Posted on October 7th, 2020
Nationwide, Black Lives Matter and the #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd movement have been a historic turning point in building the struggle against police brutality and institutionalized racism. Working people getting organized is how change happens, whether it’s in the fight for racial justice, to tax big business for affordable housing, or to win a Green New Deal to avoid climate catastrophe.
The more successful our movements are, the more determined the political establishment is to push back. Brutal police repression at protests, as we saw with the tear gassing of #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd protesters under Seattle Democratic Mayor Durkan’s watch, is one form of this reactionary pushback. The establishment also seeks to make examples of those playing a leading role in movements, both to silence them and to intimidate other activists.
The campaign by big business and the right-wing to recall socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant is one such attempt to undermine our movement. Kshama’s office has unwaveringly fought alongside working people, marginalized communities, and grassroots movements such as Black Lives Matter. She and our movements have won historic victories like the $15 minimum wage, the Amazon Tax, and crucial renters’ rights. This is precisely why Kshama has become the target of this recall attempt.
Kshama is not the only one being targeted — there are many others.
Recently, Kentucky State Representative Attica Scott also came under fire for her role within the movement demanding justice for Breonna Taylor. Scott, notably the only Black legislator in the Kentucky State House, has been a consistent presence at protests in Louisville. She recently put forward legislation based around the movement’s demands, titled “Breonna’s Law”. This legislation would end the use of no-knock search warrants in Kentucky, require officers to activate body cameras while executing search warrants, and mandate drug and alcohol testing of officers involved in shootings.
For her participation in a protest surrounding the recent verdict in Breonna Taylor’s murder, Attica Scott was arrested on trumped up charges accusing her of felony rioting. At the time of her arrest, Scott was seeking refuge at a church ahead of the city’s newly-imposed curfew. The Louisville Metro Police Department’s claims that Scott was trying to burn down a library run completely counter to the actual eyewitness reports and video footage. The librarian’s union has also come out in support of Scott, saying that she did nothing wrong.
The legal system’s blatant bias against movements and activists is nothing new — Scott is standing up against a racist system and political establishment and is being targeted for it.
This targeting of Attica Scott echoes the recent court decision on the trumped up charges against Kshama Sawant, where a King County judge has simply approved the recall effort against Councilmember Sawant with zero evidence that she broke the law.
We should not be surprised. Just as with the police under capitalism, the courts are no friends of working people or oppressed communities.
Historically, Washington State recall campaigns have often been highly politicized and legally flimsy. Seattle’s last elected socialist, Anna Louise Strong, was driven from office by a recall campaign in 1919 for her links to the labor movement and opposition to World War I.
All four recall charges against Councilmember Sawant are inaccurate, and attack her for doing what we elected her to do: fight unambiguously for working people and alongside movements. This included participating in Black Lives Matter protests and using her elected office to successfully campaign for the Amazon Tax to fund affordable housing. She is also being targeted for being a socialist who acts in consultation with the democracy of her working class organization. In short, for being accountable to working people, NOT big business.
Shockingly, Washington courts are not required to judge the truth of charges in recall cases, and Kshama hasn’t been provided an opportunity to defend herself against these dishonest claims.
Similarly, Kentucky’s rioting law is written to serve the ruling class and not working people. According to Louisville’s interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder, Kentucky’s riot statute applies to "anyone who is part of a group causing damage or riotous behavior," and "does not require an individual to actually have participated in a specific destructive act." The law is written in such a broad manner in order to allow the police and the legal system to target protesters as they see fit. This allows as much room as possible to repress working class movements. The legal system is not neutral, and it’s been coming down increasingly severely against movements demanding police accountability and oversight.
The felony charges brought against Scott would prevent her from holding office and even from voting. Across the country, the political establishment wants to send a message. By attempting to silence Scott and Sawant, they are attempting to silence the broader fight for racial justice.
Here in Seattle, we need to build a strong foundation to fight back against the attempt to recall Kshama. We can expect the same dirty tricks from the establishment that we saw when they repealed the Amazon Tax in 2018, or when they tried to buy the Seattle City Council elections last year. The corporate media will go on the attack, massive sums of money will be spent by big business, and paid canvassers will spread misinformation in order to gather enough signatures for their recall effort.
We know that the right-wing and billionaire class will go all out yet again, and that they have bottomless pockets. We blew our last fundraising target out of the water, exceeding it to raise $58,000 in our first ten days, and now we need to do that again. Please help us reach our goal of $100,000 by October 31st so that we can get our message out and counter the right-wing narratives!