Block the Bunker

Seattle activists succeed in blocking police "bunker"

(Courtesy Seattle North Precinct Project)

Social and community activists are rejoicing across Seattle this week as long-running efforts to stop the construction of the $149.2 million North Precinct police station appear to have (at least temporarily) prevailed.

Late last week, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced that his office and the city council would no longer pursue the development. According to the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, in conceding to the protesters’ demands, Mayor Murray said, “I inherited the [North Precinct] proposal and I made mistake about not stopping [it],” adding that his administration had failed to use the city’s “racial equity toolkit” while considering the project.

The proposal in question, a 105,000 square foot facility designed by Portland-based firm SRG Partnership, has been in development since 2014 and was expected to begin construction next year with an estimated completion date of 2019. The recent move throws that timeline out the window.

(Courtesy Seattle North Precinct Project)

(Courtesy Seattle North Precinct Project)

Over the last several months, a group called Block The Bunker coalesced to fight the proposal as public outcry regarding the new station, expected to be the most expensive in the country, reached a fever pitch. Councilmember Kshama Sawant, one of the leaders of the Block the Bunker movement, celebrated the group’s victory, stating at a rally, “Yesterday, racial, social, and economic justice advocates scored one of the most important victories nationally since Black Lives Matter began in 2014. Our movement has blocked the bunker!”

As the opposition to the precinct crystallized, Block The Bunker aligned itself with the goals of Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, with the local group seeing its opposition to expanded investment in police infrastructure as tied to national efforts aimed at putting an end to mass incarceration and the overall fight against racial inequality in American society. The Seattle-based group has built upon BLM’s slate of causes by specifically demanding that the funds appropriated for the police station be spent instead on 1,000 units of affordable housing. It is unclear if the city will bend to those demands, but after the activists took control of a City Council meeting Tuesday night, their calls for reform grew more pointed. Speakers reiterated the group’s push for other political objectives, including blocking the construction of a new youth jail as well as stopping the city from hiring more police officers.

Either way, the Bunker isn’t dead yet. According to Sawant’s comments, the City and City Council are still planning to build a police precinct in North Seattle eventually, with the measure only being only temporarily tabled until next year.

For more information, follow Block The Bunker’s website.

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