As Black people across the United States continue to be brutalized and killed by police, Black leaders have changed the rules of policing in Washington state—forcing a number of wins on police tactics and accountability bills during an historic legislative session, the Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance said Sunday as the session closed.
The policing bills that passed both House and Senate would: ban tactics like chokeholds and no-knock warrants; allow deadly force only as last resort in the face of imminent threat; put misconduct investigations in the hands of an independent investigator rather than other police; require officers to intervene when other officers use excessive force; and strengthen community oversight of law enforcement.
The Alliance, however, did not stop with policing, throwing game changing support behind bills that affect almost every aspect of Black Life.
“This stunning session is the result of a Black community that strategically pursued bills that improve the whole of Black Life in the state,” said Sakara Remmu, founder and lead strategist with the Alliance. “We’re talking about more than thirty different bills representing nearly half a billion dollars to help protect and liberate Black Lives.”
A kin care bill keeps Black kids with their families rather than the foster system. Another measure puts an end to private prisons. Formerly incarcerated people will have their right to vote restored. And school children throughout the state will receive free breakfast and lunch.
The support of and for the Black community also pushed over the finish line two groundbreaking measures that Democrats have previously failed to win: a capital gains tax in a state with particularly regressive taxing, and cap and trade bill to fight climate change and invest in Black, Indigenous, and communities of color that are hardest hit by environmental racism.
“The only reason this incredible host of bills passed is because people across Washington state showed up in an unprecedented way, to demand these changes be made into law,” Remmu said. “People who had never engaged before used their power, every single day of session. They were a daily presence, telling lawmakers what to do at each stage, for every bill. They testified in committees, they wrote, they called, they texted—they got it done. The people don’t move the needle, they are the needle.”
The Alliance in particular stood alongside Indian Country in Washington, supporting the Puyallup Tribe, Tulalip Tribe, Yakama Nation and other Native organizations to pass cap and trade, a bill with life-or-death implications for Washington’s tribes.
Eighteen of the Alliance’s Reparations for Black Lives package of bills now await the signature of Gov. Jay Inslee.
“We’re not done,” Remmu said. “We’re not done till the Governor’s signature is dry on every bill. Then we start laying the groundwork for next year’s session. We are not done.”
About the Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance The Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance is a non-partisan, statewide coalition relentlessly fighting for the protection and liberation of Black Lives. Members from organizations across the state work to eradicate anti-Black racism and all forms of oppression so that Black people and all people can thrive. Its Steering Committee includes leaders from Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, the Puget Sound Chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Eastern Washington University, Byrd Barr Place and others.