On Wednesday at around 8:00 PM, a protester in Tacoma, Washington was run over by a speeding truck. People on the scene reported that the truck, which came via East McKinley Way, swerved into the crowd without braking, and sped off. The victim in question was taken to the hospital, where they are currently stabilizing. The protest, organized by, among others, Tacoma Housing Now, a housing and homeless mutual aid and advocacy group, was in response to the Tacoma Safe rally being held in the Le May’s Car Museum. In attendance were many prominent local business leaders, the Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor, Tacoma Police, and other “concerned citizens.”
Among many of the discussions and speeches at the rally, the attendees offered support for a controversial municipal ban on “Public Camping,” a euphemism for banning public homelessness which has been enacted by many nearby cities in both Pierce and neighboring Thurston and King counties. They also proposed increasing funding for the police,which they claim has been overwhelmed with emergency calls and unable to respond to crime. Their biggest concern, however, was the rise in “property crime” and theft, which various small business owners also testified to..
After the protester was run over, the police made no effort to track or locate the vigilante driver, despite several officers having just spoken about their enthusiasm for “catching criminals.” This is far from the first act of violence committed against protestors.In January of 2021, two protestors were run over by a Tacoma Police car, sparking riots; in Seattle, multiple protestors were killed, shot, and maimed by such vigilante drivers during the 2020 protests, causing similar outrage and riots. The problem of police murder — for example, the execution of Manuel Ellis — is far from a local one, with dozens, perhaps hundreds of similar cases occurring across the nation in the summer of 2020 alone. It is ironic that police tolerate such a blatant instance of vehicular assault outside of a rally for “safety,” a rally that continued after the assault.
Make no mistake: this rally, while under the guise of safety, was about the security and safety of some at the expense of others. No mention was made of the violence committed against our houseless neighbors, or the dehumanizing sweeps and the lives they destroy. No realistic plan was drawn for moving the unhoused out of encampments other than vague humanitarian promises of “expanded shelters,” In all cases, business owners are the priority.
In the context of a national wave of corporate propaganda and fear mongering over organized retail theft, which often blames our most vulnerable neighbors, we must not indulge Tacoma Safe and their concerns. The bipartisan establishment clamors to keep increasing police funding and militarizing the police and state apparatus with the aim of increasing the institution’s legitimacy.Angela Connelly, an organizer for Tacoma Safe, said she felt “compelled to help communities and businesses after watching my city die.” Does Connelly concern herself with the decline of communities crushed by rising rents and ballooning inflation? Does she concern herself with those literally dying on the streets, abandoned by a city that does not find it profitable or worthwhile to help its homeless citizens, those most in need? Or perhaps she is touched by the violence of the police and of the NWDC against immigrants and people of color, and wishes to reign in such apparatuses of state control, to protect those in her community? Unsurprisingly, she is actually only concerned about the safety of the most well-off citizens and of the safety of landlords and businesses to continue to plunder and exploit their communities. Her version of safety, much like that of Tacoma Safe, is the safety of one class against the righteous wrath and indignation of another class.
The new Police Chief of Tacoma, Avery Moore, also addressed the crowd, saying “I promise we will not fail you.” But whom is he addressing? The city of Tacoma has already failed its most vulnerable, not just at this rally where an anonymous vigilante was able to run over a protestor with impunity, but through years of violence and harassment of Brown, Black and Indigenous folks, its constant police brutality and death, and its disregard for the houseless and poor working class. In this, just asin their murder of Manuel Ellis andthem allowing both far-Right elements and the business community to attack protesters now and before, directly or indirectly, the failure of the police here is not of inaction but rather
So long as the capitalist class cannot or will not prevent the homelessness crisis or the housing crisis, we must fight against bans on camping, whether here or in any other city in America. We recognize that the city and its police force will never respect the safety of homeless and working-class people here or anywhere, because they will always be on the side of business interests and the far-Right.
Furthermore, the safety of this capitalist class and their quest for profit are not only incompatible with the safety of homeless and working-class people, but in fact require the deprivation of the latter’s security. Therefore, we must demand that this assailant be brought to some form of justice, and we likewise demand justice for Manuel Ellis’s killers, for all others maimed and murdered at the hands of the police, both here and internationally, and for those living under fear and threat of the police and far-Right. Finally, we must also lend our support to Tacoma Housing Now and other groups across the nation in their efforts at the front lines to provide immediate and uncompromising housing solutions, such as the occupation of a motel in the Port of Tacoma which drew ire, threats, and harassment from the Far-Right, and we must support their efforts to end the housing crisis where the capitalist class has clearly failed.