Summer Taylor, Diaz Love Weren’t 'Agitators' Or 'Anarchists.' They’re Heroes.
Early Saturday morning, on Independence Day, a driver intentionally plowed into the Black Femme March on a closed stretch of Interstate 5 in Seattle, Washington. Summer Taylor, a 24-year-old from Seattle, died later that day, and Diaz Love, a 32-year-old from Portland, Oregon, remains in critical condition. Love was documenting the protests on a Facebook Live stream when they were struck and the video ends abruptly. It's tragic and chilling.
Dawit Kelete of Seattle was charged with two counts of felony vehicular assault. He drove the wrong way on the Stewart Street offramp and went around vehicles blocking the interstate. Kelete fled the scene in a white Jaguar after hitting Taylor and Love. Another protester followed him for about a mile before overtaking the Jaguar and blocking it with his car.
The police don't believe impairment was a factor. It's unclear however if this was a targeted attack. There is no evidence yet that Kelete was politically motivated like James Alex Fields Jr., who killed Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia. But the callous reactions from certain people are politically motivated. It's appalling to see so-called "pro-lifers" on social media blaming the victims.
No one should risk their life for demanding better from our city, state and country. Washington State Patrol is lea… https://t.co/zUrNRpO5em— Mayor Jenny Durkan (@Mayor Jenny Durkan) 1593880317.0
Conservative writer Katya Rapoport Sedgwick claimed that "blocking a major transportation artery is not a peaceful protest. Whoever sent them there should be held responsible." (Emphasis ours.) Sedgwick expressed no sympathy and promoted the narrative that the protests we've seen over the past several weeks are all coordinated commie assaults on America. Conservatives have always found ways to rationalize brutal treatment of protesters. Selma was also considered an "illegal gathering."
Donald Trump and many other conservatives consider all protesters "anarchists" and "agitators" unless they're wearing MAGA hats and demanding their Constitutional right to hair cuts. Trump was able to distinguish between "very fine people" defending Confederate monuments and literal Nazis, but he's at a loss for nuance when it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement. That's not an accident.
The All Interstates Matter crowd should rest easy knowing that protesters will no longer be allowed on the freeway. The state patrol had closed sections of the interstate for almost three weeks to keep both protesters and drivers safe.
From the New York Times:
"My hope is, as a result of this tragedy, protesters will reconsider their desire to be on the interstate because I cannot guarantee their safety, plain and simple," [Washington State Patrol Capt. Ron] Mead said.
Rest in power, Summer and get well soon, Diaz. 💕✊ Feeling otherwise powerless, just spent 30 min. reporting every… https://t.co/IG917Qw8o2— sarah iannarone (she/her) (@sarah iannarone (she/her)) 1593970750.0
According to NPR, there have been at least 50 reported "vehicle-ramming incidents" during protests. Many were suspected attacks by right-wing extremists.
"The message they're trying to send is, 'You need to get out of the street and stop these protests,' " Ari Weil, the terrorism researcher at the University of Chicago who compiled those statistics, told NPR last month. "They're trying to intimidate the most recent wave of BLM protesters, to stop their movement."
Erik Lacitis at the Seattle Times spoke with Katelyn Hoberecht, who worked with Taylor at a veterinary clinic. Taylor wasn't a rioter or a looter. They didn't hate cops or America.
"Summer has been there since Day One standing up for Black lives. Staying out all day and night, while still working full time taking care of animals," Hoberecht said. "Summer talked me about the protests, and how incredible it was to be a part of something so huge. A part of history."
The scene moments before a driver plowed into a crowd of peaceful protesters gathered on I-5 in Seattle early this… https://t.co/twQoAnZGqX— A-A-RON (@A-A-RON) 1593928074.0
Kelete is Black, and Taylor and Love are white. But justice is not about color, and Taylor and Love marched for justice regardless of their own racial identity. We should respect their actions.
July 4 isn't the anniversary of when Americans first gazed slack-jawed at a flag while fireworks exploded. It's not Sit Down And Shut Up Day. Americans fought a revolution against perceived tyranny. As someone who wasn't Thomas Jefferson said, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Protesters who disrupt and challenge the status quo march the same path as John Lewis. They are the ones who care enough to make America great. They don't deserve to die.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."