UPDATE: On Thursday, June 11, King County Metro pledged to stop the practice of transporting police to protests and demonstrations.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, June 10 we put out this press release in collaboration with allied organizations and several King County Councilmembers.
The Transit Riders Union is an independent, democratic, member-run union of transit riders organizing for mobility and transit justice in Seattle and King County. TRU is in solidarity with protesters in Seattle, Minneapolis, Louisville and many other communities across the country demanding health, safety and freedom for Black people in America and demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and countless others killed by the police. The uprisings sweeping the nation flow from centuries of racial oppression, increasing economic inequality, and years of unheeded calls for reform and restitution. Over this past week, TRU members have marched for justice in the streets of Seattle alongside thousands of our neighbors, many of whom arrived at the protests via transit.
As a union of transit riders, we are dismayed and shocked to learn that King County Metro buses were used to transport a militarized police force to the protests. We have also heard reports, which Metro denies, that buses may have been used to transport arrestees or detainees to police stations. We demand a full accounting by King County Metro, Sound Transit, and the City of Seattle of any public transit resources (buses, drivers, bases, etc.) used to support the Seattle Police Department during the protests, and for what specific purposes.
Further, we call upon King County Metro and Sound Transit to make a clear public affirmation that they will not, in the future, under any circumstances, transport people who have been arrested or detained by the police; and that they will not be co-opted to transport police to or from a protest. Public transit is public transit: It is for the people, and transit riders will not stand by while our transit system is used for repressive ends.
While we understand that the safety of transit operators was a consideration in closing Link light rail stations and redirecting buses serving downtown, we also note that when Mayor Durkan announced a 5:00 p.m. curfew on Saturday, May 30 with just 15 minutes notice she stranded protesters and other people who rely on city transit downtown, without transit options to leave the area or go home, exposing community members, including children, to increasingly aggressive police tactics. TRU condemns the imposition of this curfew and subsequent curfews, a tactic designed to maximize fear and intimidation.
Furthermore, TRU condemns violence committed by the Seattle Police Department at protests since Saturday, June 30 and the use of flash bangs, mace and tear gas by SPD officers, introducing violence into largely peaceful protests. In particular we condemn:
- Police officers using flash bangs on Saturday at 2:45, 15 minutes prior to the start of the protest
- Police officers using pepper spray and tear gas on crowds, including children and in particular the escalation by police of Monday’s protest at the East Precinct
- Police officers covering badge numbers and obscuring name tags, preventing accountability
- Police officers leaving weapons in unattended vehicles
Finally, TRU condemns the failure of leadership by Mayor Jenny Durkan, who has emboldened and endorsed the violence of the Seattle Police Department, misled the public and the press regarding violent tactics by SPD, and is in fact working with the Trump administration to release SPD from a federal consent decree. It is obvious from the past few days that SPD has not made the changes necessary to make that release appropriate.
Our police officers and elected officials are accountable to their constituents, including transit riders. TRU is committed to working in solidarity with our allies across Seattle to hold SPD and Mayor Durkan accountable for abusive use of force by the police. TRU is committed to the redirection of taxpayer dollars from SPD to education, housing, restorative justice and social safety net programs that make our communities safer and more resilient.
All transit riders in Seattle and King County deserve the right to use transit free from excessive fares, free from harassment, and free from violence. In a county bearing the name and face of Martin Luther King, Jr., we must ensure that our city and county governments and our transit agencies embody his commitment to fighting oppression against the Black community and against poor people of all races. Otherwise, as Dr. King said, “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”