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African American Protest
On March 21, 1971, about 200 demonstrators representing the African American community marched from Garfield High School to the Municipal Building and occupied City Council chambers to protest action over shootings by Seattle police of African Americans Leslie Allen Black and Louis Alton Jones. Mayor Uhlman was out of town, leaving acting mayor Charles M. Carroll to address the crowd. The group occupied chambers from 3:40 until 6:40 pm, demanding immediate answers to four demands. Spokesperson Larry Gossett told the acting mayor that the people wanted "an immediate answer and no dilly-dallying or sidestepping." The time waiting for Carroll's response to the demands was spent discussing black community issues, organizing in the African American community, and preparing to be arrested. Drums and some flute music punctuated the waiting. At the end of three hours, acting mayor Carroll returned to answer the demands.
Listen to this audio clip:
I am glad that all you people decided to stay because there is always power in the people. Now Charles M. Carroll has decided to give a definite answer to every one of our questions. What I want you to do is listen. Let him finish completely. I don't care if his answers are yes or no; we just want to know where the city stands so we'll know where to move from there. Mr. Carroll?
Acting Mayor Carroll:
Ladies and gentlemen. I have consulted with our legal advisors and so this will be the answers to the demands. First of all, you demand that procedures be established to ensure that black people from the black community serve on all juries where black people are being tried. Again on legal authority, and this is where I have to look for legal advice - and incidentally I still tried to get a hold of the mayor and was unable to. The City has absolutely no authority in the selection of juries. Remember...I am hoping you will be fair as I talk to you, fair-minded in your analyzation [sic] of this. The city has no authority in the selection of juries. Therefore the answer is no.
Number two, that the pigs...who killed - I'm reading now from the script here - who killed brother Louis Jones, be immediately arrested, held without bail, and prosecuted for murder. There is a definite procedure including an inquest. So the answer would be no as far as the city involvement in this particular one.
Number three, that the inquest of the murder of Louis Jones be held in a black community in a place large enough for all the people interested to attend - that is, a people's inquest. This decision is to be made by your County Executive. This is in his particular category.
Number four, that representatives chosen by the black community be participants in the selection of the inquest judge. Again, your County Executive appoints inquest judges. This is what I am telling you is the advice of our legal advisors. Mayor Uhlman is due back Friday. If you people still want to meet with him and discuss it you have that right. Larry?
The man, we came down here and asked for a definite answer. The answer to one and two was definitely no. The answer to three and four is that King County Executive Spellman is the only one. People can be ensured that Spellman will be consulted on three and four.
Regardless of whatever he said, we will be working to make sure and ensure the possibility that black people and poor people get a fair hearing in the courts in Seattle and that representatives of black people are on those juries.
Let's proceed in unity. We came down here to get some definite answers and we got it. People gotta understand we would have never gotten those definite answers had we not been willing to stay.
Let's go on back to the community. All power to the people.
The entire event can be heard here.
Citation: African American Protest, March 21, 1971. Event ID 530, Seattle City Council Legislative Department Audio Recordings, 4601-03.