SEATTLE — Thousands of people flooded the streets of Seattle on Wednesday. The peaceful protest drew the biggest crowd yet in the city during the movement sparked by the death of George Floyd.
While about 10,000 people marched from Cal Anderson Park in Capitol Hill to City Hall, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and police Chief Carmen Best met with leaders of the protest Wednesday afternoon.
Among those were protest leaders Rashyla Levitt and David Lewis; Andre Taylor with Not This Time; and Dwight Days with Black Fathers. In all, about 20 people were at the table.
As they talked, a crowd of thousands strong outside.
“This time is different; this time has changed. We will be better. With destruction, there will be a rebuild, and we will rebuild it the way it was supposed to be!” one speaker said.
But beyond just rallying cries, the crowd demanded Durkan address their concerns.
“Our demand is to defund the police. It’s a national demand; it’s not just a Seattle demand,” said Nikkita Oliver, an activist and former mayoral candidate. The protesters are calling on the Seattle Police Department to be defunded by 50%. That’s about $200 million.
Durkan did come outside.
“True public safety comes from access to health care and education justice,” Durkan said.
“We will not change things overnight,” Durkan said. “We will listen to the voices of all,” she said.
But for protesters, it wasn’t enough — and her words were met with “boos.”
Inside the meeting with protest leaders, their demands were different. They called for the firing of officers with a long history of use of force, more education and training on racial bias and an end to the curfews so that protesters can peacefully gather.
Durkan ended the curfews Wednesday evening.
But one demand all protesters want is the demand for Seattle police officers to stop dispersing crowds with force.
There was no clear answer from Best.
“I believe we can meet peace with peace,” Best said. “I don’t want to say anything I can’t back up … but I hear you, and I hear you loudly and clearly,” she said.
All at the table agreed the day brought progress.
“Every voice in this room today was critical for me to hear,” Durkan said.
“It’s a slow climb to get to the top of the mountain,” Days said. “They didn’t have to sit down with us at all. They’re doing this because they care about what we have to say,” he said.
“I don’t consider today a win. I consider it an inch forward and a start to a start,” Levitt said.
Protest leaders are calling for another meeting to continue the discussion in a few days.