Kirkland and greater Eastside residents’ efforts to spread messages of love and unity continued Saturday afternoon as dozens of people gathered at Everest Park for a march to the Google headquarters in town.
Along the roughly half-mile-long residential route, the group shouted various chants including “Love trumps hate!” “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” and “Immigrants are welcome here!”
The event was spearheaded by Fuse Washington, a progressive grassroots organization that works to “give ordinary people a strong voice in politics,” according to its website.
A FOCUS ON COMMONALITY
Ashley Myrriah, communications and research specialist for Fuse Washington, said their March on Google Counter Protest and Rally was a response to a demonstration — called the March on Google — that had been planned for Saturday afternoon as well.
The original event was planned to protest the firing of James Damore, an engineer who had written a controversial memo regarding Google’s diversity policies. The demonstration in Kirkland was one of at least nine that had been scheduled across the United States where the tech company has offices.
Myrriah said when Fuse Washington caught wind of the March on Google, they became concerned because of the lack of time to heal from the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. She said people needed to feel united and their event would provide a counter narrative: rejecting sexism, racism and violence and focusing on what people have in common.
In addition to the march, Indivisible Kirkland Kenmore hosted an event prior for people to draw and write messages of love, unity and togetherness on the sidewalk along 6th Street South in front of Google.
Sarah Franklin with Indivisible Kirkland Kenmore said they wanted to do something physical that sent a clear message about how members of the community felt.
“We kind of loved the idea of people marching to this spot with hate in their heart and being forced to stand on our words of love,” she said, adding that it was also another opportunity for people to do take action if they were not able to attend the march.
Megan Nandi and her family stopped by Saturday morning to decorate a few sidewalk squares. She and her husband brought their 5-year-old daughter.
“I think it’s good for her (to know others) also have the same feelings of kindness,” Nandi said. “Plus, she just likes to draw art.”
Both Fuse Washington and Indivisible Kirkland Kenmore began planning and organizing their events early last week.
By the middle of last week, the nationwide events were postponed due to threats of violence, according to the March on Google website.
A post on the website states that despite organizers’ “clear and straightforward statements denouncing bigotry and hatred,” mainstream media outlets “made malicious and false statements that (the) peaceful march was being organized by Nazi sympathizers” and as a result, “credible threats from known alt-left terrorist groups have been reported to and relevant authorities have been notified.”
“In one instance, an alt-left threat was made to use an automobile to drive into our peaceful march,” according to the entry, which was posted just a few days following the events in Charlottesville that left three people dead, including 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was killed when a vehicle plowed through a crowd of people who were protesting a “Unite the Right” rally of white nationalists.
While the original March on Google was postponed, the City of Kirkland and Kirkland Police Department continued to monitor the situation throughout last week in case anything cropped up.
On Thursday before the march, city manager Kurt Triplett said the city had been in direct contact with organizers at Fuse Washington about the demonstration’s logistics and were monitoring social media and other outlets to see whether other groups intended to be involved.
Triplett said throughout last week, police were “constantly assessing the situation throughout the day and the week to ensure (they were) prepared.” He remained in close contact with police as well as other city departments such as fire, public works and parks.
Triplett said march organizers did not propose to shut down any streets or public places and city ordinances “allow for peaceful assembly and marches in public parks or along sidewalks without a permit, as long as they are for protected speech, do not prevent the public space from being used by others or interfere with previously permitted activities.”
Demonstrators on Saturday’s made sure to stick to the sidewalks for their march and rally.
In addition to Kirkland officers being on hand and prepared to enforce the city’s laws, Triplett said the city also had mutual-aid agreements with surrounding jurisdictions such as Bellevue and Redmond in the “unlikely event that additional resources were necessary” and kept those jurisdictions informed and updated.
Kirkland police also issued a press release prior to Saturday’s march.
In that release, Police Chief Cherie Harris said, “In close collaboration with city leadership, the city manager, protest rally organizers and neighboring police agencies, we expect a very peaceful event, but we have proactively prepared for all contingencies. Our collective goal is to provide a safe environment for our community and the peaceful exercise of the First Amendment.”
Following the demonstration, the Kirkland police Twitter page posted that the event was safe and peaceful.
Happy to report a safe and peaceful demonstration has concluded. Thank you ALL pic.twitter.com/9opuIBk7A4
— Kirkland Police (@KirklandWAPD) August 19, 2017
Although the original March on Google event was postponed, organizers for the Fuse Washington event decided to still hold their event.
“I think it was the right thing to do,” said Morgan Steele, senior political organizer at Fuse Washington.
Steele was one of two speakers to address Saturday’s crowd and during her remarks, she said they were there to show that they are not afraid to “stand up for what’s right on the Eastside of King County.”
“Violence, racism, sexism and white supremacy have no place in our community, in our workplaces or in our government,” she told the crowd.
Steele added that “in this ongoing struggle for justice and equality, we’re taking a stand today to show that white allies, people of color, men and women both can stand together in unity and say that hate has no place in our country.”
Marquese Averett, a senior organizer for President Donald Trump resistance at Fuse Washington, was the second speaker at Saturday’s event and said it is a shame that in 2017, “we’re still talking about fighting racists and we’re still talking about fighting neo Nazis and white supremacists.”
“This is an issue that you would have thought that my mother and my grandmother and my great grandmother, my great, great grandmother would have dealt with,” said Averett, who is black.
Despite there being something wrong with this picture, he said it is encouraging to see people from all walks of life, gesturing toward the crowd, coming together to let the world know that love does trump hate.
Averett added that this type of effort toward equality and the courage it takes to stand up for what’s right needs to continue beyond their event and into people’s everyday lives.
HAVING THAT CONVERSATION
KirklandSafe co-founder David Greschler attended the march and said people need to stand up against those who choose not to treat others equally. He pointed to history and the Holocaust specifically as an example of what could happen when people don’t take a stand, adding that there were members in his family who died in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
According to its website, KirklandSafe is a group of residents dedicated to ensuring that Kirkland remains a safe, inclusive and welcoming city for all people.
For Paula White, Greschler’s wife and fellow KirklandSafe co-founder, Saturday’s demonstration was not so much about protesting as it was about making sure their voices are heard and letting people know that Kirkland is a safe, inclusive and welcoming community and that is it safe to have “that conversation.”
“We need to be able to talk to people who have different views from us,” she said.