In our post-January 20 country, every time I go out my door I expect I may see a protest. I don’t have a car, so I walk, and ride the King County Metro bus system, everywhere I go. But, in the morning, I almost always walk from home on Capitol Hill to my office in the International District. The past week on my way to work, I walked past Seattle City Hall to see this, what I’d later learn was a first of its kind in the country:
Minutes after this rally outside City Hall, Seattle’s City Council became the first major city council in the country to vote to divest from Wells Fargo Bank. The City will be pulling $3 billion out of that institution. And, they’ll be doing it in large part because we the people put pressure on them to do it. The headlines made me proud:
Seattleites have been pissed about the City’s involvement with Wells Fargo because of its role in financing the Dakota Access Pipeline, which Obama halted work on before leaving office, but Trump just restarted. The City’s decision to divest was not spur-of-the-moment. They didn’t decide this after one protest.
No, activists worked their asses off to achieve this outcome. I’ve already shown you some of what they did. Remember a week ago when hundreds of protesters marched through Wells Fargo locations? Over months and months, activists met one-on-one with City Council members, they presented at City Council meetings, activists showed up in large numbers because they organized with their neighbors and developed a strategy.
Nick and I happen to be friends with someone who works as a branch manager of a Wells Fargo in Seattle. We had dinner with him and his boyfriend on Friday night after the City voted. Our friend told us he is considering leaving his position because he’s hearing so many people in his social network speak negatively of Wells Fargo on a daily basis.
The Wells Fargo decision was only one of a number of times Seattle led the battle against Trump’s assault on our country this week. Seattle also took the lead on trying to dismantle Trump’s immigration and refugee ban.
Standing up for immigrants is literally in the name of our city. Seattle is named after Chief Si’ahl, a Suquamish Tribe member and Duwamish chief. When white immigrants showed up in the 1830s, Chief Si’ahl told them, “We’re glad to welcome you here, because we need everything you can make. We want to trade with you, we want you here.”
As a massive protest erupted at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on January 28, our Governor, Jay Inslee, a Seattle-area native, was there, standing at a podium. He was visibly pissed off and calling out the Trump regime in the strongest terms. He said:
“This is probably the most incompetent, ineffective, unconsciously provocative, and dangerous action of any government I’ve ever seen. To drop this on SeaTac Airport with no notice on how to handle this, I’ve got to tell you, these people couldn’t run a two-car funeral!”
Inslee called Trump an “enemy of the state” and said Trump’s government was “creating chaos and damaging the economy of my state.”
As I listened, I realized just how much what leaders say matters. Our governor’s words inspired the next major blow to Trump, which was carried out by our state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Seattleite and two-time chess champion whose chess skills have
been highlighted globally. He’s hiked hundreds of miles on the state’s trails and climbed to many of the state’s highest peaks. Ferguson just happened to be in the air on the way home to SeaTac Airport as protests started gathering there. When he landed, he saw the message from his constituents because they were there protesting the immigration and refugee ban, the airport was in chaos.
Ferguson became the first state Attorney General in the country to sue Trump. Ferguson took action while nearly every other state’s attorney general deliberated about what to do. And, he described his action to reporters this way, “From my standpoint there is risk in everything, but I am someone who believes in calculated risk. One just needs to be comfortable with that. And when it comes to the constitutional rights of my people, the people I represent, I’m prepared to take a calculated risk on their behalf.”
From the Governor to the state Attorney General, this organized, institutional resistance to Trump was headed next to another key player, Federal Judge James Robart, also a Seattle native.
Judge Robart made national news before Trump even won the election. In August 2016, he was the first judge ever to declare, “Black Lives Matter!” in a ruling he issued against a police union.
Judge Robart stepped up to halt Trump’s immigration and travel ban when the country was losing hope that courts would block it. Just a couple hours before his decision, a federal judge in Boston refused to stop the travel ban. Robart’s decision caused a sigh of relief from Seattle to every corner of the country.
Our Governor called Seattle’s battle against Trump, “part of our nature and history,” saying that “this is the first time this administration has been reined in.”
The country remained focused on Seattle as Trump began his assault on our nation’s justice system and our federal judge, who I might add is George W. Bush appointed and considered a “mainstream Republican”. Robart is an activist of sorts. He’s a former president and trustee for Seattle Children’s Home; former co-chair of the Second Century Society; he has served on the Children’s Home Society of Washington; and he was on the State Advisory Board and served as a former trustee for Children’s Home Society of Washington.
Trump took to his normal portal, Twitter, to make his disgraceful and alarming remarks about our community-activist judge:
Following his remarks, Trump got checked and balanced by our institutions and systems.
My only hope is that people outside Seattle are watching this and following our lead not to normalize attacks on our justice system. If we normalize those attacks, our republic will be in grave danger. The courts are a bedrock of our nation.
Following all of this news, I went with my activism buddy, Stephanie, to an event in Seattle’s University District called Civic Saturday. The regular gathering started in the wake of Trump’s election. The idea is that there are so many people feeling hopeless and scared. They’re looking for community and connection after Trump’s election. Civic Saturday defines itself this way:
Stephanie and I, among a couple hundred others, listened as Eric Liu, a writer and former White House Deputy Assistant to President Clinton called the crowd to ask themselves if they’re doing enough. He said we have the power to write the story that is unfolding right now. He reminded us of the complicity of everyday people in Nazi Germany, neighbors who were indifferent as injustices slowly started to happen more and more to people in their community. He said that connection and trust between neighbors is the most important thing we have right now. He urged us to be engaged and to change our daily routine to include more connection to community.
Civic Saturday concludes each time by giving people an hour to socialize. Stephanie and I witnessed much more than socializing, we witnessed what we’ve come to recognize as organizing. It tends to look similar whether it be at Civic Saturday, our Neighborhood Action Coalition, or within the Indivisible groups that have formed across the city. People began holding up signs that said things like, “Potlucks”, “Book Clubs”, “Direct Action”, “Immigration Support”. People went to the group that they were most interested in to start planning activities with like-minded neighbors. Here are some pictures I snapped:
It’s in this spirit that I hear the coffee barista, the lawyer downtown, the bus driver, all of them, chuckling at the news about Trump banning immigrants and building a wall. Their chuckle seems to say, “We will never let him actually follow through with this. I know how strong we are. I know we will take action and we will win.”
Our hometown company Nordstrom even took a lead in the resistance this week. This decision came after people called and wrote letters in protest of everything Trump:
I have to believe in my city. I don’t see any other city stepping up quite like this and I have to believe we can win. I have to believe we can be a beacon of resistance and inspire other cities and states to join the battle against neo-fascism. If other cities and states remain indifferent to this regime, or worse, supportive of it, our democracy will fail.