Following the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri last night, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray held a press conference with community leaders. Here are his remarks as prepared:
“I have said many times as Mayor that I believe race remains our greatest challenge as a nation and as a community.
Today, we as a nation and as a community confront this challenge painfully and profoundly.
After the tragic police shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson this past summer, President Obama described a “gulf of mistrust” that exists between law enforcement and our communities – and particularly our communities of color.
As they learn of today’s grand jury decision in Ferguson, many in the African American community in Seattle and across the country are bound to feel that justice has not been served, and experience tremendous hurt as a result.
For many in the African American community, this decision will likely replicate the pain caused by the tragic shooting itself, and underscore this gulf of mistrust, which, if left unattended, will only divide us as one community.
Many outside the African American community stand today in solidarity with the African American community through this time of anguish and anger and alienation, including me, members of Council and community leaders of this city.
We cannot let this gulf of mistrust divide us, and we will not let this gulf of mistrust divide us.
Seattle is not Ferguson – a town that is predominantly African American but only has three African American officers on its 53-member police force.
Our city is committed to the goals of racial and social justice in all aspects of our cultural, social and economic lives. This is a core value of Seattle, and we should be proud of this.
But, of course, Seattle is far from perfect.
Racial disparities persist, having been built – here and everywhere throughout this country – upon a legacy of decades and decades of institutional bias.
These disparities are very real, and our communities of color bear daily these burdens – and our young African American in particular.
And that’s the deep, unacceptable truth that Ferguson reveals about us a society: We are failing our young African American men.
Too often we are sending them to prison instead of college. Too often they are dying young instead living long lives of fulfillment.
And while I cannot pretend to know the individual experiences of young African American men, I do know that we in this city must be united in how we address these experiences.
My message to the young African American men in Seattle today is this:
While we do not have the answers today, we in this city are listening to you.
Your city hears you. And your city loves you.
In this hour of pain, your city is absolutely committed to moving forward with you, together, towards greater peace and greater justice.
My message today to all Seattle residents is to ask that we all reach out to our neighbors – across racial and cultural lines in particular – commit to a promise of making our city a better place.
And I echo President Obama’s words from over the weekend: ‘This is a country that allows everybody to express their views. But using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to the rule of law and contrary to who we are.’”