So much for my hope of easing up and slowing down the writing of this diary. I awoke this morning to news from back east of a police SUV plowing through a crowd in Detroit and a white couple aiming guns – his an automatic rifle, hers a pistol – from the porch of their mansion at a peaceful crowd marching through their gated neighborhood to protest outside the house of the mayor of St. Louis. You’ve probably seen that video; it’s the one Trump retweeted. The mayor is in trouble for having (cluelessly, not maliciously … I think) revealed the home addresses of constituents who wrote to her urging defunding of the police.
Locally, another shooting early this morning at 12th & Pike in the CHAZ or CHOP “autonomous zone” has left a 16-year-old dead and a 14-year-old in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center. If you google “Seattle East Precinct,” as I just did to verify its location (its front entrance is at 12th & Pine, a block from the shooting), the page that comes up helpfully notes in red that it’s “Temporarily Closed.” At a press conference this morning outside the precinct building, Seattle police chief Carmen Best said, “Enough is enough.” Which is ironic, given that that’s the gist of what those protesting police violence have been saying.
Today’s Seattle Times also has this:
Hundreds of people marched to the neighborhood of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Sunday, shouting the name of a pregnant Black mother killed by police in 2017 at the start of their march and continuing their persistent calls for the city to invest more in communities of color and cut the Police Department’s budget by half.
The march took protesters from Warren G. Magnuson Park – near the apartment where Charleena Lyles, 30, had lived when she was shot by police three years ago – to a street organizers believed to be where Durkan lived.
The location of Durkan’s home has not been publicly disclosed in the past because of her law enforcement background as a former U.S. attorney. It was not clear how organizers had determined her address. …
An inquest to determine the facts and circumstances of Lyles’ death has yet to be held. In December 2017, King County Executive Dow Constantine called a halt on inquests because of perceptions that they were held to clear officers and were unfair to families.
Constantine then ordered new inquest rules, which drew legal challenges from the King County Sheriff’s Office and the cities of Kent, Renton, Federal Way and Auburn. Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes announced earlier this month that the city of Seattle would drop its challenge.
Yesterday I went on another urban hike, with my friends Dennis Rea and Pete Comley. Dennis and I envisioned another relatively low-impact jaunt, like the one the two of us made a few weeks ago roughly following the Thornton Creek watershed. Pete had in mind something more purposeful: to bisect the entirety of Seattle’s north end following the full length of North 65th Street, from the Leif Erikson statue in Golden Gardens to Magnuson Park on Lake Washington. The end result was, as Dennis observed, a feat-cum-adventure very much in the spirit of the big hikes our larger group used to do before the pandemic, like the epic 26-miler from the airport to downtown Tacoma.
Yesterday’s hike included detours to see the prior location of the National Nordic Museum in Ballard (now being renovated and expanded to turn it back into a high school) and the Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism and Greenwood Park in my neighborhood; to go down the steep hill from Phinney Ridge back west to 65th & 3rd Ave NW just so we could go back up it; and to visit the huge boulder, called the Wedgwood Rock, that’s basically in someone’s front yard at 28th Ave NE & NE 72nd Street. You also have to diverge from 65th Street to go around Green Lake either to the north or to the south (we went south, past the Aqua Theatre where Led Zeppelin played on May 11, 1969 and the house where Jenny and I used to rent the upstairs apartment). Pete used Google Earth today to trace our route, and he says we racked up about 16 miles.
It was a beautiful day, justifying the last-minute decision we made on rainy Saturday morning to reschedule our outing to Sunday. I had no literary or documentary intentions for this hike; I was happy simply to be out walking with my friends, three middle-aged white guys enjoying each other’s company while wearing masks in the great outdoors. Reminiscing about our past group hikes, sometimes we find ourselves wishing we had written them up in some form or that one of us had kept a notebook of all our routes, mileages, and dates and times. But I really don’t mind at all that we’ve never done that; there’s freedom in just doing something and then letting the experience have happened.
Pete hasn’t gotten out much over the last four months. So yesterday, he was understandably completist about our route. When we hit Magnuson Park at 65th & Sand Point Way he insisted that, instead of making a beeline north to the Magnuson Café & Brewery, we continue east straight into the park, all the way to the shore of the lake. This we duly did, ceremonially touching the end of the pier with our feet.
Then we turned around, but it was still a ways – farther than Pete claimed – to the pub, through the wetlands. At one point we summited a small hill and were rewarded with an impressive view landward to the west, a ballfield in the foreground (where a coach or dad was hitting grounders to a lone infielder) and the Mercy Magnuson Place low-income apartments along NE 62nd Ave, renovated just last year from former Naval barracks. Further in the distance, Pete pointed out the Sand Point Housing buildings where Charleena Lyles lived and where she died, shot seven times by two white police officers on June 18, 2017, the night she called 911 to report a burglary. Pete told us he had attended a rally soon after the killing, feeling especially obligated or compelled because he lives nearby.
And it was then that we heard, then saw between buildings, what looked like a large crowd marching south along Sand Point Way and chanting, over and over: “Whose lives matter? Black lives matter!”
At that point in our long day the three of us were very focused on getting to the brew pub, and it now seems odd that none of us connected the obvious dots: that this rally was about Charleena Lyles in particular. It took the Seattle Times to do that for us today. And it turns out Mayor Jenny Durkan lives not far away.
A spokesperson told the Times that the mayor was not at home but at City Hall yesterday. Durkan herself tweeted that she hears “the voices demanding change at the local, county, state, and federal level,” and that she and Chief Best are discussing “how we reimagine policing and community investments and how that is reflected in the budget.”
“I’ll continue to meet with people that have different points of view,” Durkan tweeted. “It is my job to listen and act.”
On Saturday the Guardian published an interview with Masha Gessen, whose new book Surviving Autocracy is just out. Gessen said:
There’s a way in which Americans think about our institutions as a kind of religion. There’s a faith in the wisdom of the founding fathers who put down these sacred words, this idea that we have the perfect self-repairing system and it will run in perpetuity if we don’t spoil it. The problem is that many of these institutions are enshrined in political culture rather than in law, and all of them depend on the good faith of the people running them to fulfil their purpose and uphold the constitution. …
If [political activity] is sustained in some manner, then I think we are in a revolutionary moment. In the book I talk about how in order to actually survive Trump’s attempt at autocracy we have to give up the idea of some imaginary pre-Trumpian normalcy and commit to reinvention. And that is really what these protests are about.
The writer Lucy Steigerwald belongs to a remarkably smart and alert Pittsburgh-based family that I’ve come to know over the past decade. My initial connection to the Steigerwalds is Lucy’s father Bill, whom I invited to lunch when I drove through Pittsburgh in 2012 after reading in the New York Times about his 2010 book Dogging Steinbeck, an impressive feat of travel and journalism that definitively busts John Steinbeck for essentially having faked his bestseller Travels with Charley. Today Lucy tweeted:
Lord knows I am not a centrist or moderate (ew), but I do suspect there is a nice area between “the rule of law means following all laws” and “burn it all down and it will be fine because democracy???.”