Sunday, August 14, 2016

#BLOCKTHEBUNKER Is a Disability Issue

Oppressions interlock—a policy/project that is racist is almost always ableist and vice versa. The new North Seattle Precinct proposal is no different. A brief rundown of the proposed police bunker:
  • Located at Aurora and 130th
  • Bomb- and ballistics-proof
  • Extends three stories underground where training with armored vehicles like those seen to break up protests in Ferguson, Missouri and more recently in Baton Rouge, Louisiana will take place
  • Contains a gun range (also underground)
  • Has a huge parking garage that will have three parking spaces for every single officer
  • Includes a planned above-ground “community space” (likely to be cut in any more cost-saving measures)
  • Contains plenty of storage room for military-style riot gear
The total price tag? One hundred and forty-nine million dollars ($149,000,000), down from one hundred and sixty million (160,000,000) as of last week. Suggesting corruption and/or poor planning, this is about sixty million over the original budget made for the project last year.

“So it’s needlessly expensive but how is it ableist?” you might ask; the answer lies in three separate issues which I will expand upon more after listing them:
1.  It takes away money from services disabled people use, such as mass transit
2.  The Seattle Police Department itself is ableist and the function of the police bunker will be ableist
3.  It is part of a development/gentrification plan that will displace disabled people, especially disabled people of color

1: It takes away money from services disabled people use, such as mass-transit

While these funds are somewhat separate from King County Metro’s pool of funding, the money is a lot more fungible/interchangeable than one might think. Seattle’s Proposition 1, whichpassed overwhelmingly in 2014, authorized the City of Seattle to moderately raise taxes in order to pay for bus service themselves after cuts from King County Metro.


Disabled people, whether from a specific impairment, poverty, or any other combination of reasons use public transit more than non-disabled people. In addition, para-transit is unreliable and not even compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Fare increases, lack of service, and lack of funding for metro has led to extremely negative outcomes for disabled people living in the City of Seattle. More information on the metro situation can be found at stopveoliaseattle.wordpress.com


[image description: picture of the Access Now rally on July 24th outside King County Metro’s headquarters on S. Jackson and 2nd Avenue. It was put on by the Boston School Bus Drivers, Seattle’s Disability Liberation Front, and Stop Veolia Seattle. In the picture is a multiracial, multigenerational group of 8 people. We are carrying signs reading “Metro—Stop Attacks on the Disabled!” “Metro—Full Transportation Rights for the Disabled!” “Metro—Respect Disabled Peoples Rights!” and “Stop Passing Chair Users. StopVeoliaSeattle.wordpress.com" (photo via)]   


In addition, #BlockTheBunker activists have pointed out that this money can and should be used for affordable housing—another issue disproportionately impacting people with disabilities. Other programs like the King County’s Sexual Assault Resource Center and the anti-trafficking, restorative justice group API Chaya could also use this money to help countless people with disabilities—who are more likely to be abused than nondisabled people. The list of things the city could be prioritizing over a police bunker that would help dismantle systemic barriers for people with disabilities is exhaustive.

2: The Seattle Police Department itself is ableist and the function of the police bunker will be ableist

Nationally, disabled people represent fifty-percent (50%) ofthose killed by police.This violence, it should be reminded, is also highly, highly racialized. The Seattle Police Department is no different. In a very high-profile case, the Seattle Police Department shot and killed a man named John T. Williams, a Deaf, Indigenous woodcarver because he did not respond to verbal commands to drop his knife while he was working. Recently, Pasco (a city just outside of the Seattle Metropolitan Area) police shot and killed Antonio Zambrano-Montes, a Deaf, Latinx man for throwing dirt clods at a police car in order to get their attention and not hearing verbal commands to stop his so-called “attack.”

Police also attack both physically disabled and neurodivergent homeless people because, in the tradition of Ugly Law, the presence of a homeless disabled person (particularly a homeless disabled person of color) in public space is understood as a “threat” to society.  

Following the murder of John T. Williams, the Seattle Police Department was put under a consent decree by the Department of Justice for excessive use of force. Though the Department of Justice paints a rosy picturein this recent op-ed in Crosscut (to be expected from an organization that wants to keep its funding as failed projects do not attract dollars), the changeshave been anything but promising.

In addition, the North Seattle Precinct will be a state-of-the-art training ground for the Seattle Police Department to control newly-displaced people from the city’s development plan. That means instead of solving the issue of homelessness by building affordable housing, the city just plans to have police harass, abuse, and kill victims of gentrification.

That leads us into point three.

3: It is part of a development/gentrification plan that will displace disabled people
The North Seattle Precinct will be built using a Real-Estate ExciseTax (REET). REETs are essentially a tax on development/developers. If you work under the assumption that developers are a necessary part of a healthy housing economy and ultimately are in the best interests of all people, ideally a REET should be used to subsidize affordable housing to accommodate people in danger of being priced out (read: displaced) from their neighborhoods.
The current plan for 20,000 new affordable housing units defines “affordable” well above a monthly SSI payment. Further, raising the rents in the name of "expanding economic opportunities" for low-income earners is not unprecedented given the history of the Seattle Housing Authorities failed "Stepping Forward" plan that was only defeated after considerable organizing by the Seattle Housing Authority Tenant Union. Using the REET to fund a police bunker instead of further subsidizing affordable housing will hugely impact people with disabilities. It is systemic ableism.

There are more issues, and this piece did not get into all the complexities of the interlocking moving parts of policing, gentrification, federal disability policies, and education/transition systems. This article is already more than a thousand words long.

For more information on Block the Bunker, visit the facebook page at Facebook.com/BlockTheBunker 

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If you are a member of a disability rights/justice organization—contact them about making a statement against the North Seattle Precinct. As noted, it is far past time the disability community to get on boardwith the liberation of disabled people of color. 

Two more things you can do to help Block the Bunker: 

Call or email:

  • 206-684-8803 (lisa.herbold@seattle.gov)
  • 206-684-8804 (bruce.harrell@seattle.gov)
  • 206-684-8016 (kshama.sawant@seattle.gov)
  • 206-684-8808 (rob.johnson@seattle.gov)
  • 206-684-8805 (debora.juarez@seattle.gov)
  • 206-684-8800 (mike.obrien@seattle.gov)
  • 206-684-8801 (sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov)
  • 206-684-8806 (tim.burgess@seattle.gov)
  • 206-684-8802 (lorena.gonzalez@seattle.gov)


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