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Native people rise up against killer cop in Seattle

Published Sep 24, 2010 7:41 PM

The outcry continues to grow against the killing of John T. Williams, a First Nations wood carver, by a member of the Seattle police force on Aug. 30.

Protesters in Seattle’s City Hall.

In the third and largest protest, some 500 Native people marched on Seattle’s City Hall on Sept. 16 and took over the main floor. There were many speakers and many drummers. People sang songs of their ancestors as they marched in the rain. Non-Native supporters also participated in all the protests.

John T. Williams was a seventh-generation master carver and belonged to the Ditidaht First Nation, a member Nation of the Nuu-chah-nulth on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. He was well known and respected for his carvings. He earned his living as a wood carver and often worked on his craft in the streets, as many others do. Williams had also been homeless.

On Aug. 30 Seattle cop Ian Birk shot Williams four times after Birk saw Williams carrying a piece of wood and a small pocketknife. Eyewitnesses have said Williams in no way threatened Birk and never advanced on him, as the police initially claimed. Birk told Williams to stop walking, but since he is deaf in one ear, Williams didn’t stop. Then Birk shot Williams.

A cold-blooded killing

“It is a great cultural ignorance for the police department even to admit they weren’t familiar with [people] carving with knives on the street [because it’s] not unusual,” said Williams’ family friend Storme Webber, who is a member of the Aleut Nation. (Indian Country Today, Sept. 7)

Big business, which owns the gentrified downtown area, has a very hostile attitude toward poor people and people of color. The Downtown Seattle Association and the Chamber of Commerce influence the cops to engage in repression.

Activists plan more actions to gain justice for John T. Williams.