Around 7:00 p.m., people began to trickle into Cal Anderson Park, some in pairs and some individually, and gather by the reflecting pool in the northwest corner in preparation for a demonstration. One woman passed out hand warmers while another started a sign-making station.
Earlier that day, Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager accused of killing two people and shooting another last year during unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was found not guilty on all charges. The jurors acquitted the teen on five felony counts: first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree recklessly endangering safety, first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide.
Many people wonder if the full acquittal of Rittenhouse will make any future demonstrations such as Black Lives Matter rallies less safe, giving the green light for militant agitators to show up.
A woman dressed in an all-black tracksuit said, “I came out tonight because of what has happened with the Rittenhouse verdict and these three elections of Ann Davison, Bruce Harrell and Sara Nelson. … I want to say that I cared enough to not just shrug my shoulders and look away.”
A man dressed in plain clothing who described himself as a medic said, “We are medical providers who have been coming out to these things for years now, and when there’s a need we try to be there for it, you know, so hopefully nothing bad happens. But we’ll be here if it does, as it has been known to do before.”
Another man huddled in a group of people said, “Nothing meaningfully’s been fixed, and in some places, it’s been rolled back. Like I was just complaining, everyone’s trying to live their lives, and I get it, but it really feels like we’ve gotten back into the same system of bread and circuses.”
A street medic, who identified herself as “Mack” and who said she was in Kenosha the night of the shooting, organized the Seattle rally in solidarity with the victims and families of Kenosha.
Mack said she was being harassed due to her proximity to the shooting that night and the enormous media attention the case garnered. The constant harassment triggered her post traumatic stress disorder from being in Kenosha that night, and when some friends recently opened their doors in Seattle, she welcomed the opportunity for a fresh start and took it.
Mack is enrolled in nursing school and said things are looking up, but that doesn’t make the news of the jury’s verdict any easier to accept. Holding up a megaphone by the reflecting pool, she began to address the demonstrators.
“This verdict was horrible for all of us, and it’s going to lead to potential fascist violence in the future, and we have to stand here now to show that that is not an option,” Mack said. “I used to be a trauma medic back in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, until last year on Aug. 25, 2020, when I attempted to assist Richard McGinnis in providing treatment to [Joe Rosenbaum]. It was a real tragedy what happened to [Rosenbaum]. He struggled with mental illness, but he was a member of our community that’s dearly loved and missed.
“And additionally, Gaige Grosskreutz is a good friend of mine and a good man. What the media has had to say about the victims of the shooting is, by and large, untrue. They were members of the community in Kenosha that were loved and missed every day. Gaige provided a service to our community that many were afraid to provide, and he is now going back to college so he can continue to serve our community in many more ways ... every day, I wake up and I remember what happened that night. I was right down the street when [Rittenhouse] shot people point-blank in front of me, and I cannot, cannot believe that he was let off.”
Chants like “Fuck Kyle!” and “Out of the bars and into the streets!” filled the air as roughly 200 Seattleites dressed all in black marched through the popular bar scene of Capitol Hill partygoers munching on gourmet burgers and sipping flights of beer.
Stepping back into the street, Mack led the way.
Samira George covers real people living real lives in the Puget Sound. Follow her on Twitter @samirakgeorge.
Read more of the Nov. 24-30, 2021 issue.