Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

As the Trump Administration Digs In, Seattle Shows Its Spine

Seven days of resistance.

In the two-months-and-change between Donald Trump’s election and his swearing-in, there was a sense of suspended reality in Seattle and the rest of liberal America—a slow-motion fall in which we had a lot of time to think about what the impact would feel like: Would Trump do all the crazy things he said he would? Was he really going to order a wall? Was he really going to ban Muslims? Was he really going to make good on all the race-baiting policies that marked Latinos and Muslims as the enemies of a nation that, in reality, they as a people have helped make great?

Despite troubling sign after troubling sign in the lead-up to the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States, the optimists among us held on to a belief that Trump’s campaign rhetoric was just that, campaign rhetoric, and that political realities and basic decorum would somewhat tame even this spray-tanned lion.

Then the past seven days happened. Starting on Wednesday morning, when President Trump signed an executive order directing the construction of a multibillion-dollar wall and directing punitive action toward Sanctuary Cities that refuse to cooperate with immigration-enforcement agents, the administration has made clear that it intends to be just as racist, xenophobic, and constitutionally shaky as promised. That order was soon overshadowed by another, dictating sweeping bans on immigration from seven Muslim nations and inhumane restrictions on refugees hoping to find safe harbor within our borders.

Each of these actions were acutely felt by Seattle. We are a Sanctuary City. We are a city of immigrants.

But while the past week has shown us beyond a doubt the terrible posture this administration plans to take toward immigrants and refugees, and those who choose to welcome and embrace rather than defile and demonize them, it also showed us something else: that we as a city would, in a unified voice, resist, just as we promised we would. We said this week: This is our city.

We heard it from city leaders last Wednesday when they—the mayor, the police chief, City Council members, and others—stood firm against Trump’s executive order that threatens to cut off some $70 million in federal funds to Seattle in retaliation for the city’s rightful refusal to turn city police into immigration agents. The choice between federal dollars and Seattle’s place as a city of immigrants was hardly a choice at all, our leaders rightly said.

“This city will not be bullied,” Mayor Ed Murray told a crowd of hundreds in front of City Hall. “We will not allow our police to become deputies of the federal government and round up immigrants … To turn children and their parents over for money—and to violate the Constitution—is a place I cannot go.”

This is our city.

We heard it out at Sea-Tac on Saturday, when thousands of people—with just a few hours notice—flooded the departures terminal to protest Trump’s executive order temporarily suspending refugee settlement and travel from seven predominately Muslim nations and indefinitely banning refugees from Syria, where an interminable civil war has left the world with a humanitarian crisis on an unfathomable scale. As a result of the order, one Somali man whose wife lives in Seattle was stopped in our airport—funded by our tax dollars—and disgracefully put on a flight back to Vienna, from where he came. Two other men were held for hours as some of Seattle’s sharpest legal minds made the case before a U.S. federal judge that Trump’s orders were unconstitutional (the legal effort was successful and the men were released). As the lawyers did their godly work, the flood of protesters Saturday night hoisted signs that said “I welcome you” and “Freedom” and, simply, “No.”

This is our city.

We heard it at Westlake the next night, when thousands flooded downtown Seattle with a message of love—love for their neighbor, love for their nation of immigrants. “Nobody loves this country like the people who leave everything to earn a place here,” Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, the son of Iranian immigrants, told the crowd, which was filled with women in head scarves who refused to cower in the face of the anti-Muslim demagoguery emanating from our nation’s capital.

This is our city.

And we heard it Monday morning, when Bob Ferguson became the first state attorney general to file a lawsuit challenging the immigration ban as unconstitutional. In his press conference, Ferguson noted that Seattle’s tech industry—an industry that has drawn the best and brightest from across the globe to our city—stands firmly with him on denouncing Trump’s cheap knock against immigrants. As Gov. Inslee described it at that press conference, “This is un-American. This is wrong. And it will not stand.”

The resistance was not confined to lawmakers and activists. Seattle’s corporate citizens, sometimes at odds with our progressive ideals, this week showed they were united. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (himself an immigrant) have both spoken clearly and forcefully against Trump’s actions. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has vowed to hire 10,000 refugees, prompting a wrongheaded but predictable boycott among Trump supporters. Commendably, Schultz hasn’t backed down.

This is Seattle, President Trump. Get used to it. We will resist. We will fight. We will stand up for what we believe the American republic stands for, and if this past week is any indication, we’ll be pretty damn good at it. We’ll challenge you in court, in the streets, and in the halls of government.

It’s nothing short of ominous that all the events described above occurred in just the seven days since Seattle Weekly last went to press. If this is what a typical week is going to look like under Trump, then we must make sure that the resistance is built to last. City leaders seem to have this in mind, discussing ways in which local taxpayers can make up for any funds lost due to our Sanctuary City status. That would be a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s important to address now, lest our resolve flag when the Trump administration makes good on its terrible promises. Likewise, as our Muslim and Latino neighbors come under attack, it is vital for us to remember that hoisting a sign alone won’t stop hate. We must support their businesses, champion their causes, and stay vigilant and dignified against base provocations. We must be prepared to fight with our feet, our minds, and our voices.

Compassion and action: This is our city.

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