Today although I woke up to a ticket on my car from Bothell PD, that didn’t stop me from driving downtown to the MLK Seattle Rally and March. My morning tears of frustration turned into tears of joy when I saw the immensity of the crowd that came in celebration of King. People from all around Washington state gathered today at Garfield High School to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a civil rights activist whose leadership in the Poor People’s Movement united those of all races and classes against the capitalist agenda of the wealthy elite. Dr. King’s commitment to social justice and racial equity continues to inspire people today as marches and rallies are organized all across the country today on MLK’s birthday.
The pre-rally began at 11am in Garfield High School’s gymnasium where several speakers set the mood for the march and its participants. Just outside of the gym Native Americans in solidarity with Standing Rock performed traditional music while beating drums. Many gathered around their circle to listen, applauding between each sequence, even I was mesmerized. We must not forget the fight to protect their land and their water from the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Water is life, water is a human right.
After the pre-rally the crowed squeezed of the gymnasium doors onto the streets preceded by a long line of police motorcyclists. The police department’s presence was heavy, while walking toward 23rd Ave I passed on officer with a suite labeled, bomb squad, “You’ve got the bomb squad out today?” I asked as he stood by what looked like a squad car, “You can never be too prepared,” the officer responded. Some in that instant may have felt safe or comforted by the thought of a bomb squad at the MLK rally, but I couldn’t help but think about the overwhelming militarization of police forces across the country. As we marched for non-violence we had a police military with weapons at our disposal.
The militarized police force was not the only symbolic contradiction of the day. As we held up signs that stated “Dump Trump” and “Capitalism has outlived its usefulness” we passed large for-profit corporations and businesses whose mere presence on our streets would most certainly suggest otherwise. The contrast is powerful. We stretched for over five blocks, when I looked uphill behind me all I saw was a sea of faces with the ‘Protect Those You Love’ globe floating above it all. A group of marchers literally carried the world on their shoulders, centered between the sea of people.
Marchers also protested the construction of the $210 billion youth jail the phrase, “No New Youth Jail,” could be heard in chants and seen on T-shirts and posters throughout the sea of people. With funding decreasing for public education, many suspect the strength of the public school to prison pipeline growing in the area and we must choose people over profits. Are children need more school funding and smaller class sizes while our teachers deserve a living salary. Many children were apart of this march. It warmed my heart to see young ones waving signs in solidarity with human rights causes that ranged from Black Lives Matter to “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
The march ended with a second rally at the Federal Building on 2nd and Madison St. By the end, although many chanting, “We reject the president-elect” fear the aTrump presidency, there was an overwhelming sense of optimism wrapped in activism as we approach the final days before his inauguration. Speakers urged marchers to look within themselves for the strength that will allow us to stand tall so long as we stand together, “The people united will never be defeated”.
Today MLK’s legacy as a whole represents peace, violence and unity, but his assassination illustrates the lengths that some will go in an attempt to keep the people from coming together, especially under the leadership of a strong, charismatic Black man. Violent attacks on Black bodies has been historically acceptable in this country, we are reminded of this even today as incidents of police brutality flood our news feeds. We chanted, “Black Lives Matter!”; “Hands up, Don’t Shoot” and “Same story every time, being Black is not a crime” in protest of the state sanctioned violence on Black people in this country. Many causes, organizations, activists and individuals came together today in the spirit of MLK because while you can kill the dreamer you cannot kill the dream.