Demonstrators in Seattle occupied Westlake Park immediately after the verdict in the George Zimmerman case was announced. This downtown park was the location of the first Occupy Seattle encampment in 2011.
Downtown businesses were worried because of the violence that took place in Los Angeles, Seattle and other communities across the nation after the Rodney King verdict was announced. At that time, Seattle police cars were overturned and property was vandalized as the demonstrations became a riot.
The issues surrounding the killing of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida has a special significance to folks in Seattle. Two years ago a Native American woodcarver named John T. Williams was killed by a Seattle Police Department officer, launching an eight month Department of Justice investigation into the department's "excessive use of force". In their report, the DOJ concluded that SPD had a "practice and policy" of using excessive force.
The Seattle chapter of the NAACP and other community groups had declared that racial profiling was also a policy at the police department, but the US Department of Justice refused to address that issue. As a result, many of the three dozen civil rights groups that called for the investigation have now walked away from the negotiating table. These organizations claim they have no faith in the DOJ ordered reforms or in the SPD's willingness to adopt them.
On Sunday morning (July 14th) passionate sermons were delivered at Mount Zion Baptist Church in the Central District neighborhood of Seattle, calling for justice.
In response to the jury's decision finding George Zimmerman "not guilty" on the charge of second degree murder, hundreds of marchers in Seattle exercised their First Amendment rights and took to the streets shouting, "No Justice - No Peace!"
A rally in support of Trayvon Martin and his family was held at Westlake Park in the afternoon, followed by the march. At 9PM a "hoodie up" event was held which was coordinated with other major protests in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco.
In Seattle the diverse crowd of protesters marched all over the downtown area of the city, past high priced hotels and condominiums and large corporate businesses. At one point the demonstrators headed towards the South Lake Union district - often referred to by locals as "Allen Town" because of the dominance of billionaire Paul Allen's massive developments.
Seattle police followed the protesters all day and into the warm summer evening. At the time of this writing, no major violence or clashes with police have been reported by the police department, city officials or the local media.
Mayor Mike McGinn released an official statement statement on the verdict. He stated that so-called "stand your ground" laws and the overzealous worship of guns are simply "unacceptable".
Meanwhile, on many social media sites which lacked moderators, such as the "Vice" video live stream chat room, anti-Trayvon Martin racists were spamming repeatedly by posting very negative and hateful comments. Multiple messages proclaiming Zimmerman a hero and using racial stereotypes clogged up the chat room feed until someone finally complained by typing, "What, no moderator?!"
To quote one anonymous young African American woman at the Seattle march and rally (she didn't want to give her name),
"I'm really proud of all the people who came out with us today to demand justice, but I'm also trying to be very realistic when it comes to the fulfillment of Dr. King's dream."
"We have a long way to go..."