The following is a letter to the editor from Karen Yoshitomi, executive director of the Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Washington:
Last week I attended a ceremony for the renaming of a park in the Seattle Chinatown International District (SCID) to the Donnie Chin International Children’s Park. I made the effort to attend because I was hoping that Mayor Murray would acknowledge why the renaming of the park was so important. If it’s possible to feel hope leave your body, then that was surely what I felt after the mayor’s brief speech on that day. One sentence about how Donnie died. Worse, not one word about his life’s work, what Donnie Chin dedicated his entire life to, and ultimately died for: public safety in the SCID.
What is it going to take, if not the deaths of innocent people, for our city leaders to “wake up!” The SCID is a community that cannot be compared to any other precinct or city in the state or nation. The SCID is a densely populated historic district, located adjacent to two professional sports arenas, and hosts thousands of tourists and visitors each year. There are large numbers of senior citizens, immigrants, low income and homeless; mixed in with workers, visitors, gangsters, prostitutes, and drug dealers. The public safety issues facing the SCID are multi-faceted and complex. That’s what Donnie had been trying to get across to anyone who would listen. Is anyone listening?
Last night [on June 23, 2016], there was a community meeting to get an update on the status of the investigation into Donnie’s death. Though the process for answers and justice has been painfully slow and meaningful communication woefully lacking, there is a glimmer of hope again that Donnie’s voice and that of the people who gathered at the meeting, is finally being heard. I think there was a commitment and acknowledgement from Chief Kathleen O’Toole that there is an urgent need to build better relationships between the Seattle Police Department and the SCID. Perhaps if the murmuring were turned into a roar, then the mayor might finally say what we’ve all been waiting to hear: that he believes that public safety in the SCID has breached crisis level, and is therefore of paramount importance to the City of Seattle. But more importantly, that he will join with other city and comunity members to back those words up with the resources to honor that belief.
Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Washington