On the heels of a second round of vandalism within the past month at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound’s mosque in Redmond, hundreds gathered within a room in Seattle Center Pavilion at Seattle Center on Monday to show their support for hate free zones across Washington state.
Various faith-community members and democratic politicians ranging from Congresswoman-elect Pramila Jayapal — who organized the event — to Governor Jay Inslee took the stage to address the crowd.
“The attack on the mosque in Redmond and now, again, a second act of vandalism of the same sign that so many of us came together to restore reminds us that there is still a lot of work to do. And it will be done by this very coalition,” said Congresswoman-elect Jayapal, noting that Seattle’s multi-sect coalition remains strong and powerful in the face of hate.
“We win when we stand together. Our battles in fighting anti-muslim sentiment are models across the country” said Jayapal.
Although the message throughout the event was one of battling hate wherever it appears in the State of Washington, Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine’s comments to the crowd were immediately met with interruption by Black Lives Matter protesters who were also in attendance voicing their opposition to a proposed youth courthouse and jail in the city of Seattle.
Constantine first opted to end his speech and requested the protesters visit with him outside to express their ongoing concerns. Mayor Ed Murray attempted to continue his speech despite being drowned out by protesters chanting “hate free state means cage free kids.” When Constantine later took the stage he was met with the same chants and attempted to explain to the crowd that a meeting with the Black Lives Matter organizers is being organized.
Aneelah Afzali, Executive Director of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound, addressed the crowd with a message of hope for the community in the face of adversity. She explained that hate crimes against Muslim-Americans were higher in 2015 than ever before and that 2016 is on track to be even worse.
“When hate speech and conspiracy theories against an American minority go unchallenged, they lead to hate crimes. It’s in this context the sign at our mosque was viciously attacked in the last month,” Afzali explained solemnly to the crowd. “But even if individuals destroy a sign, they cannot destroy the love and tremendous community support upholding that sign, or our resolve to continue contributing positively to our greater community.”
Matt Mills McKnight is a visual storyteller and journalist who covers a variety of political, social and environmental issues in the Pacific Northwest. He enjoys finding stories in his own South Seattle neighborhood, as well as researching projects throughout the rest of the city and region that he believes will inspire thought and discussion among viewers. Matt joined the KCTS 9 team in December, 2016. Previously he was a photo editor at MSN News and a freelance photojournalist covering many of the region's major news stories for a variety of news organizations.More stories by Matt Mills McKnight