Aaron Roberts: Justice for the Community

Aaron Roberts was shot and killed by a Seattle police officer on Thursday, May 31, 2001, following a traffic stop at 23rd and Union. Just the day before, a Central District community delegation and local lawmakers had met at City Hall to discuss the problematic relationship between SPD and Central District residents.

On Friday, the day after Roberts was killed, community residents gathered to protest the killing. On Sunday, a vigil was held where Rev. Robert Harris spoke to a crowd of about 175 people. Both events were held at the intersection where Roberts was killed. Weeks of protests followed as Seattle’s Black community asked for justice. The Seattle Urban League and the NAACP advocated for independent investigations at community meetings. On October 26, 2001, King County prosecutors declined to press charges against the officers.

The first community forum after the shooting was held on June 9, 2001, at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, 10 blocks from where the shooting occurred. Reverend Robert Jeffery (a pastor at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church) and local anti-racism activist Dustin Washington helped to organize the event to provide the community a space to voice their frustrations with SPD and discuss demands by the Black community.

Jeffery and Washington invited Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, Mayor Paul Schell and the Seattle City Council to attend the forum and engage with residents. City Councilmembers Jim Compton, Richard Conlin, Nick Licata and Richard McIver attended the forum and were asked to respond to the list of demands from the community.

The demands included firing the two officers involved, an investigation into racial profiling, the establishment of an independent civilian review board and an economic development program to reinvest in the Black community. The councilmembers expressed cautious support for the demands, outlining those they could support. They also said they agreed that racial profiling is a problem and that more needs to be done regarding economic development, and expressed their support for a community-based police accountability review board. Councilmember McIver opened his remarks by stating, "I'm searching for the same thing you are, justice."

Speakers

An organizer of the forum, civil rights activist Dustin Washington, calls for a movement in the community to end the police violence.
Transcript | Listen | Watch

Reverend Robert Jeffery of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church leads a discussion around plans of action related to the demands from the Black community in the Central District.
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Seattle City Councilmember Richard McIver responds to Rev. Jeffery's asking "What is the City Council going to do about these events?" by addressing each demand and which ones he can support, particularly the concept of a community review board.
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Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata weighs in with his responses to the People's Coalition for Justice's demands.
Transcript | Listen | Watch

Resources

Watch entire community meeting at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Seattle's Central District:
Community Forum (June 9, 2001), Item 8145, Record Series 3902-01

Watch follow-up community meeting on June 13, 2001, hosted by City Council to discuss the People's Coalition for Justice's demands:
Part 1, Item 7253, Record Series 3902-01
Part 2, Item 7252, Record Series 3902-01