Workers to march outside King County Courthouse to demand action from leaders after rape attempt
Aug 6, 2021, 10:48 AM | Updated: 12:06 pm
Enough is enough: That will be the message Friday afternoon as women, other King County courthouse workers, and their supporters rally and march in downtown Seattle to demand city and county leaders do something to address safety concerns in and around the courthouse campus.
“It’s been very difficult. It’s been a difficult year because we have COVID, but you add the safety component on there, people are fearful of working downtown, and rightfully so,” said Suzette Dickerson, a county staffer who works in and around the courthouse, and is also a representative with the King County Coalition – a group of unions representing the people who work in various positions at the courthouse.
“It should be a fundamental right for employees to feel safe where they work,” she added.
Courthouse safety has been an issue for many years, so it’s nothing new for those who work or have business there. But that should not be acceptable, according to those who work there.
“There are reports that are going in daily in regards to incidents that are happening on [employees’] way to and from work,” Dickerson explained. “Those things get recorded, but yet, not a lot has been done. I think that everybody who works within the downtown corridor just wants it to be very safe, and that safety measures get put in place so they feel safe.”
But they do not feel safe right now. Multiple people who work at the courthouse say they have not felt safe going to and from work, on lunch breaks, or otherwise moving around the building outside. They have generally had some sense of safety inside the courthouse – that is, until last week, when a worker was attacked and nearly raped by a registered sex offender who was lying in wait inside a stall in the ladies restroom, steps away from security, in the middle of the morning on a work day.
“It was shocking to all of us,” Dickerson said. “When I heard it, I can honestly say that it rattled me. It rattled a lot of people.”
And the incident was not just shocking, but said by many to be wholly unacceptable given the frequent concerns raised in recent years, worker assaults, and calls for action surrounding a homeless encampment in the adjacent City Hall Park that has been tied to a variety of crimes, including a recent murder and several shootings.
“Now, we are demanding that Dow [Constantine] and Mayor Durkan quit pointing the fingers at one another and actually take action to rectify some of the issues that need to be taken care of, and actually try to put measures in place to ensure workplace safety,” Dickerson said.
Women employees and courthouse visitors report being spit on while walking to the train, intimidated while waiting for the bus, assaulted on Third Avenue, and harassed in the elevators.
“Women already have monumental barriers in the workplace,” said Wyman Yip, assistant chief deputy of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. “Physical safety and sense of safety shouldn’t be on that list of barriers, period.”
The group will meet at noon outside the King County Administrative building and will hear from multiple speakers before they march through downtown and around the courthouse to make their point and be heard.
Among those speaking will be Democratic State Senator Manka Dhingra, an assistant King County prosecuting attorney who has passed many bills at the state level to help address sex and domestic violence issues.
“Public spaces, like our courthouse, should be free from gender-based violence — that is a basic human right,” said Dhingra, who chairs the Senate Behavioral Health Committee and is vice chair of the Senate Law & Justice Committee.
“During the COVID pandemic, we saw huge numbers of women leaving the workforce because workplaces are systematically less friendly to women,” she continued. “From a lack of child care to unsafe conditions, women face many barriers in the workplace that the Legislature has been committed to dismantling.”
Courthouse employees encourage anyone who wants to show support for the safety improvements to show up to the event at 12 p.m. outside the County Administrative building on Friday.
The group has already sent a list of demands to King County Executive Dow Constantine.
“We asked that there be deputies that patrol the floors, more security that patrols outside, that cameras be put up, and [for] staff-only bathrooms with keyed entries,” Dickerson detailed. “We’ve made a list of demands up front that the (King County Executive’s) office has said that they will be working towards getting done.”
But actions speak louder than words.