Op-Ed: Gov. Inslee - bring in the National Guard for the Seattle May Day March

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

May Day March 4th Ave  Seattle 2008
Wikimedia Commons
Shorewood students Jacob Delaney, Tyler Hanthorn, and Keegan Cass have written an open letter to Gov. Jay Inslee with their concerns about the Seattle May Day March. They plan to deliver the letter to his office on Thursday.

Dear Governor Inslee,

We write to you today as concerned citizens and students from Shorewood High School. In light of recent developments in our region and across America, we fear this year’s May Day protest march may likely turn dangerous.

We ask you to carefully consider calling the Washington National Guard into Seattle to protect life and property in the event that the protests become violent.

People are angry. People are scared. They see messages of peace but they are tarnished by the violent actions of a righteously angered people claiming the same values as the ones preaching love. Many of these people do not see a peaceful, non-adversarial approach to ending hatred.

We see our friends losing faith in the government’s ability to impose order, enact just legislation, and keep the peace.

On January 20th, Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. Following President Trump’s inauguration, many protests broke out across the nation, including in the great City of Seattle. The largest protest in the city that day was a peaceful protest, organized by the Socialist Alternative, that began in Westlake Park.

However, upon their arrival in Red Square at the University of Washington, where a crowd had gathered to see controversial journalist Milo Yiannopoulos, a group of black bloc* rioters emerged from within the otherwise peaceful protest group and began using acts of violence to force people away from the event.

*[Ed. Wikipedia. "A black bloc is a name given to groups of protesters who wear black clothing, scarves, sunglasses, ski masks, motorcycle helmets with padding, or other face-concealing and face-protecting items."]

We were in Red Square when the protests got out of hand. We watched as our friends and neighbors were assaulted and robbed by black bloc rioters. We ran from Red Square to the sound of gunfire.

On the news that night, we saw Seattle Police Chief O’Toole proudly announce that no arrests were made and that the night was a good night for free speech. She may have been right; she may have been wrong, but from the experience we had, this was not a reassuring message. We felt as if the police had been ordered to stand down against a threat to public safety and as a result we did not feel safe in Red Square.

In the weeks since January 20th, we have seen our peers become more open to violent solutions. We have watched our friends on both ends of the political spectrum defend recent political violence and express support for further violence as they see necessary. Outside our community, rallies and protests across the Pacific Northwest have led only to increased tensions.

Marchers for Trump in Lake Oswego, Ore., brought in militants from the Three Percenters for security when a small group of progressives arrived to counter-protest their rally. In Berkeley, Calif., fights routinely break out between the increasingly militant right-wing group the Order of the Alt-Knight and the left-wing militant group By Any Means Necessary. There is an atmosphere of anger, fear, and hate, and it appears to be nearing its boiling point.

On May 1st, there is going to be a protest march in Seattle. In recent years, the annual May Day protests have often gotten out of hand and devolved into riots. Last year on May 1st, people were injured and property was damaged; Seattle police were attacked with rocks, fireworks, and Molotov cocktails. Considering the history of these protests and the growing tension since President Trump has taken office, there is a legitimate fear that this year's May Day protest may likely turn dangerous.

Present at this event will be at least three groups: peaceful protesters, black bloc rioters, and the Seattle Police Department. Also with the recent formation of the Alt-Knights and other calls to action within right-wing circles, it is not unlikely that there may be a violent right-wing resistance to the black bloc rioters as well.

Given the current social and political environment, any spark of violence, chaos, or destruction could undermine the entire purpose of the march, putting countless lives in danger in the process. In addition to the threat to life, we are concerned about acts of arson, vandalism, and looting that occur in these riot situations.

To this end we strongly urge you, the governor, to consider the placement of the Washington National Guard in Seattle for this protest march on the first of May.

We believe the National Guard is suitable for this situation because the stated mission of the Washington National Guard is to, “on order of the Governor, support the civil agencies that have the primary responsibility to protect life and property, and preserve the peace, order and public safety.” 

The May Day protest this year could pose a threat to life and property, as well as peace, order, and public safety.

Concern will be expressed about the presence of a paramilitary organization at the site of a nonviolent protest. Their concern is justified, but so long as the purpose of this placement is to safeguard life and protect property, and so long as this goal can be achieved with integrity and respect for all human life present, including the crowds they will be forced to control, we believe that the presence of the Guard could be instrumental in avoiding a tragedy this year.

If it cannot be ensured that the Guard will be providing for the safety of the protesters, citizens, and police, then they should not be placed in the city. This is not the only solution, and it may not be the best solution, or the one you ultimately arrive at, but it is an option that must be seriously considered because of the severity of this threat.

This is an important decision to make but it must be made carefully. Bringing in the National Guard could save lives, but if implemented poorly it could further increase public distrust in the government. The views of the people will need to be taken into consideration, since this is likely to be a major event our state’s largest city, but the call will ultimately be yours to make, Governor Inslee.


Anonymous,  April 27, 2017 at 3:32 AM  

Very articulate letter with valid concerns. Proud of these young people! There's the phenomena of mob mentality that kicks in in situations such as these. Add the factor of everyone live streaming on their smart phones and it makes the potential for a mob gone mad even that much more dangerous.

I was shocked when a friend sent me some youtube videos of the violence and destruction when Milo had a speaking event in Berkeley, the birth place of Free Speech. The "anti-facists", pro-communists, International Workers Party, anti-capitalists, black bloc, BLM, anarchists were violently attacking people, breaking windows, and burning things down.

Then you have irresponsible city leaders like Kshama Sawant advocating for protesters to block freeways and airports. I find it interesting that during WTO, us liberals were protesting against globalization, and now the same political faction seems to be protesting for it? What a crazy upside down world we live in now.

Anonymous,  April 27, 2017 at 1:34 PM  

Kent State. Dont forget your history.

On May 4, a Monday, classes resumed at Kent State. Anti-war protesters scheduled a rally for noon at the campus. University officials attempted to ban the gathering but proved unsuccessful in their efforts. As the protest began, National Guard members fired tear gas at the demonstrators. Due to wind, the tear gas proved ineffective. Some of the protesters threw the canisters, along with rocks, back at the soldiers. Some of the demonstrators yelled slogans, such as "Pigs off campus!", at the soldiers.

Eventually seventy-seven guardsmen advanced on the protesters with armed rifles and bayonets. Protesters continued to throw things at the soldiers. Twenty-nine of the soldiers, purportedly fearing for their lives, eventually opened fire. The gunfire lasted just thirteen seconds, although some witnesses contended that it lasted more than one minute. The troops fired a total of sixty-seven shots. When the firing ended, nine students lay wounded, and four other students had been killed. Two of the students who died actually had not participated in the protests.

Anonymous,  April 27, 2017 at 3:08 PM  

those are some articulate teens!

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