dollars have been cut from SPD’s budget – but Chief Best is conducting a deep review of the budget to assess what functions might be moved to other departments and what the core functions of the department are.

She and I will never compromise public safety, but we believe we can reimagine policing and invest in community.

Let’s lead the nation in Seattle and show how this work can be done.

In addition to making the SPD budget [process more] transparent, I am committed to finding more ways to partner with the community, to ensure [residents have a voice in our budget process.]

BIPOC communities have been left behind for far too long and it is imperative that our budget reflects a commitment to investing in communities that need it the most.

Undoing centuries of system racism will not happen overnight, as I’ve said before, but I do believe Seattle can lead the country in addressing injustices and ensuring everyone, regardless of their race, can achieve their full potential.

Racism is hard-wired into our institutions and permeates through our society. We can only begin to undo the trauma and injustice by centering the voices of the people who have been most impacted.

What I am committed to doing is putting in the work and working with community to creating that true, lasting, generational change that this moment in history demands of all of us. I ask that the rest of the City join me in that endeavor.

Courtesy of the Seattle Office of the Mayor

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