Peaceful Protests Millions Strong
The last few weeks have been crowded with so much pain and so much tentative hope. Hundreds and thousands of people are turning out for peaceful protests in cities all over the world. Peaceful protests are appearing in small towns, even places known for rampant racism. People who consider themselves to be conservative are discovering an increasing willingness to admit that embedded racism is destroying our country. More open acknowledgement of structural racism is occurring in many other countries as well. In Seattle, a remarkable ongoing protest has turned into a peaceful takeover of three to four city blocks (12 total) centered around an evacuated police station. When FOX News attempted to portray this protest as dangerous and violent, the exposure of their faked images (they inserted the same threatening armed figures in a few too many photoshopped attempts) won wider approval for the protesters and lost FOX cred with some of its followers.
Initially called CHAZ for Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, the burgeoning community is now titled CHOP, for Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, as the “autonomous” claim was sidetracking more important issues. Rather than a surging mass of dangerous radicals, the community offers open stores and coffee shops, free food and clothing, free libraries and kids’ toys. I especially appreciate that it’s centered on a garden; the six-foot circles intended for social distancing in Cal Anderson Park have been converted to beds of peas and tomatoes, lettuce and squash. (Gives “crop circles” a whole new twist.) This self-governed community is police-free but pollinator friendly, with herbs and flowers tucked in between the food crops. There’s still room for kids to play, and they do, along with Capitol Hill’s daily dog walkers.
Be A Good Neighbor
Visitors are welcome, and are asked not to treat the CHOP as a novelty or a sideshow. The organizers’ set of dos and don’ts are good guides for crafting a peaceful, less racist future.
– bring money and give to black organizers
– Participate in anti-racism education
– Listen to black speakers
– Follow community rules
– Respect black bodies
– Take note of the space you’re occupying. This isn’t only about your physical space but your vocal space. Ask yourself: Are you taking up space a black person could be? Does your opinion need to be voiced if it’s silencing a black person’s voice? Is it even necessary to say? What does it contribute?
– Keep watch of the barricades and be on the look out for suspicious behavior, plain clothed police, informants etc
– When the need for bodies to hold the line occurs, go to the front
– Always be willing to protect the BIPOC community around you
– Recognize that this place was fought for by the black leaders and community organizers and that it is not yours to take over & co-opt
– Come here to get drunk
– Come here just to hang out with friends
– Spend all your time chilling in Cal Anderson like it’s any other day
– Silence the speech of any BIPOC
– Demand answers or explanation of the movement from black organizers
– Come here if you don’t value and respect black voices
– Come here if you’re trying to get brownie points for being a “good ally”
– Don’t call yourself an ally, period.
– Argue when you’re called out
Don’t take selfies & do your best not photograph faces
Word On The Street
A local advocate adds, “CHOP is a beautiful place to see and I hope everyone gets a chance to come see what this amazing black community we have here in Seattle has created and it holding for us to witness. But do be mindful of your presence here and understand Seattle’s deep history of racism and that by being in this space you’re witnessing history.
This isn’t a place to have “fun”. This is a battle and an active war zone. For the past two weeks almost every night people all around you have been maced, tear gassed, flash bombed, shot with rubber bullets, police are targeting people and hunting them down. This isn’t CHBP. This is history and you need to be aware of what you are witnessing so we all can get our demands taken seriously and met.”
This resonates for me: I’m feeling as if we are at war, yet most of us are not living in the war zone. We can see it and hear it on the news and on social media, we can hear it and see it when/if we join local protests, but for many people the experience is not direct. Similarly, for most of us, our experience with the pandemic is not direct. For me, it feels surreal to be walking in my nearby waterfront park, listening to birds and watching otters at play, knowing that across the water Seattle is still experiencing the harsh realities of both covid19 (Washington’s patient numbers are rising again as restrictions ease) and the furious and duplicitous backlash against the peaceful protests from police and local government. I can live comfortably in my beautiful community of largely white, educated and well off people and not feel the effects of either dire experience.
That said, I live in an older mobile home park, one of very few pockets of affordable housing on this island of privilege. Most of my immediate neighbors, like me, are people of moderate means, living in modest homes. Many of us are elderly or aging past our active stages of life. Few of us are able to be big donors or to actively support causes we care deeply about. However, we can still be helpful by educating ourselves (there’s a ton of information available through libraries and any number of booklists these days). As allies, we can show up for protests and meetings, online or in real life (it could happen again, really). We can help just by talking with and listening to family, friends and neighbors about deeper issues than weather (though yes, even that can be tricky with climate change in the mix). I find it more useful to share my personal stories than opinions, as it often elicits other people’s personal stories and experiences, which often changes the temperature and quality of the conversation. It’s also useful to check your stories before sharing, as “virtue signaling” can come off as smug and complacent or better-than. Ask me how I know….
Be A Listener an An Amplifier
I’m still learning that listening is a skill that requires practice and patience. We live in a contentious culture and it’s very easy to slip from listening to arguing, especially when we don’t agree with what we’re hearing. Facilitating a Trans-Parent support group is helping me listen deeper, listen past anger and bluster to the underlying fear and pain. When I make space for people to fully express their concerns, it helps them hear themselves better as well. Most of the time, their own insights are far more powerful than my advice, which is generally about listening anyway.
Even deep introverts can be strong allies. My transgender daughter, who rarely leaves the house, is considered a Social Justice Cleric by her online gamer cohort, and on her multiple social media outlets, she has a reputation for being wise, kind, and helpful to people who are scared, confused and in pain. She’s also recognized as an “amplifier of signals”, someone who posts and re-posts important social justice messages. It’s not nothing, and every little bit of social change accretes into something bigger and more potent.
About Those Peas
In my own garden, like those beautiful, hopeful crop circles on Capitol Hill. peas are ripening daily. Sweet and crisp, their slight earthiness makes them a perfect partner for tart-sweet cherries in this crunchy raw salad. The flavors need a little time to meld, so let it stand 20-30 minutes while you fix the rest of your meal.
Raw Spring Pea & Cherry Salad
1 cup snap peas in the pod, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup chopped pitted Rainier or any cherries
1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced on the diagonal
3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced mint
Dash of kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup
Combine all ingredients and let stand 10 minutes then adjust seasonings to taste. Let stand another 5-10 minutes and serve at room temperature. Serves 2-3.