More than 100 people in Tacoma marched Monday in solidarity with people across the country who chose Martin Luther King, Jr. to raise their voices in protest of violence at the hands of police.
The “ 4 Mile March” was part of the continuing social outcry that took root after Mike Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old man, was shot to death in Ferguson, Missouri, by a police officer. A grand jury did not indict the officer, and protests erupted in August that now have spread across the country.
Unlike rallies in other parts of the country, Tacoma’s march was peaceful and had few interactions with police.
In Seattle, the Police Department said Monday evening that it had arrested 19 people in a “Black Lives Matter” protest that shut down Aurora Avenue North in the South Lake Union neighborhood, as well as two Interstate 5 ramps, and sent one officer to the hospital.
In Tacoma, Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor wished luck to the lead organizer before the rally began, and two Tacoma police officers tracked the march along its route from their car.
People of all ages and ethnicities gathered outside the County-City Building on Tacoma Avenue just after lunch. They practiced protest chants, and prayed for strength and wisdom. Their march around Tacoma took about two hours, with a “die-in” on Sixth Avenue, before it ended in Peoples Park on South Ninth Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
“Tacoma’s not Ferguson — we might not shoot first and ask questions later, but I’ve experienced different treatment by police, as have a lot of my friends and family,” said Jamika Scott, 27, who organized the Tacoma rally.
Tacoma resident Siana Price brought her four children, ages 13, 12, 8 and 6, to the march.
“Everyone matters,” she said. She’s lived on the Hilltop for years, including when it wasn’t as safe as it is now. She knows what police face.
But she’s worried that about the prejudice her children will experience simply because they’re black. Her sons wore suits and ties to the march, she points out. “We dress like what we want to be,” she said.
Her children have come home from school with pointed questions about events in Ferguson and Cleveland, where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot in November by police seconds after they encountered him in a public park. The boy was carrying a toy gun.
“My boys come home and say, ‘What, exactly, did he do to get shot?’” Price said. “They’re looking for reasons. The discussion at school is that somehow they deserve it.”
Price’s oldest daughter, Dymond, said she and her friends do not discuss these issues. “We just don’t,” she said.
Four seniors from Franklin Pierce High School said events from Ferguson, Cleveland and Staten Island, where Eric Garner died in a police chokehold in July, are hot topics of conversation there.
“People want to raise awareness and other people’s consciousness about these things,” said Dilon Kim, 18, who attended the march with three classmates. The young men are taking a class that requires them to attend a rally or other social protest, so they chose Monday’s march.
“This one seemed like a good cause,” said Jesse Ray, 17.
At the end of the march, a student from Foss High School led the crowd in singing “We Shall Overcome” while playing his saxophone.
“There’s more than one story. There’s more than one point of view,” Scott said. “And if we start seeing those, things will get better in this city.”