Posted on January 20th, 2021
Yesterday, Councilmember Kshama Sawant sent a letter asking city officials to investigate and take seriously a series of threatening emails sent from a Seattle Fire Department employee’s city email address to Sawant’s official email.
The increasingly threatening emails began on December 17th, 2020, with the most specific timely threat made on January 18th.
As Kshama highlights in her letter below, while these threats have been made against Kshama as an individual, they are in reality an attack on our movements as a whole, in particular the Black Lives Matter movement. These threats come in the context of a major backlash by the political establishment against Black Lives Matter activists, as well as the emboldening of the far right. It's no coincidence that these threats come on the heels of the Pro-Trump Capitol riots and as similar right-wing protests were being planned all over the country during Biden's inauguration.
The right-wing Recall Campaign against Kshama Sawant is one in a series of attacks against progressive and socialist movements. In the face of right-wing attacks, whether they’re threats to the personal safety of movement leaders or attempts to recall elected progressive leaders, we must unite together in solidarity to fight back. The Kshama Solidarity Campaign is building a movement to defeat the Recall Campaign against Councilmember Sawant and to keep winning concrete gains for working people, like COVID relief and a guaranteed jobs program. Help us build a movement to counter these right-wing threats by donating today!
Kshama sent the following letter to Mayor Jenny Durkan, Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz, Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, and President of Seattle FireFighters Union IAFF Local 27 Lt. Kenny Stuart:
“My Council office has received many threats since I was first elected in November of 2013. Most of them, while frequently racist, xenophobic, and misogynist, are not specific enough in nature to be taken as immediate threats to safety. They have come with increased frequency recently, which is not surprising given the fury of the right wing at the role my office has played in the Black Lives Matter movement, other progressive movements, and the impact of socialist politics in Seattle.
While the threats are directly at me personally, I and others recognize that they are in fact directed against our entire movement. They are attacking me as a means of threatening all who dare to fight for workers’ rights and against racism, sexism, and oppression which stem from the capitalist system.
Recently, I have become extremely concerned about a series of threatening emails I have received from a City of Seattle employee email account, beginning on December 17, 2020.
The most ominous of these emails arrived yesterday, January 18, titled “Time to announce your expiration”, and concluding “The time is here, and you will not have a place after tomorrow council woman. Announce your resignation now, or else.”
Prior emails from this same account said “If you don’t willing leave [sic], we will make that decision for you by any means necessary” and “If you need help leaving, try jumping head first off the top floor of your building. I’ll even come push you.”
I believe these emails must be taken very seriously given the current political context with an emboldened right wing nationally, the specific threatening content of the emails, and the fact that they originate from a City of Seattle email account. There should be a thorough investigation into this matter immediately — particularly in light of the possible link between these emails and the far right protests planned for Biden’s inauguration tomorrow, January 20 (note the specific language saying I will “not have a place after tomorrow” in the January 18 email).
I received a message on December 31, 2020 from the Seattle Firefighter’s Executive Director of Administration — the department from which these emails originated. That email noted that “The SFD employee is claiming that he did not send the emails” and promised that the SFD’s EEO/Investigator “is currently looking into the matter.” While I appreciate that this message was sent proactively by the department leadership, I am concerned that I have received two more threatening emails since that time from the same employee’s account, and that they are increasingly serious in nature. Meanwhile, I have not been informed of any steps taken by the department in the nearly three weeks since.
How is it possible that these threatening emails have been allowed to continue? If the employee is to be believed that he did not send the threatening emails, has there been no effort by the department to secure his account? Has the employee not so much as been asked to change his password? Why have no further steps been reported to me? I hope that in fact real action has been taken, but these facts begin to strain credulity.
Given that the Fire Department appears not to have taken this matter seriously, I request that Mayor Jenny Durkan and interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz follow up with real urgency on this immediate threat.
As a union member, I think it’s important that our unions take the rise of violent right wing ideas seriously. I appeal that IAFF Local 27 open a discussion among its members to make it clear that violent threats will not be tolerated and have no place in the labor movement, which is built on solidarity.
I am of course not the only left-wing elected official under threat at present in the US or internationally. Far-right attacks are escalating, including violent activity, as we saw with the riot on January 6 at the Capitol. Tragically, we also saw at the Capitol a police force that allowed the right-wing mob to walk right up the Capitol steps unhindered, in sharp contrast to the police violence used against peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters across the nation all summer, including of course in Seattle. I know there are tens of thousands of working people and community members in Seattle who share these concerns.
I await your urgent response.
Help us build the Kshama Solidarity Campaign by donating today. Amid all of the threats our movements face, the right-wing recall effort against Kshama has the potential to set a far-reaching precedent. If the right wing succeeds in removing Kshama from office in Seattle, they will come after all socialists and progressive leaders around the country.