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Tuesday night vigil for Charleena Lyles results in peaceful protest standoff before Montlake Bridge

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Crystal Chaplin (left) and Lisa Gasner (right) say the death of Charleena Lyles is heart breaking and unacceptable and that police brutality against people of color needs to end now.

On the morning of June 18, Charleena Lyles was fatally shot by two officers — Steven McNew and Jason Anderson of Seattle’s North Precinct — responding to her report of a burglary at her home on Sand Point Way Northeast. On the evening of June 20, hundreds gathered for a vigil outside her apartment, which evolved into a march of over a thousand people.

Marchers trekked from Sand Point Way Northeast to North 45th Street, until they reached a police blockade in front of Montlake Bridge.

The vigil, which began at 6 p.m., gave voice to the grief of Lyles’ family members and loved ones as they shared brief speeches.

One speech reported that the NAACP had just announced that there will be a public hearing and investigation of Lyles’ shooting. Monika Williams, Lyles’ sister, also thanked contributors to the GoFundMe account for Lyles’ children and family members. 

Lyles’ shooting was also contrasted with the recent lockdown downtown for a man who was bearing a knife. One speaker commented that this man was taken alive and sent to Harborview, lamenting and questioning why comparable measures were not taken to preserve Lyles’ life.

As the vigil transitioned to a march, and marchers bore signs that read, “Black Lives Matter,” “Black Disabled Lives Matter,” and “Black Women's Lives Matter.” All also had the words, “#SayHerName: Charleena Lyles.” One sign referenced the Seattle climate particularly regarding race: “This passive aggressive progressive city is killing us.”

Marchers walked over 3.5 miles until they reached the bridge, taking up one and then both lanes of traffic. Car commuters honked and waved in support of the demonstration as marchers walked by. The march continued until it was impeded by a blockade of Seattle police officers in front of at the intersection of Northeast Pacific Street and Montlake Boulevard Northeast. 

For over a half-hour, protesters demonstrated in the intersection, although no one attempted to overtake the police barricade. Lyles’ family members emotionally pressed stone-faced officers with outraged questions regarding Lyles’ death. 

A call-and-response chant overtook the crowd: “She called for help..” “...AND THEN THEY SHOT HER.” Other demonstrators pointed toward the sky to call attention to an unusually vivid rainbow in stark contrast with its gray background.

Lyles’ teenage cousin took a video with her phone scanning the officers’ uniforms and the non-lethal weapons strapped to them as the officers stood together to form a human wall. She narrated to the video, “Look, every one of these cops has a taser. But none of them had a taser when my cousin called them.” 

Andre Taylor, whose brother Che Taylor was fatally shot by Seattle police last year, demonstrated at the frontline of the march the entire evening. He operated in a leadership role, encouraging peaceful interactions between officers and protesters.

At around 9 p.m. tensions rose as Taylor announced that Lyles’ family members and loved ones had requested that everyone return to Sand Point Way Northeast to ensure a peaceful close to the evening. Demonstrators and frustrated family members turned away from the line of cops, still chanting “Charleena.”

Reach reporter Grace DeBusschere at Twitter: @gracedebusscher

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