What I Witnessed as Bombshell Accusations Shook Seattle and the U.S. Launched its First Attacks on Syria’s Goverment

The neon lights cast the room in a rainbow of colors. It was a remarkable moment inside the Hillman City Collaboratory on Seattle’s south side—the first-ever Neighborhood Action Coalition fundraiser and party. We raised more than $2,000 to go toward future neighborhood organizing to protect the marginalized of our communities. The party was a huge success by our grassroots organizing standards. And, people had fun as they listened to a comedian, a live DJ (who is also a NAC member), and to announcements about successes in our communities. Here’s what it looked like:

Through the window, the darkness of night seemed dull in comparison. The brightness of our party and conversations, the laughing, the dancing—it was all in the nick of time at the end of a week chock-full of shock and heartache. Just five hours before the party the U.S. began dropping dozens of missiles on the Syrian government for the first time, and a mind-blowing revelation jolted our city to its core.

The frontman of Seattle’s resistance to the Trump administration—the man who only days earlier had been in the national spotlight as a leader suing Trump for threatening to strip our city of more than $80 million unless we comply with anti-immigration orders, the man who only one day earlier sat on a stage with the mayor of New York City receiving the highest of compliments—was now in the national spotlight again. This time, we weren’t happy, but horrified, as Mayor Ed Murray faced accusations that he raped and molested teenaged boys in the 1980s.

The accusations hit the headlines of The Seattle Times late Thursday afternoon after one man filed a lawsuit against Murray, providing the most jaw-dropping, distressing details—all of them, including a description of the Mayor’s penis, spelled out in our media. The suit alleged that Murray sexually abused a 15-year-old crack-cocaine addicted high school dropout, paying him $10 to $20 each time (“at least 50 times”) over a period of years. To make matters worse, there are two other men who also accuse Murray of raping them repeatedly when they were teenagers in the 1980s. Here’s how the headlines looked:

I saw the story while I was at my desk at work and I immediately picked up my phone and started calling friends to see if they’d seen this yet and what they thought might happen next. As one news report soon pointed out, these allegations represent so much more for our city, they represent a question about Seattle’s ability to continue standing up to the attacks coming from Trump’s Republican administration. One headline read:

Can the resistance continue under the weight of the allegations, whether they’re true or not?

Murray is in the midst of a re-election campaign. A good friend who’s been a big Murray supporter told me, “I don’t think he can even finish his current term in office, much less run for re-election.”

The Mayor came out the following day and read a 45-second statement before reporters without taking questions. In the statement he said the allegations are not true and that he plans to stay in office and continue his re-election campaign. My friend who I mentioned above updated his thoughts from the previous day, saying, “I think Murray has no choice at this moment but to try to continue in office and keep running for re-election. But, I think we will see that become untenable.”

I’ve already told you about who I’m supporting in the Mayoral race. I described Nikkita Oliver’s campaign launch here, only four days before this news broke. Here was Nikkita Oliver’s beautiful response to news of the scandal (it’s worth reading every word):

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Another friend, a trans-rights leader and activist who I’m learning a lot from, Danni Askini, shared her powerful experience and thoughts on the situation:

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At the exact same time that the news about Mayor Murray was breaking, Trump, without Congressional approval, began dropping about 60 missiles on Syria, marking the first time we’ve attacked the Syrian government directly. The action came days after reports of chemical warfare hitting dozens of civilians in the country, including young children.

Trump’s actions represent a huge shift in his stated stance on entering conflict with Syria’s government, and he seemingly started dropping missiles long before he had allies standing with us or before thinking through any of the long-term consequences for us and the world. He also entered into this with crucial government agencies that are usually involved in the process left with empty chairs as he has yet to fully staff those agencies. Not to mention, Trump’s strikes have killed civilians at the same time that he’s trying to block Syrian refugees from coming to the U.S.

I am terrified by the way this has been handled.

Our neighbors took to the streets outside our apartment to protest the U.S. bombing of Syria. Here are pictures I took on our block:

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Here’s what news headlines about the strike looked like from The Washington Post:

As if all of this wasn’t enough, the U.S. Senate confirmed Trump’s very conservative Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, in a nightmare scenerio. Senate Democrats had successfully blocked Gorsuch with a filibuster, then Senate Republicans changed the voting and filibuster rules, killing the filibuster and putting Gorsuch on the Court–impacting the next decades of our lives.

Here is what one news headline on this story looked like:

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As all of this unfolded, life went on. In fact, it was an unusual week for the Thompson family as my second cousin from Oklahoma, Zac, married his fiance Katherine in her birth country, Colombia.

Many members of our family traveled to the the coastal city Cartegena to be part of the ceremony, including my cousins Mark and Sandy who live in Seattle. Mark and Sandy have played an integral part of my happiness in Seattle. I moved here after they visited me in Cambodia in 2013 and encouraged me to do so. Nick and I see them and their kids every so often for dinner or just hanging out. We love them.

Here’s a picture they shared while they were in Colombia for the wedding this week. Depending on how connected they’ve been to the internet, they may know little of all that has changed in the week they’ve been away:

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That picture says a lot. Life continued uninterrupted for us in many ways this week as parts of the world, including the U.S., appeared to show signs of instability and violence.

Nick and I went to happy hour with our friends at one of our favorite bars. And, I had a great time at the first-ever Neighborhood Action Coalition fundraiser. The lights were bright, the music was awesome, the food was delicious. Because life could at times feel so normal and enjoyable despite all that was happening in our world, this electrifying poem resonated with me in the deepest of ways:

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