Words, photos and captions by Abdi Ibrahim
As we marched up Capitol Hill in Seattle, a block away from the police precinct, I heard people chant and cry for the police to kneel with them.
I heard the few screaming for the abolishment of the police, and for them not to kneel. We moved forward as a unit until we met the front line of police, including officer Campbell who pepper-sprayed a 6-year-old girl a few days before. People pleaded, argued and tried to educate while the police stood across from us, some laughed, some still as statues, and others attempted to explain their allyship. The protest was peaceful, coordinated, and almost seemed a bit off because of how willing the police were to allow us that far up Capitol Hill.
Moments later, after I’d shot some of the photos of the crowd protesting peacefully, Seattle PD began pepper-spraying and tear-gassing the crowd. I saw and felt the police turn against the people in an instant. Regardless of the consistent preaching of peace from the protesters, the police kneeling, and the words of endearment from the police, they still ended up attacking us unprovoked. I realized at that moment how all the police reform and diversity training in the world would never work, and would certainly never heal the trauma experienced by black people in America.
The system isn’t broken, it’s working exactly the way it was designed to work. When a system consistently ignores the demands of its people, murders black bodies with little to no repercussion, and then pushes to not only silence but incarcerate any of those who speak up or fight back, that is a system that is designed to fail you. This moment in time is further evidence (as if we didn’t have enough already) that the police are far too militarized. Many have the privilege to protest for police reform. We don’t. The character of each individual police officer is irrelevant. That same officer that kneels with us will have to carry out warfare against the citizens he’s supposed to protect. The police have demonstrated that it will always be badge over principle and common sense.