KCMS Executive Committee
Health professionals are organizing to march this Saturday, June 6th @ 9 a.m. from Harborview Medical Center to Seattle City Hall to protest ongoing civil rights violations by the Seattle Police Department, whose officers are known to use excessive force, including harassment, inflicting physical and mental injury, and death.
This event is an effort in solidarity with a plan to deliver a demand letter aligned with the American Public Health Association’s resolutions on Racism and Police Violence as Public Health Issues. These reform measures have been endorsed unanimously by UW’s Health Sciences deans.
The event is organized by and features remarks from Estell J. Williams, MD, Department of Surgery and Edwin G. Lindo, JD, Department of Family Medicine. Dr. Williams has penned an undeniably compelling, personal, and powerful call to action which has been shared widely with the UW Medicine community (below).
This event and this moment mark the intersection of many competing public health issues. We can recognize competing concerns of novel disease transmission vs long-standing racial, structural, and political issues that many physicians feel are the root cause of our country's high death counts. KCMS's Executive Committee has had interesting discussions over the past few days regarding our role in promoting a protest during a pandemic. We have concluded that the decision to partake in a protest remains a highly personal decision and, in these times, should be undertaken with the utmost level of concern for personal and public health. Hence, we are sharing information from King County’s Public Health Insider blog which shares advice to reduce the risk for those participating in protests, but also provides guidance to stay home.
Of additional concern is the unpredictable nature of group events and the violence that has been well documented daily in Seattle since May 29, including the pepper-spraying of a 9-year-old girl. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has since shared that she will order SPD to curb the unprovoked use of chemical weapons banned by the Geneva Convention as the de facto signal to end peaceful protests in our neighborhoods. Public health experts nationally are raising concerns about the use of these measures during widespread transmission of respiratory illness. The mayor also announced that she will end curfews in Seattle and rescind a pending request to Attorney General Barr to end Seattle’s federal oversight. Since 2012, the consent decree required that Seattle Police emphasize de-escalation tactics, establish new use-of-force policies, and increase oversight and community involvement.
These two changes are also the top priorities of a recent request shared online by the local chapter of Black Lives Matter. To the credit of Mayor Durkan and citizens of King County, recent daily protests have appeared more harmonious on all fronts, despite continuing into the late hours. We hope that this speaks to the possibility of good faith discussions soon and express gratitude to those who have taken personal risks to engage the political powers that be.
Black Lives Matter is not involved in any protests in the city at this time. Their local board chose to prioritize COVID-19 health risks at this moment for members, emphasizing that the work to be done requires a longitudinal approach since their community members are being disproportionately affected by the virus. The group is focusing efforts on funding bail for protestors locally and nationally and has created a protest guide to support safety for those that do choose to attend events.
For our many members who are looking for a way to stay home and stay safe while engaging in these public health concerns, we are providing policy documents for review, charitable foundations to consider supporting, and the advice to pay attention to local elections and continue finding ways to support and engage your colleagues in civic concerns. KCMS will always support ways for physicians to engage collectively to advocate for justice, and better the wellbeing of our communities.