To Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle City Councilmembers:
We, the undersigned representatives from the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and Seattle’s Chinatown International District (CID), endorse the demands of Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now and call on the Mayor and Seattle City Council to immediately 1) Defund SPD by at least 50% 2) Reallocate those funds to community-led health and safety systems, 3) Release protestors arrested during this uprising without charges, and 4) Support the King County Equity Now demands for giving spaces and land back to Black-led community organizations.
As AAPI immigrants and refugees, our history and lived experiences are rooted in US imperialism, racism and exploitation. White supremacy is embedded throughout the fabric of our nation. This is acutely visible in our policing and criminal punishment systems that disproportionately and violently impact the Black community.
The police have always been an oppressive force targeting Black people in America. The first police in America were created as slave patrols to capture Black people attempting to escape the inhumane treatment of their white captors. Centuries later, American society continues to treat Black people as less-than-human, as exceptions to human rights protections, and as criminals even when they commit no crime. As a Black person in America today, each day is fraught with danger:
- Black Americans are incarcerated at five times the rate of whites.
- Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white men.
- In 2019, Black people were 24% of those killed by police despite being only 13% of the population.
This is the result of over-policing in Black communities and racial bias in the legal system. In our own city, even while the Consent Decree is in place, racial disparities in policing continue to exist:
- Thirty-two percent of uses of force in 2018 were against Black men, despite African Americans comprising just 6% of the city’s population.
- People of color generally are more likely to be searched by a Seattle police officer and yet less likely to have weapons in those searches than white people according to SPD’s disparity review in April 2019.
- Furthermore, the city did not address the Court’s May 15, 2019 finding that it had fallen out of compliance with the Consent Decree in the areas of discipline and accountability.
- On June 1, 2020, The Seattle Office of Police Accountability reported receiving 12,000 complaints about the Seattle Police Department’s handling of the weekend demonstrations.
- And on June 11, 2020, King County and Public Health Seattle-King County (PH-SKC) declared racism a public health crisis – to truly respond to a public health crisis the demands of the Black community must be met.
While criminalization and state violence deeply injure Black communities, they also affect everyone. Groups like the Southeast Asian Freedom Network, and locally, Formerly Incarcerated Group Healing Together, remind us that families within our own communities, especially those that were resettled in neighborhoods alongside Black people, are also harmed by the police and the criminal justice system, and by the immigration system. We call on the city to divest in the policing and the criminal legal systems that do not keep our communities safe.
The Seattle Police Department receives more than three times the funding of the department of human services, which provides health and housing support to the public. This is unacceptable. We demand that the city defund the police and invest in a new system that shifts away from punishment and toward genuine public health and social support. As AAPIs we know how critical this is, having fought tooth and nail for the social service and economic development organizations that exist in our communities today. We built these organizations not through quiet requests to those in power, but through protest and bold demands that built community power.
- Instead of officers with guns, we envision mental health specialists be appropriately dispatched to answer calls to assist people in crisis. Indeed, Direct Mental Health Professionals already do this work every day, with clipboards instead of guns.
- Instead of investing in predictive policing technology and weaponry that militarizes our police, we envision money is invested into public schools, early learning, and youth development programs, so that children are better equipped with the tools they need early on to be successful in their lives.
- Instead of investing in additional patrols, we envision the city increase the number of caseworkers to ensure the houseless access stability through shelter, a scientifically supported crucial first step in breaking a cycle of poverty and making a better life. Alternatives like ID Community Watch are already in place that make the CID community safer without police.
We want to live in a community that is not governed by racist systems. Safety must be evenly distributed. A just system is one where all people’s basic needs are met and where we have real economic opportunity. A system that prioritizes policing over all other public services does not avail justice.
Asian American Pacific Islanders stand with the Black community’s demands for justice. We expect these demands to be reflected immediately in the 2020 rebalanced budget and in the 2021 budget with continual annual commitments to defund SPD and reinvest in the community:
- Defund the Seattle Police Department by at least 50%
- Reallocate those funds to Black-led community health and safety systems through a participatory budget process
- Release protestors arrested during this uprising without charge
- Support the King County Equity Now demands for giving spaces and land back to Black-led community organizations
We will follow up in two weeks and appreciate your response.
Seattle JACL Board
Letter Co-Signed By:
● Asian Pacific Directors Coalition (APDC)
● Asian Counseling Referral Services (ACRS)
● Asian Pacific Americans for Civic Empowerment (APACE)
● Chinatown International District Coalition
● South Asians for Black Lives (SA4BL)
● South Asians Building Accountability & Healing (SABAH)
● South King County & Eastside Mutual Aid
● Coalition of Seattle Indian-Americans (CSIA)
● Formerly Incarcerated Group Healing Together (FIGHT)
● Khmer Anti-Deportation Advocacy Group (KhAAG)
● Outdoor Asian Washington
● Friends of Little Saigon (FLS)
● API Chaya
● Indian Association of Western Washington (IAWW)
● Pacific Rim Solidarity Network (PARISOL)
● Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Awareness Group (APICAG)
● Seattle Japanese American Citizens League (JACL)
● Tsuru for Solidarity – Seattle chapter
● Hmong Association of WA (HAW)
● National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA)
● Pacific Islander Health Board of WA
● Kaiser Permanente of Washington
● InterIm Community Development Association ( ICDA)
● Equity Matters
● Velocity Dance Center
● U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle
● ANSWER Coalition
● SAAFF – Seattle Asian American Film Festival
● Asian Pacific Islander Coalition, Yakima WA chapter
● WAPI Community Services
● National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA)
● Hood Famous
● Massive Monkees / The Beacon Studio
Individual Community Leaders
● Janice Deguchi
● SuYoung Yun
● Christina Shimizu
● Cynthia Brothers
● Nina Wallace
● Michael Byun
● Michael Itti
● Toshiko Hasegawa
● Jefferey Vu
● Chera Amlag
● Geo Quibuyen
● Savannah Son
● Cynthia Yongvang
● Rick Polintan
● Akemi Matsumoto
● Rich Stolz
● Cynthia Yongvang
● Courtney Chappell
● Leslie Dozono
● Stanley N Shikuma
● Eileen Aparis
● Tessa Chu
● Pradeepta Upadhyay
● Antares Light
● Emily Chan
● Gene Yoon
● Heidi Schillinger
● Elaine Ikoma Ko and John Foz
● State Senator Joe Nguyen
● Dr. Kyle Kinoshita
● Catherine Nueva Espana
● Elaine Ishihara
● Frank Irigon
● Brysen Angeles
● Cacima Lee
● Erin Okuno
● Taffy Johnson
● DaSol Lim
● Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor
● Deyland Somer
● James Hong
● Wren Rocacorba Wheeler
● Frank Nam
● Ellison Shieh
● Tania Park
● Devin Israel Cabanilla
● Paul J. Tabayoyon
● Tracey Wong
● Aileen De Leon
● Jay Andreottola