BLAST Demands that white Olympia, Thurston County, WA State DO BETTER


Tiny - Posted on 07 August 2020

Author: 
Lisa Ganser, Poor News PNW, Idriss Stelley Foundation

[the word BLAST with a brown fist in a yellow star] 

“When Mister George Floyd was murdered the citizens of this community could no longer hide behind the progressive platforms of white people and their privilege and power, which all have misled voters into thinking that people here in the City of Olympia were less oppressive and less harmful to the Black men, women, adults, and children who call Olympia home. Simply making a public statement is not enough. You know better and must do better than that,” said Talauna Reed from a podium, her words directed to white Olympia Mayor, Cheryl Selby (who was not present) at a BLAST Demands Press Conference on July 31, 2020.

 Taluana Reed continued, “You further acknowledged some of the systemic injustice and oppression by stating that after the racist shootings in 2015 of Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin, two young black Brothers, the City of Olympia began addressing the systemic racism within its Police Department and that the Olympia Police Department has made changes to right its wrongs. At face value, we thank you for finally publicly stating that the Olympia Police Department employs racist police officers. But saying that these young men, Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin, were victims of police brutality is not enough. These young Black men survived a near assassination by police officer Ryan Donald. Though you now publicly compare his racist actions to that of the racist murder of George Floyd, it is time to make reparations. Fire officer Ryan Donald. Quit depriving Black people in this community a safe place to live and exist by upholding white supremacy and denying families impacted by police violence Justice.”

 

[Members of BLAST at the July 31st Press Conference, Talauna Reed at the podium with Ty Brown and Krystafer Brown to her left, Lanessa Inman to Talauna’s right.]

 The KNEW BETTER, DO BETTER demand has been echoed by Black organizers and Revolutionaries from podiums, platforms, Panthers, Poets, politicians, painters, Poverty Scholars for centuries, from The People who experience the pandemic of anti-Black racism.  Today it is demanded by organizers of BLAST. The People who experience the oppression are the ones who have the Power of solutions.   

 “Black Leaders in Action and Solidarity in Thurston County (BLAST) is a grassroots group, made up of long-standing Black community advocates in Thurston County who seek to elevate Black voices, promote respect for marginalized people, dismantle systemic racism, educate our people, and create a safe and trusting community for all,” said Lanessa Inman from the podium on the lawn of the Olympia YWCA.  

 BLAST collectively authored a number of DEMANDS that when put into action, are solutions needed for liberating all oppressed people.  The 7 demands were sent to the Olympia City Council on June 23, 2020, and the complete lack of response led to the Press Conference on July 30th.

 “After a month of foot-dragging and performative allyship through town hall meetings, BLAST demands to see results,” said Lanessa Inman.

 “The ongoing systemic violence and murder of Black people across the country - George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony Mcdade, Riah Milton, Layleen Polanco are not isolated from the violence experienced by Black people locally - Charleena Lyles, Yvonne McDonald, Andre Thompson, Bryson Chaplin, and more. We are utilizing this moment, both as a reminder of what we’ve been urging elected candidates and officials to do for years, long before the current resurgence of the Black Lives Movement, as well as a call out of the performative and ineffective actions of the city in the face of nationwide unrest,” said Lanessa.

 Here are the BLAST demands (in short form) from that 9 page detailed document

  • Divest from the Criminal Justice Apparatus & Invest in Community Based Solutions

  • Towards Divesting: Immediately Adopt and Align with The Federal Justice in Policing Act of 2020 In 116th Congressional Session and WA I-940 Initiative/RCW -Chap.9A.16 - Defense

  • Remove School Resource Officers from K-12 Education.

  • Justice for Yvonne McDonald & Transparency/Accountability from the City of Olympia and OPD

  • Enact a Good Cause Eviction Bill and Non Possessory Bill

  • Investigate and Hold Accountable Armed Militia & Collusion

  • Employ an independent Reconciliation and Oversight Board Made Up of Marginalized People

The demands were accompanied by this statement:

 “Although the blood of our murdered Black brothers, sisters, and siblings does not lie on your hands, the future of our well-being and safety does. The decision you will make from this moment forward WILL define your time in office. We have laid forth our list of demands, which quite frankly are the same demands our people have been asking for since the 60’s. At this point we have had enough, and demand this change to come now so our future generations will not have to fight the same fight our ancestors have fought, and the one we must fight yet again today. Although we applaud your open letter to the public (regards to the militia), that is nowhere near a step in the direction we need you to be going. The safety and well-being of Black people in our community continues to be at great risk. We implore you to take action accordingly.” -BLAST

 Detail of a Demand:

 “Employ a Reconciliation and Oversight Board Made Up of Marginalized People: BLAST is skeptical of the City of Olympia’s proposed Human Rights Commision, as historically these efforts have only served to further bureaucratic and educational racism that keeps our most vulnerable populations from being a part of these crucial conversations. We believe that our community would be better served by a Reconciliation and Oversight Board that is headed by black, brown, indeginous and latinx minorities with intersections in the LGBTQ+, disabled, shelterless and neuro-divergent communities.” 

 

[Krystafer Brown at the podium with Lanessa Inman, Talauna Reed to their left and Ty Brown to her right.]

 Krystafer Brown had a message for electeds:

 “You have the power to enact these demands, and doing so would help to protect the most vulnerable in this community. We call on elected and administrative officials to use their positions of power and privilege to create the change the community and Nation demand to see in the world. We wish to remind them that Change starts at home.”

 Krystafer also spoke this message directed to community members: 

 We need you to support the work of Black leaders and organizers by showing up at events, redistributing your finances, taking action, holding our electeds and people in power accountable, and breaking white silence. Be accomplices as well as allies. Call out white supremacy and acts of racism every time. Continue to support the work of local justice struggles. Support Justice for Yvonne McDonald by contacting city of Olympia and Thurston County officials along with the attorney general and Jay Inslee, and demand that the Murder of Black loved one Yvonne McDonald become a priority.”

 Enacting a Good Cause Eviction Bill and Non Possessory Bill was demanded by BLAST and renters rights organizer Ty Brown.

 “We are in a housing crisis. This crisis is impacting low-income, folks with disabilities, folks of color, single parents, immigrants, folks with criminal records, and women hardest. Because of the lack of protections, renters are made vulnerable to predatory landlords, financial exploitation, displacement and homelessness. This issue was here before Covid-19 and conditions for renters have only worsened since. 

 It is inevitably clear our community is a major risk for a mass eviction crisis. Agencies across the state are seeking Statewide and Federal assistance but funds are exhausted as quickly as they come. 

 Without protection from eviction for nonpayment of rent during the pandemic, payment plans will neither help those who have fallen so far behind that they cannot catch up nor help those who still do not have any means to pay rent.”

 

[Ty Brown fields questions from the press, behind him is Talauna Reed and Krystafer Brown.]

 “Prohibiting evictions on debt accrued during this period is something city council members have clear legal powers to pass. A renter would still owe the underlying debt, but a failure to pay would not result in an eviction. Making the debt non- possessory. Good cause eviction policies so Landlords will not be able to have the discretion to put someone out of their home because of discrimination against race, ethnicity, disabilities, negative interactions, maintenance complaints. Without you taking action, the burden will fall not only on renters, but their landlords too; not only on civil legal aid, but on our justice system too.” 

 “By way of enacting such policies, you can keep families stably housed, while preventing our social services and judicial systems from being overburdened and stretched even more thin. We demand that you address housing with seriousness and sincerity and respect to those most impacted everyday. Treat housing as a human right. Provide your community with basic needs. Passing policies that do not perpetuate the systemic injustice we as a community of color have been facing since the beginning.” -Ty Brown and BLAST

 When Talauna Reed (Niece of Yvonne McDonald and matriarch of her Aunt’s Justice Struggle) was at the microphone, she directly addressed Mayor Selby and was countering Selby’s own press conference on June 6, 2020:

 “Since August 7th 2018 the murder of Yvonne McDonald has yet to be properly investigated and her killers are walking free. Also in your statement, mayor Selby, when asked by a member of the press whether or not the city plans on looking into the death of Ms. McDonald, you stated  City officials were waiting for this community to come forward. Mayor, remember the light is still glaring on you and this council and people everywhere can see and hear the thousands of citizens who show up to support Justice for Yvonne McDonald. Not only have citizens come forward, they stand behind her family shouting her name as they demand that an independent investigation by a state or federal agency take place to shed light on the truth and investigate those responsible for the original investigation, for covering up the truth, and to hold all perpetrators accountable. This includes the same Olympia Police Department that you stated was systemically racist. 

 “The call to action you made for people from historically marginalized communities to join you at the table was answered. We, BLAST, invited you and several other leaders and elected officials to a meeting to state our demands and you, the mayor of Olympia, were not present. You told one reporter it was because you were out of town. It was a zoom meeting; stop making excuses. There has been very little progress made during this nation's crisis due to the constant devaluing of Black lives. And yes, while progress moves at the Speed Of Trust like you stated on June 5th, when would you like to start building that trust? Mayor Selby, it is time you start  keeping that promise you made to the child you spoke of in your press conference. We implore you to do better as mayor. Justice can only be properly served if those who have been impacted, Black, Indiginous, and impoverished families, have been acknowledged by the oppressor and reparations made. If this Council takes the issues brought to light by the Death of George Floyd seriously and there is due diligence, then you all will meet our demands.”

 The message and demands from BLAST to electeds and community members, Mayor Selby and white Olympia, are a gift and an opportunity that we knew better, and must do better.

 For more information about BLAST please visit https://blasthurston.org/

 The press conference can be seen in it’s entirety on the Justice for Yvonne McDonald facebook page.  Link https://www.facebook.com/JusticeForYvonneMcDonald

[photos by Stevi Kamphaus, BLAST artwork courtesy BLAST] 

 

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Lisa Ganser is a white, Disabled, Queer, non binary/Trans, Poverty Scholar living in Olympia, WA tending to Squaxin, Chehalis and Nisqually land. They are a sidewalk chalker, a copwatcher, a dog walker and the daughter of a Momma named Sam. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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