9 arrested as clergy members stage protest, halt construction at new youth jail

Article originally appears on komonews.com 20 April 2018

SEATTLE – Seattle police broke up a protest of clergy opposed to a new King County youth jail on Friday morning and made nine arrests.

Some protesters locked themselves to steel beams at the construction site, bringing work to a halt there.

Police said it was the first time that protesters, who have been demonstrating against the youth jail for months, entered the construction site with the intent to stop work.

Police said officers tried to negotiate with the 35 or so protesters and made two orders to disperse.

“The protesters made it clear that they intended to be arrested rather than leave the construction site interior and away from the construction entrance,” police said.

Police arrested three men and three women who were blocking the entrance to the construction site and three women who were on the construction site.

It was the latest protest against the new $210 million youth justice complex.

The clergy members locked themselves to the beams with so-called “sleeping dragons” – lengths of pipe covering handcuffs. Other protesters gathered on the sidewalk on 14th Avenue, holding signs and surrounded by an altar, banners, and candles.

The protesters, with the No New Youth Jail Campaign, are demanding that King County Executive Dow Constantine put an immediate stop to the construction of the new $210 million youth justice complex.

“We’re praying for Dow to embrace his humanity and end a project that will bring harm and trauma to our communities,” said Dean Spade, one of the protest organizers.

Several of the faith leaders at Friday’s protest action issued statements in opposition to the new youth jail.

The Rev. Beth Chronister of the University Unitarian Church, said, “Building a youth jail to lock up children who are often the most affected by systemic injustice denies the inherent worth and dignity of these children at a critical juncture in their life and development.”

The Rev. Darrell Goodwin of the Liberation United Church of Christ, said, “As a follower of Jesus and a pastor, supporting a new institution built with intent to hold captive our youths’ future, their dreams and their possibilities it is antithetical to my faith and so I’m compelled to block it by any means necessary.”

“We can, together, imagine no cages, no prisons for our youth,” said the Rev. Angela Yingof the Bethany United Church of Christ.

In earlier protests, opponents of the new youth jail have blocked downtown streets and entrances to the construction site.