by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Violent attacks on Capitol Hill must stop. That's how I feel. And I know I'm not alone. I know this because of the many messages of support I've received from other Cap Hill folks, saying they will show up May 22 and march beside Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea) to show criminals that our neighborhood belongs to us, not to them.
If community exists, both freedom and security may exist as well. The community then takes on a life of its own, as people become free enough to share and secure enough to get along. There are examples lately of an absence of community on the Hill - even when someone is being attacked.
Last week, local drag queen and Capitol Hill socialite Robbie Turner, also a member of SOSea, was attacked.
'I was about three blocks from Atomic Cosmetics over by SCCC's [Seattle Central Community College] park answering a phone call when a 20-something African-American male punched me in the face,' Robbie posted on Facebook. 'I dropped my phone & instinctively placed my right foot on the phone knowing that something was amiss. The man said, 'Sorry, sorry, sorry.'
'And then pulled out a knife & swung it at my throat. It was less than an inch from slicing my throat open in front of a VERY LARGE crowd on the campus. No one yelled, no one came to my assistance. Plenty watched. As I leaned backward, I shoved the guy with my left arm so that he wouldn't actually cut me,' continued the post. 'With his opposite arm he hit me in the head causing me to really lose my balance. I stumbled backward as he reached down, stole my phone & ran away downtown bound. Still, no one came up to me. In fact onlookers stared & cleared out of the area: crossing the street suddenly, going inside the school, walking in any direction that was away from me & my torn grocery bag & my strewn about belongings.'
'It wasn't the punches to the face or the hurt wrist,' explained Robbie. 'It was that I could have easily lost my life today & not a single person wanted to jump in and help or even call the police.'
As he picked up his belongings a young girl approached him and said, 'I was scared.'
Robbie simply replied, 'I was too.'
'If I had NO self-defense class training a knife would have entered my body in an irreparable area. And by the way no one came to my aid; I could have easily bled out on Pine Street within moments,' Robbie ended the post. 'My heart is heavy right now and 2 hours after the altercation my palms are still clammy & cold. What has happened to feeling safe? What has happened to security on a college campus? What has happened to the wandering police officers?'
Robbie Turner is a founding member of SOSea, an organization of which I am the founder and current president. Robbie also co-instructed a self-defense class with Mac McGregor, a SOSea member and a member of the Transgender community, in February. This incident proves many things, no doubt, but two come to mind. First, attacks on the Hill really can happen to anyone. Second, self-defense training works.
JOIN THE MARCH
As a response to this attack, and all of those preceding and following it, I decided to organize a march and rally for May 22, from 6 to 8 p.m., starting at Seattle Central Community College. This is not an anti-SPD march. This is not about anything else other than the fact that we need to come together as a community and march and say, loud and clear, that we will not give our neighborhood over to crime.
When I began to organize this event, members of the community stepped forward and made donations that really are essential. The Imperial Sovereign Court of Seattle donated the sound and stage, and Baltic Room has donated cups for coffee and water. This is a grassroots event.
BLOCK WATCH FORMING
We also announced this week that SOSea's Straight Allies for Equality (SAFE) Program Director Daniel Hanks, Communications Director Chris Beisenherz, and I have routinely met with SPD officials to develop a neighborhood business-based anti-crime program we are calling Block Watch.
The program, developed in part by SPD Community Outreach Officer Sina Ebinger, who is Lesbian, is designed to be a deterrent and to train business owners, employers, and others how to be a good witness and how to de-escalate volatile situations.
A business block watch is meant to enhance communications between the police and the business community in an effort to reduce and prevent crime against their businesses - and beyond. Block Watch is businesses taking systematic steps to reduce opportunities for crimes in and around business locations. In Business Block Watch areas, SPD officials will assist business leaders, owners, operators, and employees in reporting crime and effectively observing and reporting to police all suspicious activities that could lead to crime. We are also encouraging businesses to participate in Operation Identification, marking all equipment, machines, etc., with traceable identification for theft deterrence and tracing.
Crime prevention is everybody's business. It requires cooperation and participation from all elements of the community, and it requires education. The businesses and organizations that sign up for Block Watch will receive quarterly training from SPD officers and other emergency personnel. In fact, the first training we have set up will be with 911 operators, who will talk with business owners and their employees.
A PROVEN STRATEGY
We did not invent Block Watch. Other major cities have had great success with similar programs - they reported a drop in crime almost immediately after they started a Block Watch program. Again, this is something we worked with law enforcement officials on.
The participating businesses will become a visible and known 'watchdog' for the community. Citizens will identify the business as a place they can seek safety if they are in danger or are in an emergency situation.
Key partnerships would be the businesses, employees, organizations, and executive directors forming relationships with police officers and SPD officials. Other partners can be local citizens' associations, churches, Chambers of Commerce, and other groups interested in a safe and prosperous business base in the community.
If your business or organization would like to sign up for Block Watch, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and write BLOCK WATCH in the subject line. Or, show up on Wednesday at the rally and we will get you the packet you need to get started.
Let's come together on May 22 and make sure that the criminals get the message that CRIME IS NOT WELCOME ON CAPITOL HILL. Join us in this act of solidarity with the victims of violence. Join us in this act of compassion and awareness in the face of ignorance and hate. Most of all - join us because you are a citizen who gives a damn about the lives of others and because our safety should matter to us all.
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