Protest and Persistence
On July 3rd, The New York Times reported several polls suggesting that "Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History." Four reputable polling organizations found that between 6 and 10 percent of population of the U.S. may have participated, that's between 15 million and 26 million people. People turned out all over the country from May 26th to the end June in response to the video of the appalling behavior of Minneapolis police officers as Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of George Floyd for nearly 8 minutes, a video recorded and posted by a high school junior still too young to vote. The video ignited worldwide protests, focusing a bright spotlight on the racism and oppression still coursing in the veins of this country one hundred and fifty-five years after the end of the Civil War, racism and oppression perpetuated and molded by textbooks and statues meant to rewrite history--and paper over the still festering wound of racism and slavery. I'm a little ashamed now that In my youth in Wisconsin I lived part of that mythic re-write as a participant in Civil War centennial re-enactments that ignored the slavery over which the Civil War was fought.
Between six and ten percent of the population participated in Black Lives Matter movement. A review of international protests suggests a "3.5 percent rule," suggesting that, if 3.5 percent of the population participates, change will ensue (specifically, governments facing that level of protest will fall). Click that link to read the detail, and the caveats. Among the caveats is this important one [the bold is mine]:
The 3.5% figure is a descriptive statistic based on a sample of historical movements. It is not necessarily a prescriptive one, and no one can see the future.
There are countervailing racist, anti-inclusive forces at work that wish to quash the intent of the Black Lives Matter movement. None is so clear as the divisive "they're trying to re-write history" speech Mr. Trump gave last Friday, July 3, at Mt. Rushmore in which he effectively endorsed the Lost Cause narrative, itself a racist re-write of history.
So how do we get from the six to ten percent Black Lives Matter movement to real change? We pay persistent attention like we have not paid attention for a long time--and that starts locally.
Last Monday, June 29th, for the very first time, I watched the Spokane City Council meeting from one end to the other online on "Channel 5" (not including the "briefing session" that preceded it). Here's where the rubber begins to contact the road. I hope the same thing is happening in City Councils all over this country. The main issue on June 29th in Spokane was whether or not to approve a Police Guild (union) contract that continues to subvert a city-initiative-passed ordinance in favor of civilian oversight of the Spokane Police. It was rejected on a seven to zero vote. A striking point made during the meeting was several Council members saying they had never before experienced this level of engagement with their constituents in the days leading up to the meeting. They got the message.
So. Case closed, right? NO. It is not closed, not yet. As I pointed out, rejecting the proposed Police Guild contract is just the beginning, setting a complicated course of arbitration and/or wrangling between the Guild and our Guild-supported Mayor Woodward, a wrangling that level the Council largely out of the picture. This is not a long term solution and we dare not lose track of it.
The fundamental issue here is this: the Guild should NOT be allowed to negotiate their own oversight as part of their contract--and especially not to negotiate with a mayor they helped elect.The City Council cannot fix this--a fact that had escaped me. The fix lies in a change in Washington State law, the RCW (the "Revised Code of Washington"), likely a change in a clause buried in Chapter 41.12 Civil Service for City Police, that would take oversight out of contract negotiations.
So how do we make that happen? We email our support for such a change to our Washington State legislators, not only Senator Andy Billig and Reps. Marcus Riccelli and Timm Ormsby of Legislative District 3, but also those of Legislative Districts 4 and 6 with which the City of Spokane geographically overlaps.
Perhaps more importantly, with elections coming up in November we can work to replace LD4 and LD6 legislators with people like Lori Feagan, Lance Gurel, and John Roskelley in LD4 and Zack Zappone and Tom McGarry in LD6. Check them out, talk them up with friends and neighbors, and contribute to their campaigns. None of the seated legislators (all right wing Republicans) in LDs 4 and 6 seems to be interested or even to understand the issues. (see P.S. below).
Elections and communication with those elected are where the rubber meets the road on pursuing the positive change encouraged by the Black Lives Matter movement. Don't let this movement peter out in haze of detail of governmence. Let's keep at it.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. For an example of obfuscation by current local Republican state legislators on the Black Lives Matter / Police reform movement listen to Mike Padden's interview on the KPBX website. He rambles, touching on body cams, the chokehold (which he is against), the "lateral vascular neck restraint," i.e. compression of the carotids, as opposed to the airway (which he favors), and the appeals process that he things get some police re-instated when they shouldn't be. He made no mention of the essential issue of the law enforcement unions negotiating their own oversight. Senator Padden (LD4) is opposed by John Roskelley, former county commissioner. It's time for a change.