My name is Xochitl and I am the organizer from Washington CAN! who represents our group within the Social Security Works Washington coalition. I helped plan the birthday rally for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and was a co-emcee of the event. There were many organizations who were involved but I can only speak for ours.
It took me a while to respond publicly because it has been a difficult few days. We organized for months to bring this rally together, and I was proud to be on that stage introducing the many amazing speakers. I even had an opportunity at the beginning to link the campaign to expand Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare with our broader commitment as an organization to racial justice, combating mass incarceration, and lifting up policies that would specifically benefit people of color. It was hard for me to suddenly be the target of a disruption, even if I believe with all my heart in the ideals that those who took over the stage are fighting for.
When I realized what message the Black Lives Matter activists wanted to convey, I told people on the stage to let them speak. Some people in the 5,000 person crowd were shouting, pushing, and fighting. There were many elderly and disabled people in the crowd, including several of our members. Our main priority at that moment was the safety of all involved especially since some people in the crowd were spewing vitriol, much of it racist and sexist, towards the Black Lives Matter activists who disrupted the rally and the organizers who let them speak. In that moment, my co-workers focused on de-escalating the tension in the crowd. When the police were about to go on the stage, a co-worker ran to tell them to back down.
People in our community, including elected officials, need to push for policies that reflect the fact that Black Lives Matter. We need to challenge institutionalized racism, and fortunately, Black Lives Matter is creating a much needed space for a critical dialogue around institutionalized racism within our judicial system. The racist and sexist comments from the crowd were very ugly and revealing. Racism and sexism are pervasive, even in progressive Seattle.
Washington CAN! supports the Black Lives Matter movement and talking about the importance of earned benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare for so many people in our country, especially to people of color and women. We need to fight to protect and expand these programs. Luckily, these issues are not dichotomies – they are intertwined, just as other issues that Washington CAN! works on intersect with the Black Lives Matter movement. We need to keep up the fight on all of these fronts.
As a young woman of color, I have experienced the impact of racism and sexism, and on a personal level, understand the urgency many feel around working on these issues. I feel that same sense urgency as well.