LOCAL NEWS

‘Block the Bunker’ blocks Seattle City Council meeting

Sep 20, 2016, 4:25 AM | Updated: 2:05 pm

Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell said that he was putting the council meeting in recess, as demonstrators continued chant and interrupt Monday’s proceedings. But the council never returned as “Block the Bunker successfully blocked the council.

“If we’re not heard, we’ll shut it down,” the crowd chanted.

The council was able to pass an employee scheduling bill, as well as take care of a couple other items on its agenda. But the crowd did not want to wait for the council to complete its business, rather it demanded that it get more time for public comment, which ran out much earlier.

Related: Seattle halts project for new north Seattle police precinct

“OK. We hear ya. We hear ya loud and clearly. Let me speak. You have to learn to listen. We will have public comment…” was all Harrell was able to get out before saying he would adjourn the meeting.

The council voted in favor of taking a recess. But the council never returned. Harrell said the remaining council business would be taken care of at its next scheduled meeting.

“Block the Bunker” takes over

“Block the Bunker” is a group that formed out of opposition to Seattle’s proposed new north police precinct. Last week, city officials put the project on hold. Block the Bunker declared victory.

But the movement kept up the momentum Monday afternoon, as members brought up further issues they want to be addressed. First, there was a bit of theater in the council chambers as “cops” with pig noses led a series of “prisoners” in for public comment. The commenters argued that the money for the now canceled precinct be used to treat a variety of other issues, such as housing and education. There was a brief pause from the crowd as the council continued on with its agenda items until the chants started and the council members left.

The city’s cameras inside the council chamber shut off as council members left the dais. But Block the Bunker continued to broadcast their activities via Facebook. The meeting was essentially taken over as members of the chanting crowd addressed the room. Their comments ranged from relating personal experiences of abuse at the hands of Seattle police officers, to the issue of the school to prison pipeline, and the housing crisis amid gentrification in Seattle. The names of people killed by law enforcement in Washington were posted around the room.

“This is so hypocritical, so hypocritical … some lady over here was talking about how our time matters. What about our lives matter? Our kids matter, too. But you guys do this relentless gentrification in this city,” a woman said addressing the crowd. “You hike up rent, and create an economy that’s premised on precarious labor, you smash the unions – people have a role in that. I’m not saying you specifically, but these institutions have a role in smashing these unions. And then you throw a cookie and say ‘you have secure hours, so you don’t have to stress out coming to work. But at the same time, I’m going to kick you out of the city. And at the same time, I’m going to arrest your kids, and throw them in a justice center.'”

There were also demands made, such as no hiring of new cops; the dismantling of the Seattle police union; no riot gear, pepper spray or blast balls for police officers; the dismantling of SPD bike patrols; and community oversight of the police department. The group wanted Seattle police to be followed by secret citizens similar to secret shoppers in the retail industry. There’s also opposition to the construction of a new juvenile detention center.

The council’s meeting started at 2 p.m. Block the Bunker held the chamber until nearly 6 p.m. Council member Mike O’Brien returned to the room and listened to the crowd. He was joined by Harrell and council member Kshama Sawant, who engaged in a back-and-forth dialogue with the crowd. The conversation was contentious at times, and understanding at others.

Some in the crowd said they appreciated the three council members staying to chat with them.

“But it wouldn’t have happened if these folks here hadn’t disrupted council meeting, after council meeting, after council meeting just to have this conversation,” a woman told the council members.

Block the Bunker ended its own meeting with time for meditation and prayer over injustice.

Block the Bunker’s comments before shutting down the council meeting

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‘Block the Bunker’ blocks Seattle City Council meeting