Black Lives Matter marcher Aina Braxton helped defuse a confrontation between police and protesters on Black Friday. Photo by Casey Jaywork.

This Woman Kept Black Friday Non-Violent

“I believe in peaceful protest…and I know that rage is real,” says Aida Braxton.

“Whose streets?” asks a lone voice at the corner of Fourth and Columbia. “OUR STREETS!” replies the crowd.

Friday, November 25th, 2016. Hundreds (at least) of #BlackLivesMatter marchers fill the street in a cacophonous throng. After starting at Westlake Park early in the afternoon, the crowd has taken to Seattle’s streets in protest against police violence, against president-elect Trump, and against the orgy of consumerism that is Black Friday.

The march is headed toward City Hall, but the Seattle police have different ideas. They’ve been escorting the march, but now riot cops form a line blocking the path forward. Brandishing wooden clubs and paramilitary armor, the officers want the marchers to turn around, move away from City Hall and back toward Westlake. “Shame!” someone cries. One of the officers—a tall, thin white guy—grimaces. Most of the cops wear expressions as blank and absent as the transparent plastic visors that shield their faces from spit and friendly fire. The front line of marchers lock arms. They don’t push, but they don’t back off. For a moment, it looks like the confrontation is going to escalate into pepper spray and beatdowns.

Then Aina Braxton gets involved. Making her way to the front of the line, the UW Bothell administrator talks to the police at the front, finds out what they want. Despite her own desire to reach City Hall, she uses a bullhorn to address the marchers, urging them to literally and figuratively turn their cheeks around and start walking the other way. “We are warriors of love and light,” she says, “and we want [the police] to be too.” Gradually, the march starts to move back the way it came. For today, at least, open battle has been avoided between Seattle’s Finest and Seattle’s populace.

“I have my six-year-old niece out here,” Braxton says to a flurry of reporters while walking to catch up with the front of the march. “I am not trying to have people confront the police force that I have known in the past to use excessive force…to knock people’s heads up, and shoot and kill people…I’m not going to lead a group of people into a situation that’s going to be potentially dangerous for them.”

So then why are you out here, facing down riot cops on a city arterial street?

“There was never an option for me,” she says, to not speak out against president-elect Donald Trump. The cost of silence would have been too high. “I’m a patriot. I’m a mother. I’m a descendent of slaves and the Blackfoot Tribe,” she says. The threat posed by the president elect, she says, “is real. People are still trying to have this Pollyanna, white-washed vision of what the world is like, and what Donald Trump taught us is that’s dangerous.”

Many activists believe that police, as an institution, are intrinsically racist and violent. Do you agree?

“Absolutely,” she says. “I do believe that—and I know that [police officers] are people, they’re humans.” Reconciling with fellow humans, Braxton says, is “the only thing I know how to do. I understand some people don’t feel that way and I support them, but I’m always going to lean to inviting people to my table to break bread with me. That goes for the police, that goes for Donald Trump himself.”

You’re refraining from physical violence or property destruction. Do you think everyone should do the same?

“There’s always been different strains of how people get shit done,” Braxton replies. “Sometimes, [property destruction] puts pressure on people to act when sometimes nonviolent means aren’t doing it.” She pauses, thinks for a moment. “I believe in peaceful protest, and I believe in bringing and walking in peace at all times.

“And I know that rage is real, and rage is healthy. Sometimes that rage needs somewhere to go.”

More in News & Comment

Trouble in Tacoma

A cannabis producer has been shut down for “numerous and substantial violations.”

Protestors gather at SeaTac’s Families Belong Together rally. Photo by Alex Garland
Seattle’s Separated Children

A local non-profit houses several immigrant youths who were separated from their parents at the border. But for how long?

Between Seattle’s $15 minimum wage and the new no-poach cause agreement, Washington has been leading the nation in advancing fast food workers’ rights. Photo by Fibonacci Blue/Flickr
Washington AG’s Deal Grants Mobility to Fast Food Workers Nationwide

Seven fast food chains have agreed to end no-poaching policies that economists say cause wage stagnation.

The Carlton Complex wildfire burned in north-central Washington state in 2014. Photo by Jason Kriess/Wikimedia Commons
King County Burn Ban Starts This Weekend

Other counties across the state have already enacted similar restrictions.

Numerous complaints against King County Sheriff’s deputies for issues like excessive force and improper search and seizure weren’t investigated due to internal misclassification, a new report says. Photo by Oran Viriyincy/Flickr
Report Finds Complaints Against King County Sheriff’s Deputies Weren’t Investigated

An outside review says that allegations of excessive force and racially-biased policing weren’t pursued.

Last spring, Sarah Smith (second from left) travelled to Tennessee to meet with other Brand New Congress candidates including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (right). Photo courtesy Brand New Congress
Can Sarah Smith Be Seattle’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

The 30-year-old democratic socialist is challenging a long-serving incumbent in Washington’s 9th Congressional District.

Dianne Laurine (left) and Shaun Bickley (right), Commissioners for the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities, say that the city didn’t consult with the disabled community prior to passing the straw ban. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Straw Ban Leaves Disabled Community Feeling High and Dry

Although the city says that disabled people are exempted from the ban, the impacted community says that businesses haven’t gotten the message loud and clear.

Most Read