Defend the Right to Protest
Last Thursday the Washington Supreme Court sided with the right-wing Recall Campaign and pushed through the recall attack against Kshama Sawant. This politically charged, completely unjust recall ruling is in reality a criminalization of protest and a dangerous precedent.
All three of the charges that the Supreme Court upheld attack Kshama for supporting protest movements – the Black Lives Matter and Tax Amazon movements – which is exactly what we elected her to do. Councilmember Sawant has consistently fought unambiguously for working people and the oppressed throughout her seven years in office, and it’s clear that the political establishment wants to remove her by any means necessary. Building movements and speaking at protests aren’t crimes, but the powers that be want to change that, beginning with attempting to drive the most progressive elected official in the country out of office.
Those who joined the Justice for George Floyd protests last summer all too vividly remember the police’s brutal use of tear gas, mace, and other “crowd control weapons” against protesters. If this recall is successful, it will open the floodgates for increased repression of our movements. As Kshama stated in her response to the Supreme Court’s decision, “The real intent of such ludicrous charges is to have a chilling effect: if working people and movements dare to have our own elected positions that organize for our interests, the ruling class will ruthlessly retaliate.”
In response to this attack, working people rallied over the weekend to stand with Kshama against the recall. Nearly 200 people attended our socially-distanced rally in person last Saturday, and over 5,000 viewed the event online. If you missed it, you can still view the livestream here.
A broad lineup of community activists, rank-and-file union members, and working class fighters spoke to the urgent need to defend Kshama’s office. Chicago Alderman and DSA member Byron Sigcho-Lopez flew out to Seattle for the rally — demonstrating how solidarity is an action — to speak about the recall against Kshama as an attack on the socialist movement and working people worldwide.
Speakers at Saturday’s rally included (clockwise from top left) Reverend Jeffrey of the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, Jake Laundry and Don Creery of the Drivers Union, Chicago Alderman and DSA member Byron Sigcho-Lopez, and police accountability activist Castill Hightower
In her speech at Saturday’s rally, Kshama explained the political nature of the charges against her and why the Supreme Court has upheld this recall while throwing out so many others. She stated that “In October, the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously threw out the grassroots recall of Amazon’s Mayor, Democrat Jenny Durkan, who oversaw the vicious police crackdown against Seattle protesters. Among other dangerous weapons, Seattle police under Durkan used tear gas during a respiratory pandemic. Tear gas inflames the lungs, burns the skin, and stings the eyes. Its use has the potential to increase the spread of the coronavirus and to cause long-term harm in individuals with asthma or other respiratory conditions. Democratic Party administrations like Durkan’s continued unleashing tear gas for weeks, despite repeated public pleas by medical and public health professionals to stop its use, especially during COVID.”
“Yet the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the recall’s objection to the use of tear gas really represented a ‘political disagreement’ with Durkan and therefore did not have merit, and they summarily dismissed the case.”
“Now, this same Supreme Court has unanimously approved the recall against Seattle’s only elected socialist because we held a masked, one-hour Black Lives Matter rally in an empty City Hall. The Supreme Court’s real reason for siding with the Recall is highly political: it is an attack on our office for unambiguously standing with the Black Lives Matter movement. The stunning irony is that I was one of the thousands who was tear gassed by Durkan’s police.”
“The Supreme Court has thrown out a whole series of recall cases for establishment politicians, including the COVID-safety denying Sheriff of Thurston County, John Snaza. Sheriff Snaza refused to require his police officers to wear masks in the midst of this historic pandemic, putting ordinary people in even greater danger than usual at the hands of the police.”
“The hypocrisy on every level is breathtaking. This recall ruling against our socialist council office could not be more political — it is a blatant attack on working people, social movements, and ultimately, on the right to protest. This ruling criminalizes protest and sets an extremely dangerous precedent.” You can read the rest of Kshama’s speech here.
Defeating this billionaire-backed recall attempt will require the support of a broad movement of working people. To help build that movement, attendees of the rally donated a total of $10,000 on Saturday! If you haven’t yet had a chance to make a donation since the release of the Supreme Court ruling, please consider chipping in what you can now.
Seizing on the momentum of the rally, 52 volunteers went out directly after the event to hold socially-distanced tables in the community, put up posters, and deliver yard signs. It’s critical that we build our grassroots response to the Recall Campaign’s corporate media attacks and their army of paid canvassers soon to come by immediately mobilizing volunteers to talk to community members. Sign up to join us for one of our daily volunteering opportunities, whether it’s tabling, phonebanking, or postering.
Right now is one of the many moments in this campaign where we will need to go all out to defend our voice in City Hall. Get involved in the coming days, whether that means volunteering your time, making a financial contribution to the Kshama Solidarity Campaign, or both. Stand with Kshama and help build our movement to defend the right to protest!