Two black men have been killed 1,660 miles apart, one infamously in Minneapolis late last month, the other in Seattle this weekend. We know the name of the man killed in Minneapolis: George Floyd. We know that the man who killed him—a police officer, Derek Chauvin — will face justice, through a trial by jury.
But for days we didn’t know the name of the 19-year-old African American kid who was shot in Seattle. (His name was Lorenzo Anderson.) And we may never know who shot him.
Young Mr. Anderson and another black man were shot inside the Capitol Hill occupied protest zone, or CHOP, where—with the approval of the mayor and the governor of Washington—police have been banned.
Then again on Tuesday morning, another person was shot in the Organized Protest zone. But according to The Seattle Times, all we know about that crime is that the wounds aren’t life-threatening and “police did not immediately provide more information.” Perhaps they couldn’t.
The reason information on these crimes in Seattle is so spotty is because when the police arrive in this “police-free” zone they are confronted by hostile crowds. On Saturday, when they tried to make their way to find the victim and investigate the crime scene, they were turned back.
They had no ability to control the crowd, since the Seattle City Council has disallowed the use of crowd control devices like pepper spray or tear gas. The police retreated with bottles being thrown at them.
It has been reported that the suspects fled. The police say they are trying to investigate still, although it’s hard to imagine how they could do that effectively if they couldn’t even get to the crime scene before it was contaminated.
The Saturday shootings — let’s not forget another black man in critical condition in a Seattle hospital—occurred at 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Apparently the mayor and the governor did nothing that Saturday to allow police to do a criminal investigation. Then on Sunday, a third victim was shot. Then Tuesday’s shooting. No ambulance took any of the victims to the hospital. Instead, they were driven there in private cars.
We know the people who killed George Floyd will confront justice. But the people who shot these folks may never face justice.
It’s too painful to remember all the black citizens in America who were killed, while the killers never faced justice. It’s familiar to us because it happened way too many times in the South. Now it looks like it could be happening in Seattle. Wherever happens, it’s a horrendous abuse of the rule of law and any sense of justice.
The idea of a police-free zone in Seattle is absurd. The responsibility for this one death, and maybe more of them, lies completely at the feet of both the mayor of Seattle and the governor of Washington. (As of this writing, the mayor says the city is negotiating with people inside the CHOP to “wind down” the police-free zone. The rest of the nation will just have to see how that goes.)
Who is speaking out? What about Washington state’s most prominent citizens? What has Bill Gates said? What has Jeff Bezos said? If they haven’t said anything about it, what does their silence say?
The famous quote of German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller comes to mind:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Niemoller was clearly talking about the dangers of a police state imposed by the Nazis. But there are similar dangers when the police are banned, people take the law into their own hands, and anarchy ensues. For proof: see Seattle.
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis resulted when there was too much police excess. The death of the 19-year-old in Seattle resulted when there’s no police protection allowed. Both extremes are dangerous, and in both cases, deadly.
Wake up, Seattle, before it’s too late.
Walter Hussman Jr. is an American newspaper publisher and chief executive officer of WEHCO Media, Inc. He is the publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, which is the largest newspaper in Arkansas.