Are Seattle protests a good time–or biding time?

Seattle protests

Scene in Ferguson, Mo. (via Wikipedia)

In light of recent events in Ferguson, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Cleveland and God know where else, it wouldn’t be surprising that liberal activists in Seattle want to let their positions be known. But to me their actions seem more like college-style pranks than serious protests.

In the past 10 days there have a Christmas tree lighting disruption, a protest in the middle of the night on the major Interstate highway, and–somewhat bizarrely–talk about shutting down a fundraiser for the homeless. That’s on top on almost daily marches after dusk from the downtown core to Capitol Hill, where there happen to be a lot of nice coffee shops and eateries that stay open late.

I’d call this at most civil disobedience light. Sort of a trendy thing to do.

For now, anyway.

Seattle itself–one of the nation’s whitest big cities by population percentage–carries heavy baggage on the race relations front. Decades of serious de jure segregation have given way to serious de facto segregation. The Seattle Police Department remains under a consent degree with the U.S. Justice Department for its treatment of minorities. It’s clear many of the cops have little truck with the new touchy-feely police chief from Boston, Kathleen O’Toole.

Elements of the Central District, the historic home of Seattle’s black community, feel threatened by gentrification and perhaps an uneven distribution of the economic boom now enveloping the city. My perception is that Seattle blacks don’t all feel the sense of equality infusing the LGBT community, to which Seattle has become something of a magnet.

In my New To Seattle view, a Ferguson-style incident here could set off something far more terrible. But for now, the tensions are submerged in what I would call the latest example of that deceptive local phenomenon known as “Seattle Nice.”

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