Protesters outside a home they said belongs to property owner Hugh Bangasser. Photo by Casey Jaywork.

Protesters outside a home they said belongs to property owner Hugh Bangasser. Photo by Casey Jaywork.

Racial Epithets Fly Outside Uncle Ike’s: A Blow-By-Blow of Saturday’s Anti-Gentrification March

A protest for black lives and affordable rents turned ugly after a detour to the pot store.

About a hundred people marched through the Central District Saturday night in a continuation of protests against the eviction of the Umoja PEACE Center and the more general gentrification of Seattle’s historically black neighborhood. The march stopped at an apparently empty house organizers said belongs to the owners of the Umoja Center property, and ended in a scuffle with Uncle Ike’s owner Ian Eisenberg outside his shop at 23rd and Union.

The march followed days of protest against the eviction of Omari Tahir-Garrett from the Umoja PEACE Center in the Central District, where he has lived as a caretaker for the property owners, the Bangasser family, for eight years. On Thursday, at a protest outside the Umoja Center, the elderly Tahir-Garrett vomited and went to the hospital in a stretcher.

Saturday’s march began with an hour and a half of bullhorn speeches at Union at 23rd, in front of the Black Dot, a black entreprenerial center facing displacement, before hiking a hilly mile with an escort of bicycle police to a brick house with a waterfront view in Madrona that Cliff Cawthorn, an organizer with Seattle Against Foreclosure and Eviction (SAFE), and other march leaders said was the home of Hugh Bangasser, part-owner of the Umoja Center property. The Bangassers have owned the property for a long time, but until two years ago the property was under the direct managment of Tom Bangasser, who originally hired Tahir-Garrett as caretaker and who says he planned to eventually sell the property to a local community group for fair market value. In 2015, Tom Bangasser’s siblings voted to remove him as controlling member of the property company, according to CHS, and have since moved to sell the property to a private developer. Hence the eviction of Tahir-Garrett, the closure of the Umoja Center, and the current round of anti-gentrification protests.

On the return march from Madrona, protesters were visibly lagging. One man brought his own second wind in the form of revolutionary song based on a quotation from socialist leader Eugene Debs:

But the march perked up when leaders spontaneously decided to detour into the parking lot of Uncle Ike’s pot shop, owned by Central District businessman Ian Eisenberg, at 23rd and Union. Partly because of the store’s gaudy signage and partly because of the traumatic history of that particular intesection, Eisenberg—who grew up in Madrona, according to The Seattle Times—has found himself framed by many Black Lives Matter organizers as the perfect symbol of gentrification by wealthy, white developers.

In the parking lot, marchers huddled and gave bullhorn speeches about racism while the bicycle police escort stood between them and the entrance to Ike’s. Eventually, Eisenberg showed up, hurriedly parking on the street before jogging over to the person who was speaking and telling the crowd to leave. Video published on CHS shows that Eisenberg slowed to a walk as he got close to the speaker; Cawthorn stepped between Eisenberg and the speaker, and several crowd members and Ike’s security guards jumped up into a spontaneous scuffle. At one point a security guard picked up a large metal sign as though to use it as a weapon, but put it down almost immediately. Within a minute, the police escort moved in to seperate the crowd from Eisenberg and security. There were no arrests or apparent injuries.

One march leader took that opportunity to address the security guard who’d briefly picked up the sign, and who is black. “I hope everyone has cameras on this black dude, working for his white master paying him a dollar,” he said into a bullhorn, before accusing the guard of intimidating Tahir-Garrett on Eisenberg’s orders. “I think it’s the same black dude, so I hope we got cameras. This is to you, Mr. Brother, this Uncle Tom working for your white master. Sambo, Sambo—let’s talk about it. The week after we shut down Uncle Ike’s, Ian Eisenberg sent a black thug over to threaten Omari.” The speaker quickly corrected himself for using the racially loaded term “thug”: “I’m going to change that language. This Uncle Tom over here, working for his white master.”

The speaker proceeded to threaten the guard: “We know where the fuck you are. We can find your address. We can find your people. So you be careful when you come after us! You be careful.”

cjaywork@seattleweekly.com

This post has been edited.

More in News & Comment

Hidden River Farms is 100 acres of farmland in Grays Harbor County. Photo by Lucia Wyss
Sowing the Seeds of Mental Health

Suicide is an epidemic amongst agricultural workers, but young farmers and state legislators are working to find solutions.

Seattle and King County Officials Want a Safe Injection Van

The mobile project—an alternative to permanent sites—still doesn’t have a defined timeline.

Western Washington Could See More Wildfires This Year

Lots of grass and warmer weather could make for worsening fire seasons.

An autopsy found that Tommy Le was shot twice in the back during an fatal encounter with a King County sheriff’s deputy. Photo courtesy Career Link
New Report Calls for Increased Transparency From King County Sheriff’s Office

The fatal shooting of Tommy Le served as a case study for researchers.

Charles Pillon sits inside one of the several buses on Iron Mountain. Photo by Caean Couto
The Last Days of Iron Mountain?

After battling King County government for decades, Charles Pillon may have finally lost the fight over his illegal 10-acre junkyard.

The public files into the City Council Chambers to voice their opinions prior to the vote to repeal the head tax. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Head Tax Repealed By Seattle City Council

After pressure from big businesses, city leaders cave on their plan to fund homeless services.

A scene from the 2017 Women’s March Seattle. Photo by Richard Ha/Flickr
County Sexual Harassment Policies Could Be Overhauled

One King County councilmember says male-dominated departments have “workplace culture issues.”

The Firs Homeowners Association celebrate outside of the Maleng Regional Justice Center after a ruling that buys them more time in their homes on June 7, 2018. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
SeaTac Mobile Home Owners Granted Stay From Eviction

The ruling allows about 200 residents more time in their homes, as they attempt to acquire the property.

Most Read