From the time the pandemic began in March last year to the present time I have not been to Seattle until I recently had a doctors appointment in Seattle. Driving along the freeway, as we approached the outskirts of town, I was shocked by the extensive garbage along the sides of the area next to the freeway and by litter from homeless camps. There were homeless shelters and camps all along the freeway as we drove on I-5 to downtown Seattle. Extending all around these shelters were strewn litter, junk and garbage. The closer to Seattle the more the graffiti defacing every available structure. The widespread graffiti was painted everywhere. No part of the freeway structure, no matter how inaccessible, was safe from the ugly defacement. It reminded me of third world countries and the highways in places like South Africa where you drove for miles with homeless shelters constructed along the road and graffiti everywhere. The Seattle graffiti was not a form of graphic art. It was, instead, just ugly random defacement that can only be labeled as ugly word litter. It was on the freeway structures, on buildings along the freeway and on everything that could be painted. It became increasingly worse as you enter the city. The litter and widespread defacement of everything is a shocking way to introduce visitors coming from the airport to the city. It’s also an embarrassment for the state and Seattle city leaders. Worse yet, once you are in the city itself, there is graffiti, plywood covered windows and homeless tents on the sidewalk. The Capital Hill area, known as CHOP remains defaced and unsafe as well. Not even the downtown business area is free of this destruction.
Worse, it seems to be continuing. On March 14 this year, Seattle police arrested 13 people on a Saturday night March that was destructive. The march was to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of a black woman who was shot and killed by the police in Kentucky. But, it promptly turned into crimes including property damage, felony assault and injuries. The group pulled barricades, fencing and material out of the construction zone blocking traffic in several lanes. The state patrol had to temporarily close the ferry terminal until the marchers were cleared from that area. The group threw rocks at the police some the size of a baseball. They vandalized businesses in Belltown and cause more damage along the way. Businesses were sprayed with paint and several large windows were broken.
In January of this year a group marching in Seattle vandalized buildings and caused property damage downtown. The courthouse was damaged and building spray-painted. The crowd lit fire to an American flag. Others spray-painted and smashed three windows in a downtown storefront. Seattle Mayor Durkan’s solution seemed to be issuing a statement against the violence and vandalism. This has been after a months long occupation of the Capitol Hill area CHOP.
The destructive violence, property destruction and graffiti in the past and continuing in Seattle has had serious consequences affecting the public, the police and the politics of the city. The city Council and Mayor’s attempts to deal with extensive homelessness , violence and property damage has been virtually totally ineffective. The councils piecemeal efforts at “police reform” resulted in the city being placed under a federal court oversight back in 2012 and continues today. Public hopes for a correction of the situation has been in vain. Instead, more than seven years of police reforms and tens of millions of dollars to support and adopt reforms and correct the issue have largely failed. The federal judge overseeing the consent order has described officers as lashing out indiscriminately against demonstrators in violation of the court and Constitution. He has found the city and the police as being repeatedly in contempt of the court’s order. In response the city Council spent weeks in discussing “defunding” the police. Council cuts in the police budget resulted in a reduction of some 100 officers as well as the abrupt retirement of Chief Carmen Best. All of this in spite of the fact the city has had access to many millions of tax dollars from the large tech corporations like Amazon, Microsoft and others. Mostly wasted on ineffective solutions like throwing tax dollars at the problem. The mayor, police chief and council have seemed helpless except in spending tax money in unsuccessful attempts to fix the problems.
Now it is city council election time and a small mob of people have filed for office. There is a recall action against Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant who immigrated from India and was an economic instructor before elected as a socialist council member. In June she led hundreds of protesters inside City Hall. There she argued the need to tax Amazon and defund the police. Four new council members will be elected to deal with homelessness, unclog the streets and deal with the police issues. Mayor Durkin is not running again. A new slate of people will be elected to deal with the plywood nailed over broken windows, the homeless in tents on city sidewalks and defecating in the streets and the violent protests. Good luck to them, but in the meantime I’m avoiding the big city. It’s quiet and peaceful here in Gig Harbor so I think I’ll stay here.
P.S. See latest overseas news. My question is: “how would you know if had been “defaced.” It’s graffiti for goodness sakes!
Graffiti art defaced by spectators at South Korea gallery