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Seattle police department, SPD (Genna Martin,

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Here’s a question: If police violence, particularly against Black people, isn’t ingrained in America’s cop culture, why are so many officers comfortable mocking Black victims of police violence?

Why were Aurora, Colorado, police officers so gleeful when they took photos of each other near a memorial of Elijah McClain reenacting the police chokehold that led to McClaine’s death? Why do we keep hearing about cops and their group chats sharing racist texts and memes about George Floyd and others who died via police brutality?

Now, in Seattle, Washington, a police department is under fire after a 2021 bodycam video obtained as part of a lawsuit challenging the city’s graffiti laws surprisingly (unless you’ve been a Black person in America your whole life) exposed the décor in a police precinct, which included a makeshift tombstone mocking a Black 19-year-old who was killed by Seattle police.

From KIRO 7:

It is a stunning sight. Seattle police officers, in a bicycle repair room at the East Precinct, casually walking by a mock tombstone of Damarius Butts, a 19-year-old burglary suspect who officers shot and killed in 2017.

We watched as his mother, grandmother, and uncle viewed the entire video for the first time.

“No, I’ve never seen that video,” Stephanie Butts said, with pain in her voice. “Like, you still gotta have a heart. You do. You gotta have a heart regardless. (I) just don’t know what to say about that.”

The video also shows a Donald Trump 2020 poster and a Black Lives Matter sign with what appears to be a red hat hanging from it.

So, an entire precinct of police officers casually allowed their working quarters to be decorated with a fake tombstone mocking a dead Black teen (with a Black fist image at the top), and a Black Lives Matter sign that was very likely being displayed ironically considering it was accompanied by what was likely a MAGA cap, which would make sense seeing as Trump never passed on an opportunity to express his contempt for the BLM movement. Also, there was a “Trump 2020” poster, and if you’re shocked police officers would celebrate and mock Black death, you might be doubly amazed to learn that racists are often Trump supporters. (You also might want to sit down before learning about how wet water is.)

Anyway, Seattle’s mayor condemned the police department and its Happy Lynching holiday decorations.

More from KIRO:

Just last March, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell asked a federal court judge to lift the 2012 SPD consent decree based on a pattern of biased policing and use of excessive force.

“That erodes trust,” said Harrell. “When we’re trying to build trust with our Police Department and the community.”

A clearly chastened Mayor Harrell said the video demands action.

“I will support an investigation to understand what happened, who knew about it, who should have known about it?” he said.

Hopefully, there is an investigation and it leads to consequences for the officers responsible for the displays. And by “consequences,” I mean, fire them. If a cop will casually mock dead Black civilians, they’ll also cause dead Black civilians. That’s simply the way many of us see it.


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