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Black activists use casket at Seattle rally to denounce gun violence in the community

Community leaders gathered near Franklin High School Friday for an anti-gun violence rally to demand better of those in power and those within their community.

SEATTLE — Friday, several dozen people came to the intersection of Rainier Avenue South and Martin Luther King Jr. Way South in the Mount Baker neighborhood of Seattle to say "enough."

"It hurts me to see that casket because that could have been me,” said Warlina Wheeler, who spoke at the 'We want to live' anti-gun violence rally. It was meant to call attention to the impact gun violence has on the Black community.

“I'm tired of waking up and seeing my homegirls on the news, my homeboys, and people I grew up with burying their kids,” Wheeler said.

The rally featured several community activists, each taking a turn to speak to their concern gun violence is having.

“I think this is a damn shame that we have to get a casket and put it out on the street in our community, to get the attention that’s needed for our Black and brown bodies that are steadily dropping,” said Dom Davis, CEO of Community Passageways.

A casket was brought to the rally as a symbolism of the group’s grief. They also did a casket viewing and asked each attendee to think about why this [looking into a casket] is a reality far too often for the Black community.

“We know most of these people that are droppin', we know their families…I'm tired of seeing mamas cryin', babies cryin', daddies cryin' because they're traumatized with the consistent loss that they're feeling,” said Davis.

Some of the speakers demanded more accountability from elected leaders and criticized Mayor Jenny Durkan's recent decision to veto drastic changes to the police budget. Speakers also challenged those within the community to stop killing each other.

Shamar Slaughter, who also spoke at the rally, said to stop gun violence it will require every community and a united effort.

“We need everybody to come together, just to show that there don’t gotta be no problems, we can all come together if we want. Black people better off as one, cuz we getting killed by everybody. We getting killed by ourselves more though…less white people killin' Black people than Black people killin' Black people you feel me?” Slaughter said.

He implored people to get involved with community programs like Choose 180, Community Passageways, Freedom Project, and others.

“If there ain't nobody out here tellin' us what not to do, whos gonna tell us what to do? You feel me? Kids have no guidance it's gonna be wild like a zoo out here,” he said.

Slaughter knows right now something has to change.

“I’m afraid for myself, I'm afraid my family my friends, I'm afraid for anybody that’s black walking up and down these streets cuz it's not safe, you know, it’s dangerous out here. Everybody buyin' up guns, everybody shooting each other, it's not safe bro, it’s not cool,” he said.

Crime data from the Seattle Police Department's website shows officers have responded to 30 calls for "shots fired" in the Mount Baker neighborhood so far this year. In 2019, there were only 30 "shots fired" calls for the entire year. 

However, the data shows the amount of violent crime has not yet surpassed last year's total. 

Violent crime consists of rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. In 2019, there were a total of 89 violent crime incidents reported in the Mount Baker neighborhood. So far this year, there have been 50 violent crime incidents reported. 

For more information on crime data or to look up your own neighborhood's data, click here.

RELATED: Mayor Durkan vetoes council vote to cut up to 100 Seattle police officers

RELATED: Gun violence on the rise in King County, according to new data

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