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The above is a slideshow of photos from a rally titled titled, “Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid: Celebrating Decades of Success,” on Saturday, August 8 at Westlake Park in Seattle. The rally was organized by Social Security Works Washington, a coalition of community and labor groups. Community leaders and elected officials were invited to speak to the importance of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The speech of the final speaker, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, was interrupted by protestors. While no violence broke out, things got contentious between protesters and audience members that wanted to hear Sanders speak. Photos by Isaac Liu.

Social Security Works Washington issued the following statement after the rally:

“As organizers of this event, which was a celebration of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, we were excited to have all our speakers talk about how important healthcare and retirement security systems are for families across the country. We were disappointed that a disruption may have distracted from our message, which was to celebrate and call for the expansion of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. We need to acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement, and the work its leaders are doing by standing up against police brutality and generations of oppression. Black lives absolutely matter.

“But we have to remember why we were there in the first place ­because our health care and retirement systems are at risk. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are especially important to women and people of color, many of whom rely on these systems. We need to remind our members of Congress of that and that their job is not over ­ they need to continue to improve and expand these systems for our future generations.

“During the event, which was an educational event sponsored by Social Security Works Washington, speakers and participants praised our country’s retirement security systems while also acknowledging the need to improve them for future generations by insisting that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid can be protected and expanded. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are lifelines for millions of Americans who would otherwise be without healthcare, disability insurance, and retirement benefits.”

A press release from the Facebook page of Black Lives Matter Seattle:

“Today BLM Seattle, with the support of other Black organizers and non-Black allies and accomplices, held Bernie Sanders publicly accountable for his lack of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and his blatantly silencing response to the ‪#‎SayHerName‬ ‪#‎IfIDieInPoliceCustody‬ action that took place at Netroots this year.

“Bernie’s arrival in Seattle is largely significant in the context of the state of emergency Black lives are in locally as well as across America. The Seattle Police Department has been under federal consent decree for the last three years and has been continually plagued by use-of-force violations and racist scandals amongst their rank and file. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has refused to push any reform measures for police accountability, not even the numerous recommendations of his self-appointed Community Police Commission. The Seattle School District suspends Black students at a rate six times higher than their white counterparts, feeding Black children into the school-to-prison pipeline. King County has fought hard to push through a plan to build a $210 million new youth jail to imprison these children, amid intense community criticism and dissent. The Central District, a historically Black neighborhood in Seattle, has undergone rapid gentrification over the past few decades, with Black people being displaced from the only neighborhood that we could legally live in until just years ago. While white men profit off of the legalization of marijuana, our prisons are still filled with Black people who are over-incarcerated for drug offenses.

“This city is filled with white progressives, which is why Bernie Sanders’ camp was obviously expecting a friendly and consenting audience for today’s campaign visit. The problem with Sanders’, and with white Seattle progressives in general, is that they are utterly and totally useless (when not outright harmful) in terms of the fight for Black lives. While we are drowning in their liberal rhetoric, we have yet to see them support Black grassroots movements or take on any measure of risk and responsibility for ending the tyranny of white supremacy in our country and in our city. This willful passivity while claiming solidarity with the ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ movement in an effort to be relevant is over. White progressive Seattle and Bernie Sanders cannot call themselves liberals while they participate in the racist system that claims Black lives. Bernie Sanders will not continue to call himself a man of the people, while ignoring the plight of Black people. Presidential candidates will not win Black votes without putting out an explicit criminal justice reform package. As was said at the Netroots action, presidential candidates should expect to be shut down and confronted every step along the way of this presidential campaign. Black people are in a state of emergency. Lines have been drawn in the sand. You are either fighting continuously and measurably to protect Black life in America, or you are a part of the white supremacist system that we will tear down in the liberation of our people.

“On this, nearly the one year anniversary of the ruthless murder of Mike Brown, we honor Black lives lost by doing the unthinkable, the unapologetic, and the unrespectable. Out of radical love for our Black brothers and sisters, we put our lives and our bodies on the line to testify to their persecution and resilience. We join together in Black love to #SayHerName and declare that #BlackLivesMatter, understanding that our love will disrupt the complicity and corruption of our anti-Black society; GOP, Democrat, and otherwise.

“There is no business as usual while Black lives are lost. We will ensure this by any means necessary.
With the strength of our ancestors and for the future of our children,

Black Lives Matter Seattle Co-Founders
Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford”

Sen. Bernie Sanders issued the following statement:

“I am disappointed that two people disrupted a rally attended by thousands at which I was invited to speak about fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare. I was especially disappointed because on criminal justice reform and the need to fight racism there is no other candidate for president who will fight harder than me.”

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