By: KIRO 7 News Staff
SEATTLE – Clergy members and others who chained themselves to steel beams at the construction site for a new youth jail in Seattle were arrested Friday morning.
Supporters of the movement gathered on the sidewalk where an altar, banners, and candles were placed.
“Those of us here today share a moral vision for the county to shift away from building infrastructure that creates misery and trauma, and toward spending on basic human needs like housing and healthcare,” stated Dean Spade, member of the No New Youth Jail Coalition.
KIRO 7 Reporter Rob Munoz was at the scene as protesters encouraged each other to call Constantine’s office to complain that having workers at the site while protesters were there constituted Occupational Safety Hazard Administration violations for unsafe workplace practices.
When officials came to the site to investigate, they determined the protesters were creating a dangerous work site environment. That led to Seattle police officers ordering the group to disperse. When the group refused to leave, arrests were made.
Last month, supporters of the campaign closed an intersection Fourth Avenue and James Street in front Constantine’s office. Five of them were locked together, with their arms inside metal tubes.
They then marched through downtown Seattle. Traffic officials were forced to close streets, which clogged I-5 and I-90.
The protesters gathered at the site near 14th and Alder at about 8 a.m.
They’re demanding that King County Executive Dow Constantine halt construction.
The county says a new youth jail is desperately needed because the current facility is deteriorating.
But activists say the current jail is only 25 years old and that a county analysis of the facility said it was “generally in good condition.”
They say the construction is an “unnecessary, harmful, and undeniably racist jail building project,” reasoning that youth jails disproportionately affect black children.
The group offers no alternative to a youth detention center. It only says it wants to “change the conversation about youth imprisonment” and wants the county to adopt a goal of zero detention young people.