July 19th’s Anti-ICE protest began with a call to gather at Westlake at 11am, with speeches at 1pm. Speeches were given on the importance of solidarity in the face of police violence, highlighting the ways in which policing hurts not only the Black community, but Indigenous people, queer people, and the working class. This was followed by a warning that the day’s actions would be more intense than other marches in Seattle over the past couple weeks. The crowd was informed not to film protesters partaking in illegal action, not to peace-police each other, and not to panic in the face of police response. A diverse crowd of 200-300 people, including 40-50 in bloc, was ready to move out by this time.
The march began at 2pm, heading to William Kenzo Nakamura Courthouse where the tone for the rest of the day would be set. 5 minutes was given for protestors to do whatever they wanted to the building. Protesters broke windows, tagged walls, and cut the courthouse’s flag from its pole. Unlike previous actions in Seattle, no attempts were made from within the protest to stop others from expressing resistance how they saw fit. Rather, the attack on the courthouse was met with cheers from the rest of the crowd and chants of “I didn’t see shit. I don’t know shit”. After 5 minutes of property destruction, the march made like water and moved on to other targets before a police presence could be summoned to defend the building.
The march continued through the downtown area, striking Seattle Police Department headquarters, Seattle Municipal Courthouse, and several businesses (notably several buildings owned by Starbucks and Amazon). At every target, speeches were given, highlighting how that institution or business contributed to the operations of ICE, SPD, or the economic oppression of the community. However, the march never stopped for more than a few minutes to attack buildings, always remaining on the move and ahead of police response.
Throughout the day the march was accompanied by a sizable bike bloc and car brigade. These two elements would move to block roads ahead of, behind, and to the sides of the protest, sealing the areas around the action and ensuring a defense against all manner of enemies. A sizable number of protesters also came equipped with umbrellas, which were used to great effect to block security cameras and shield those committing illegal acts from the cameras of bystanders and the media.
Though the march picked up a police tail, the day’s only direct confrontation with law enforcement came as the march passed by Seattle’s West Precinct. Police stepped out of the building to arrest a protester blocking a security camera with an umbrella. The crowd quickly rallied against them, refusing to be bullied by the police, and showing themselves ready to protect each other with force. SPD responded with blast balls, mace, and the usual beatings by bike cops. Rather than get drawn into a long confrontation with the police, the march kept with the theme of the day, and moved on to other targets. In the end, 2 protesters were arrested, and several injured, although the outcome would have surely been much worse had the crowd not shown their fearlessness and conviction to defend each other from police brutality. SPD was not ready for the crowd to push back against their brutality, nor for the crowd’s refusal to bend under police intimidation tactics used against them in other marches.
The protest then moved on to Capitol Hill, where more Starbucks and Amazon businesses were hit. One Starbucks even had its goods expropriated to keep the crowd hydrated and fed. The day came to climax at Seattle’s East Precinct. After almost 2 months of protests centering around the building, its fences were finally breached and its windows broken in a display of action that showed Seattle was not willing to admit defeat and give up on the fight for the precinct. Though police rushed to defend their building, by this time, the march had moved on, and dispersed in Cal Anderson Park, with no arrests being made in connection with the attack on the East Precinct.
Though we don’t want to diminish the efforts of those who have planned frequent actions since the start of the uprising, Seattle’s July 19th action proved to be a revival of the militancy of the early days of the uprising that had since faded away over the past few weeks. We hope that our city can continue to maintain this energy with follow up actions in the future. July 19th sent a beautiful message that Seattle is no longer afraid of the police, and showed our city that a well organized, militant, unified, and mobile group of people can cause large amounts of damage to the institutions of state and capital. Though actions such as these are always group efforts, we would like to highlight and give extra credit to the radical Black activists that called for and led this action, no doubt putting themselves at great risk leading such an intense protest against a state that has countless times proven itself willing to meet Black activists with extra violence and repression.
Though there is much more to be said, we would like to end our report back highlighting a few of the most valuable lessons learned from the day. First, though often repeated, we cannot stress enough that one of our most valuable assets against the state is our mobility. The march never stopped for more than a few minutes, and thus managed to always be two steps ahead of SPD’s response. The crowd’s complete refusal to enter a siege or a long confrontation with the cops was perhaps what most led to such a low arrest number for the day. Second, always remember that there are more of us than them. Police tactics rely primarily on intimidation and illusion of power rather than its actual presence. Though confronting the police directly is not always the right move, in many situations showing the police that you are willing to push back can prevent them from cracking down with more force. Third, though bike blocs and car brigades can slow down a protest, as it must stop to allow them to reposition, we believe this tactic still shows promise as an effective way to hinder the movement of police and defend against kettling. Finally, we hope that comrades living in areas where militant action has died down will be inspired by the events in Seattle. A loss of momentum and radical energy need not be seen as the end of the movement, but rather an opportunity to ramp up militancy while the state least expects it. Strike while they think you’re docile and pacified!