Discover more from Seattle Abolition Support
Issue 18: Keep Building
Wins in Seattle and more
Seattle was the only city in the US that reduced police department funding for two years in a row. How does this progress fit into the larger abolitionist vision for a world without cages or borders, and what are the key strategic questions facing the movement right now? Dean Spade, Angélica Cházaro, Erica Perry, and Andrea Ritchie discuss these questions and more in Abolition on the Ground: Reporting from the Movement to #DefundthePolice, sponsored by the Barnard Center for Research on Women.
You can read an abridged transcript of their conversation here:
From Angélica Cházaro: “We saw SPD's budget go from $409 million before the uprising in 2020, to $363 million in 2021, and then now $355 million in 2022. Our city has gone from funding 1422 cops in 2020 to funding 1225 cops this year.”
From Andrea Ritchie: “We have to divest not just financially but emotionally and ideologically from policing and punishment as connected in any way to our safety, our value, our worth, our lives.”
-Peter Condit (he/him)
Theft by employers is a bigger problem than theft by shoppers
How big a problem is shoplifting?
We’ve all seen the sensational headlines. But the National Retail Federation estimates that shoplifting accounts for $0.07 out of every $100 sold, which is why a lot of companies have made the business decision to eliminate loss prevention departments. It is cheaper to not have loss prevention.
How big a problem is wage theft?
In 2021, employers stole well over $11.8M from Seattle workers. The Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) reached $11.8M in settlements, but that does not include settlements outside of the OLS (ex. Tom Douglas’s $2.4M class action lawsuit settlement). Additionally, it represents negotiated settlements, not the full amount workers reported the employer as having been stolen.
Employers stealing from workers increases the chances that workers will not be able to meet their basic needs. A recent study revealed that almost 1 out of 7 Kroger employees has been homeless in the last year.
What does this look like?
A person who allegedly shoplifted $6.99 of merchandise from Target was arrested & held on bail. This arrest increases the person’s odds of remaining unsheltered and needing to shoplift in the future to try to meet their basic needs. Seattle will likely pay at least 100x what the person allegedly shoplifted in order to arrest and jail them (Seattle pays $424 per day to incarcerate a person, in addition to the cost of SPD arresting them & spending time patrolling at Target).
Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot stole $3.5M from its Seattle workers by not paying proper minimum wage, not paying overtime, not providing breaks, and not providing legally required paid sick time. Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot negotiated a settlement with the Seattle OLS for part of the amount claimed by employees. No one was arrested or jailed, and Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot continues to operate in Seattle. (Fun fact: The only arrests related to wage theft are for people protesting against wage theft.)
Note: I am NOT advocating for jailing employers who steal from their workers. This is to point out the disparity between the criminal legal systems for the poor and the rich. The system for the poor relies on caging people, and the system for the rich is non-carceral and has a lot of abolitionist features.
What you can do:
Tell City Council that wage theft is a bigger problem than shoplifting:
- BJ Last
Mutual Aid in the greater Seattle area
A great resource from @MutualAidSeattle to learn about mutual aid and connect with folks near you doing the work:
Heron’s Nest LANDBACK Project in Support of the Duwamish Tribe
When land acknowledgements don’t feel like enough, you can spend a few hours in Seattle’s last forest and help restore its indigenous vegetation and ecology.
Just south of the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, the Heron's Nest Project is an initiative from the Shared Spaces Foundation, a community nonprofit working with the Duwamish Tribe to preserve a 3.56-acre parcel of land in the West Seattle Greenbelt.
Once established, the Heron's Nest property will be repatriated to The Duwamish Tribe, who currently own less than an acre of land in Seattle and have been unfairly stripped of their federal recognition. With more land to grow native plants and food, rebuild their community presence, practice cultural traditions, and teach youth lasting skills, the Duwamish can reclaim some of the power that was unjustly taken from them by colonial oppressors and bolster their fight for legitimacy in the eyes of the federal government.
Want to help?
Browse the links above and get in touch at HeronsNestOutdoor@Gmail.com to volunteer yourself or a group to do forest remediation. Volunteer Land Stewardship Days are Saturdays and Mondays, between 10am and 3pm. Volunteers don't need to stay for the whole time and can come and go as they please.
Pay real rent.
-Nicole A. and Peter C.
No Human Is Disposable
As abolitionists we believe that there is no justice in disposing of humans in jail cells or behind prison bars. Incarceration erases accountability from the healing process, and disposes of humans by hiding them away in cages. And this system of injustice comes at a tremendous cost to all of society.
The phenomenon of disposing of people has become ubiquitous on the streets of Seattle. Sweeps of homeless encampments have been a daily occurrence; sometimes multiple camps are swept in a single day. Councilmember Andrew Lewis, along with Mayor Bruce Harrell and the King County Regional Homelessness Authority have hatched “a short-term displacement plan” to sweep encampments throughout downtown and the CID. The original plan called for unhoused people to be swept into “mass encampment sites,” and the plan specified that these encampments would be surrounded by fencing. So far, these mass encampment sites are nowhere to be found, and unhoused folks swept from encampments are rarely offered housing or shelter of any kind.
While under Mayor Durkan the practice was typically to give camps 72 hours notice before a sweep, Mayor Harrell’s sweeps often occur within 30 minutes of notification. When residents of encampments don’t get warned of sweeps in enough time to remove their possessions, belongings are thrown away by employees of the City’s Parks Department, accompanied by officers from the Seattle Police Department. Seattle uses its resources to literally dispose of unhoused people’s possessions.
Just as prisons merely keep the problems of harm and violence in our society out of most people’s views, so does sweeping encampments. Sweeping people from their living spaces is a violent, direct way of upholding capitalistic systems that place value on property over that of humanity. Sweeping also directly impacts folks who already experience higher risk and violence from systemic oppression, including folks with disabilities, addiction, and survivors of assault and abuse. We mustn’t buy into the facade that sweeps create; the challenges our unhoused neighbors face are not being lessened or solved by Mayor Harrell’s sweeps. Sweeps are simply displacing and disposing of people, and as with jails and prisons, it comes at great cost to our city. If we think that mass encampment sites surrounded by fences are the best we can offer, we’ve got a lot of work to do.
Stop the Sweeps
Stop the Sweeps is a Seattle based community that provides direct support for folks living without housing in a multitude of ways, and specifically organizes support for people who are at risk of being swept by the City of Seattle. Stop the Sweeps was started by folks living in communities that were being swept, in response to the violent removal of people from their homes, belonging and sense of safety.
Email your Councilmember and tell them to stop the sweeps.
Get directly involved! DM Stop the Sweeps at their Instagram or Twitter https://www.instagram.com/stopthesweepsseattle/ or go to their linktree to https://linktr.ee/stopthesweeps. Some of the ways you can provide direct support to Stop the Sweeps:
2 hour shifts to support communities at risk of being swept
Grocery runs, and direct mutual aid
Sign up to be on call for sweeps, observing, or direct action 8-11am daily
-Erin Carroll and Katy Dichter
Care, Not Incarceration
Tell Lynnwood public officials NO carceral “care”:
On Thursday, April 7th at 2pm PDT there is an opportunity to give public comment against psychiatric incarceration at a public hearing on the building application for Lynnwoood’s “Community Recovery Center” (CRC) that is part of the Lynnwood Jail expansion project. The public hearing is via Zoom and comments can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Public Comment for the 4/10/22 Hearing.
The City of Lynnwood is moving forward with a “Community Justice Center,” a carceral expansion project that includes an 84-bed jail, a police station (over 2x larger than its current size), and a second courtroom. In September of 2021, the Lynnwood City Council voted to approve creating a new behavioral health facility in a corner carved out from the previous jail design. The CRC is slated to be funded as part of Washington’s behavioral health policy to shift involuntary civil commitments from the two large state hospitals—Western State Hospital in Lakewood and Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake—to smaller, local facilities.
State and local officials are touting the CRC as a place for mental health “care.” With its proximity to a jail, collaboration with the police, and the involuntary services being planned, it is unfortunately another expansion of the carceral system. Like other forms of incarceration, psychiatric facilities uphold systemic racism, confine, and punish people. These coercive behavioral health facilities are part of the structures that prison abolitionists work to undo. Moving within the framework of Disability Justice, psychiatric abolition does not want people abused through forced medication, surveillance, or removal from their community, etc. when they are asking for help or otherwise existing.
No New Washington Prisons opposes the Lynnwood Jail expansion project and does not accept access to services at the expense of others’ autonomy. As we work towards building a liberatory future, we demand that the City of Lynnwood redirect funding and the purpose of the “Community Justice Center and Community Recovery Center” buildings to be used entirely for non-coercive, peer-run care and other social supports. Please visit bit.ly/LynnwoodPublicHearing to learn more about the public hearing, background on the jail expansion, and psych abolition.
Homicides are declining in Seattle
According to FBI data (and reported in the CS Monitor), Seattle experienced a 22% reduction in homicides in 2021. Other cities that saw double-digit reductions in murder rates include Boston, Omaha, San Jose, Kansas City, St. Louis, Dallas, Greensboro, Charlotte, Jacksonville, and Miami.
Here is Interim Chief Diaz acknowledging this fact to the Public Safety and Human Services Committee:
“We did see homicides drop in 2021.”
He quickly obscures the good news, saying that the number of assaults (data only SPD collects) has gone up. That conflict of interest aside, his (and others’) claim that violence is increasing in Seattle is misleading at best.