Seattle Ferguson Protests Block Traffic and Shut Down Westlake Mall

Another solidarity protest was staged in downtown Seattle on December 1 to demonstrate against the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri. Protesters held signs memorializing Michael Brown who was killed by police officer Darren Wilson.

At 6PM a rally was held at Westlake mall near the giant Christmas tree and across the street from the traditional holiday carousel. While the carousel’s sound system played cheerful Christmas songs (“A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight…”) angry protesters held a rally outside the mall. Police and security closed down the mall before the rally and Seattle riot police gathered on the ground floor.

Demonstrators sat in the street at 4th & Pine, then marched east on Olive Way. Stand offs with riot police took place at 8thand Olive and at Olive and Boren. Lines of cops in riot gear with long clubs blocked streets along the way and a contingent of police officers on bicycles followed the marchers around downtown. At least one arrest was made on Olive Way.

Protest organizers spoke out on megaphones and led the crowd in chants – “Racist cops have got to go!” & “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!”

Around 8PM, 200 marchers converged again in the street at Westlake mall and blocked a bus and a taxi cab at 4th & Pine. A Metro city bus and a taxi cab were blocked by the demonstrators. Cab driver Omar Abdinasser joined the protesters, who took up a collection to cover his lost fares. Demonstrators passed around a hat and gave him the money.

According to Abdinasser, Seattle police told him to move his cab, but he was blocked by protesters and a city bus which had stopped behind him on Pine street.

He said, “When the police ordered me to move my taxi I told them, “Where can I go? I’m blocked in. Then I said, ‘Don’t shoot me!'”

Abdinasser says he supports the protests. “The relationship between the people and the police is wrong. It needs to be corrected all across the country.”

The cab driver then proceeded to give this journalist and several protesters a free ride home.

Protests against police violence have continued in Seattle since a Ferguson grand jury decided not to prosecute Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown. On November 24 local Grammy award-winning hip hop artist Macklemore joined the Seattle protests. Marchers tried to occupy Interstate 5 and police used flash bang grenades and pepper spray on demonstrators.

A protest on November 28 disrupted the Christmas treelighting ceremony at Westlake mall. Jesse Jackson called for more protests when he met with Seattle community leaders at Mount Zion Baptist Church on November 29.

“Enough is enough,” he said.”Stop the killing.”

Police violence has been a major focus of protests in Seattle. The US Department of Justice conducted an eight month review of the SPD and found a “practice and policy” of the use of excessive force and profiling. New Seattle police Chief Kathleen O’ Toole was hired by Mayor Ed Murray to reform the department according DOJ guidelines, but she has encountered resistance from some officers on the force.

In a recent Seattle Times Op-ed article, reporter Danny Westneat suggested that, in terms of the lack of prosecution of police officers, Seattle actually has a worse record than Ferguson, Missouri. Westneat cited the 2010 killing of Native American woodcarver John T. Williams and the case of Christopher Harris who was paralyzed after being injured by a Seattle police officer in 2009.