Rally at Seattle City Hall: ‘This city has been and will be a welcoming city’

Lexi Potter November 9, 2016 0
Immigrant rights activists hold signs at Wednesday's City Hall rally. Photo by Lexi Potter.

Immigrant rights activists from Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) hold signs at Wednesday’s City Hall rally. • Photo by Lexi Potter

At 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 9, elected officials and civic leaders gathered at Seattle City Hall to speak to members of the local community.

Amidst widespread uncertainty following Tuesday’s election results, the speakers emphasized a need to build community, maintain hope, and work together to protect the rights of all people. Speakers included Seattle Mayor Ed Murray; Congresswoman-elect Pramila Jayapal; Seattle City Councilmembers Lorena González, Debora Juarez, and Kshama Sawant; Senior Somali Organizer Abdullahi Jama of OneAmerica; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program Manager Wendy Martinez Hurtado of 21 Progress; and King County Labor Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Nicole Grant.

Mayor Ed Murray spoke first. Murray expressed dedication to maintain the right to marry for the LGBTQ community and said he would continue to work within the law to promote social progress and equity. Speaking to immigrant, American Muslim, and queer communities, Murray said: “This city has been and will be a welcoming city. This city will remain a sanctuary city.”

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray addressing members of the press on Wednesday, November 9, 2016. Photo by Lexi Potter.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray addressing members of the press on Wednesday, November 9, 2016. • Photo by Lexi Potter

Murray also outlined plans to sign an agreement with the mayor of Mexico City at the end of November. He said the agreement would generate a stronger partnership between Seattle and Mexico City in the areas of economic development and environmental sustainability, and underscored a commitment to building “bridges” with the people of Mexico rather than a border wall.

Abdullahi Jama, a Senior Somali Organizer at OneAmerica, spoke next about the need for local solidarity, a message repeated throughout the rally. “As a community and as a state, we must come together, we must resist bullying and attacks on our communities, we must empower ourselves, and we must support each other,” Jama said.

Jama also drew attention to the differences between federal and local election results. He cited the passage of progressive legislation in Seattle and Washington State, arguing for these as indicators that many Americans did not support the rhetoric espoused by Donald Trump’s campaign.

Abdullahi Jama (left) of OneAmerica speaking at Wednesday’s rally, with Congresswoman-elect Pramila Jayapal (center) and City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez (right). • Photo by Lexi Potter

Along the same lines, Congresswoman-elect Pramila Jayapal highlighted popular support for progressive initiatives passed on Tuesday. Washington State and City of Seattle initiatives that were passed included: I-1433, which raises the statewide minimum wage to $13.50 per hour and ensures paid sick leave; I-1491, which allows for the temporary limitation of gun access in cases of probable immediate harm; and I-124, which provides increased protections for hotel workers.

Jayapal, who was welcomed to the podium by an eruption of cheering, spoke about her belief that working together can lead to systemic change.  She encouraged listeners to direct any fear generated by the election results into action. Jayapal said: “There is no shame in being afraid, as long as we channel that fear into courage, into love, and into the capacity to fight for the beliefs that we know to be so core and so true to the United States of America.” Jayapal, the founder of Hate Free Zone (now OneAmerica), will be the first South Asian American woman to serve in Congress.

Wendy Martinez Hurtado, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program Manager at 21 Progress, spoke next. Since President Obama’s implementation of DACA in 2012, 21 Progress has supported hundreds of undocumented youth and young adults in applying for the program. DACA, which must be renewed every two years, offers recipients protection from deportation, a work permit, the opportunity to get a driver license, access to health care, and greater access to higher education. The Pew Research Center estimated in 2012 that there were 230,000 undocumented residents living in Washington State (about 3.3% of the state population).

Wendy Martinez Hurtado, a DACA recipient and Program Manager for 21 Progress, speaks at Wednesday's City Hall rally. Photo by Lexi Potter.

Wendy Martinez Hurtado (center), a DACA recipient and Program Manager for 21 Progress, speaks at Wednesday’s City Hall rally. (Back , left to right: Councilmember Kshama Sawant, Councilmember Debora Juarez, Congresswoman-elect Pramila Jayapal, Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez.) • Photo by Lexi Potter

Martinez Hurtado advocates for undocumented immigrants, and spoke passionately about the strength of immigrant families and communities. “Many people may think that because I’m undocumented myself, I’m not powerful, but I am. None of us are voiceless,” she said. Martinez Hurtado asked everyone in the crowd to harness their power to speak out against injustice. In the fight for equity, Martinez Hurtado said, “I plan to be at the front line for all of my communities.”

Elected officials stressed that the results of Tuesday’s election would not fundamentally change their priorities or practices. Councilmember Debora Juarez, a Latina and member of the Blackfeet Nation, called for resilience. She alluded to how American Indian communities refused to give up during times of oppression and hardship. Juarez encouraged progressive listeners to acknowledge the setback, but continue fighting for policy change.

Speaking of the gathering, Juarez said: “Today doesn’t mean that the damage didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean that the damage didn’t exist. It means that the damage will not control us. It means that we will not allow it to control our lives. It won’t take away our humility, our humanity, our empathy, our tolerance. And the wisdom from all this damage will heal us. As I have learned in Indian country and the way I was raised, all that is broken will be used and reused to rebuild, and that’s what we will do.”

Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juarez speaking at Wednesday's City Hall rally. Photo by Lexi Potter.

Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juarez speaking at Wednesday’s City Hall rally. (Back, left to right: Wendy Martinez Hurtado, Councilmember Kshama Sawant, Congresswoman-elect Pramila Jayapal, Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez.) • Photo by Lexi Potter

Mayor Murray offered similar assurances. “Today, Seattle is the same city it was yesterday,” Murray said. “Today, our values are the same that they were yesterday. Today, we are a city that is guided by equality and inclusion and openness. Today, we continue to support women. Today, we continue to welcome our immigrant brothers and sisters. Today, we continue to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters. And today, black lives still matter.”

Councilmember Kshama Sawant also expressed solidarity with immigrants, women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, and social justice advocates. Both Sawant and Murray warned listeners against demonizing citizens who voted for Trump. They drew a distinction between the President-elect’s rhetoric and the frustrations of citizens struggling at a time of unprecedented economic inequality in American history.

Sawant went further, arguing that corporate involvement in politics could be considered the trigger behind this turn of events: “What we saw was this irony—an ironic tragedy—that while 61% of this country says they hate Trump, Trump is now the president of this country. How do we explain this? This has happened because the democratic establishment has shown itself incapable of harnessing the real hunger for social change away from the domination of the 1% and Wall Street on our political agenda.”

Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez speaking at Wednesday’s City Hall rally. (Back, left to right: Abdullahi Jama, Congresswoman-elect Pramila Jayapal, Nicole Grant). • Photo by Lexi Potter

Councilmember Lorena González closed the rally. A daughter of immigrants who came undocumented to the United States in the 1960s, González said that she was not ashamed of the sacrifice they made to ensure opportunity for her and her siblings. González promised to fight for both undocumented and documented immigrants.

“Today the clearest message is that we do have work to do. We can and we must recommit ourselves to the values of opportunity and of fairness, and equity,” González said.

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