On Sunday 9 July 2017, people marched through Capitol Hill, Seattle, in support of Black Lives Matter. I didn’t know about the march until I noticed police motorcycles blocking the intersection at Broadway and Mercer. I grabbed my camera and took some photos of participants delivering impromptu remarks just south of Mercer. I continued taking photos as the march moved east on Mercer and south on 12th.
The portion of the march I observed was peaceful, with an emphasis on maintaining the awareness of the need for just, fair interactions between law enforcement and community.
As the march moved east on Mercer, I was out front, which let me observe the interaction between the march organizer and the police officer who I assume was the primary liaison officer. I didn’t get either of their names. I took a photo that shows the two talking and smiling, and I realized that those smiles can be deceiving. The conversation I overheard was civil, polite, and low-key, but there was definitely some jousting going on, and a mutual recognition that their purposes and interests did not entirely overlap. The police officer was asking the march organizer for route information, stressing that it was in the best interests of the marchers and non-participating residents for the police to know the march organizer’s planned route. The march organizer countered that it was not necessary for the police to have the exact details of the route.
By now, I should know in detail the city’s requirements for demonstrations, marches, and protests, and what circumstances would prompt police to try and block or cancel a march. Understandably, the police department wants all of the information it can get about the route (including stops) and duration. The police want to ensure that they can block traffic and ensure safety, and they don’t like surprises. However, it would also make sense that it’s not always in the interests of march organizers to provide that information. If the police know all of the route details before the march, they can block the entire route and redirect traffic. The marchers are then marching for themselves, nearby pedestrians, and customers at adjacent shops. The rest of the city continues on, possibly aware of detours and traffic jams, but unaware of the march.
Note: I did not speak to the march organizers or the police for this blog post, and I have never been involved in organizing or planning a march. This blog post includes my observations and interpretations of events and interactions, acquired while hastily trying to keep pace with the march and adjusting my camera. I would not submit this for publication anywhere without first trying to speak with the organizers and the police for their thoughts about my take on the interactions described above. I would also find the ordinances pertaining to marches and protests.