Seattle Rally: 'It's Hard Being A Black Man In This Country'

Aug 22, 2014

It's been nearly two weeks since black teenager Michael Brown was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. His death touched off a wave of outrage that spread to cities across the country, including Seattle.

On Thursday evening, the Seattle King County NAACP hosted a rally at Pratt Park in the Central District.

As KUOW’s Posey Gruener reports, nearly 200 people of various races and ethnicities stood on the grass with their hands in the air.

TRANSCRIPT

Crowd: "Hands Up! Don't Shoot! Hands Up! Don't Shoot!"

The now-familiar rallying cry of the Ferguson protests is a directive – and also a plea.

Protester: “We want everybody to get that message. That if our hands are up, we should not be shot."

Speaker Sheley Secrest knows that fear.

Her son is Michael Brown's age. And she told the crowd that just a couple of days ago, as she drove her son to college in Pullman, she had to give him the talk.

Secrest: "As we're going across the mountains, I had to give him the ‘black mother story,’ that baby boy, if you get pulled over by the police, before you reach for the registration, I need you keep your hands on the steering wheel. See, that's a black mom lesson."

The Reverend Bertram Johnson, a young pastor at Madrona Grace Presbyterian, was in the crowd doing research. He's planning a rally for Sunday, at Westlake, so he was there to see how a rally is run. But he was also there for a more personal reason.

Johnson: "It's hard being a black man in this country. It's exhausting. I'm just tired of it. And I guess this is the event that helped push me to get off the couch and to do something."

After a series of emotional speeches, NAACP branch president Gerald Hankerson took the stage, trailed by a boy holding a large bundle of black balloons.

Hankerson: “Right now we would like to release these balloons as a symbol of what has been stolen from us.”

As the balloons rose, they lifted above the crowd in the park, the children playing in the fountains behind them, and, a little beyond, two Seattle police officers standing in the shade of a tree, watching quietly.