Early this morning (February 7th), police, medics, and firefighters responding to a fire alarm in Olympia decided Vaneesa Hopson was having a “mental health crisis” and needed to be “chemically restrained” and brought into custody for evaluation. Soon after, Vaneesa stopped breathing and was pronounced dead. Time and time again people with disabilities are oppressed by the state – its bureaucracy, its barriers to adequate care, its outright hostility, and its capitalist alienation exacerbating mental and physical health differences. The state does not exist to protect us but rather to punish and eliminate those who don’t submit to its program of control.
The Olympia Police had a busy 24 hours even aside from killing Vaneesa Hopson. Last night they did a sweep and displaced a number of houseless people from where they were sleeping downtown, pulling blankets off of homeless folks without so much as a word of warning. This evening at around 7pm they dispatched 7 squad cars to arrest one houseless person and taze and arrest another houseless person downtown.
A call was circulated for a memorial march this evening, drawing links between disability justice and police abolition. Approximately 50 people gathered at Percival Landing. There were a few words shared, then a moment of silence for Vaneesa, then the group took to the streets led by a banner which read “John T. Williams – Kayla Moore – Vaneesa Hopson – Disability Justice Means Abolish the State.”
The group marched to city hall and back to Percival Landing chanting “Say her name! Vaneesa Hopson!” and “OPD are murderers!” Protesters wrote graffiti including “ACAB” and other expressions of hatred for the police. Many bystanders were engaged in conversation and informed that OPD killed someone this morning some joined the march and the numbers grew. It’s important to not let the city sweep Vaneesa under the rug. Memory is a weapon.
This whole time the police were noticeably absent. One would not typically expect them to take such a hands-off approach to a 40+ person march with a significant faction in black. The group turned around again after reaching the western end of downtown, spotted a police cruiser on Capitol, and walked toward it. Upon coming within half a block of the cruiser, it pulled a u-turn and sped away from the group, which then started up 4th again.
At this point an angry driver in a silver Toyota Tundra (Washington license plate C02957G) decided he was tired of being reminded of the violence of the state and began inching forward into the crowd. Many people got in front of him to prevent him from plowing through. Unfortunately he then accelerated, hitting multiple protesters and sending several people flying. He sped off going east through downtown. At this point it got pretty chaotic. Medics got the most seriously injured person – who hit the pavement face down – off to the sidewalk and began administering first aid. Others attempted to keep other motorists back, at which point another angry driver in a small blue car pulled a gun and began threatening the crowd. Then the cops showed up in riot gear with rifles drawn, and advanced on the group from the direction of Washington Street. Of course the cops ignored people yelling “He’s got a gun!” The cops pointed their “less lethal” guns at the crowd including the medics and their patients forcing them to clear the area.
The group frantically dispersed as medics attempted to bring a patient who had likely sustained a head injury to safety and everyone else streamed past the car with the gun. Luckily there were no arrests and the person most seriously injured was able to seek higher medical care.
We want a world in which we can care for each other with compassion in times of crisis, and where everyone has access to the things they need to survive and thrive. The current psychiatric and police responses to mental health crises are brutal and often deadly, especially so for trans folks, people of color, unhoused folks, poor people and people with disabilities. This evening was a microcosm of the oppressive institutions that make this fucked up world run. This is the world we want to destroy. This dream may feel impossible especially as we treat our wounded and sit in shock. We will not give up we will keep fighting against this world of domination. Our love and solidarity for the others who are traumatized by this evenings events.