by Ronnie Estoque
On Saturday, July 23, at noon, local community leaders gathered at the closed-down Starbucks across from Franklin High School for a rally in opposition to a proposed Amazon warehouse in the neighborhood. While it has been widely reported that Amazon no longer has plans to build a warehouse in the Rainier Valley neighborhood, protesters rallied, calling for the company to officially pull its permit of development.
After Amazon had submitted its permit to the City in 2017, grassroots organizers from various organizations and sectors in the South End began to strategize and develop a plan to push back on the development. Their community statement opposing the development can be viewed online.
“Amazon is doubling down on the city and the country’s long shameful history of putting the most polluting industrial sites in Communities of Color,” Creative Justice community organizer Travonna Thompson-Wiley said. “The call to action for the community is to continue to organize and demand that they pull the permit.”
The rally included support from Creative Justice, Black Action Coalition, Solidarity Budget, Franklin High School Black Students Union, and corporate workers from Amazon Employees for Climate Justice. Lauren Holloway, a teacher at Franklin High School, spoke during the rally.
“Many [students] I know at the moment are postponing college to work more hours to help their families financially or to save money for college or other essentials due to financial challenges they are facing,” Holloway said. “Our youth do not need another destructive force like Amazon to further cement being priced out of the region. And they certainly don’t need more low-paying Amazon warehouse jobs that will further split their time and talents.”
Community organizer Jamil Suleman also spoke during the rally about how the location for Amazon’s permit is an essential transit hub, surrounded by preschools, Franklin High School, and new residential units that have been developed around the Mount Baker light rail station. He also talked about the labor unionizing movement that is sweeping the country.
“There’s a reason why people are unionizing across the country, whether it be Starbucks or whether it be Amazon or any other major corporation in America,” Suleman said. “That reason is because we’ve been exploited by the richest people on our planet, who live in this city.”
One of the youth speakers that spoke during the rally was a Franklin High School graduate that organized alongside Anakbayan South Seattle, an anti-imperialist cultural organization that advocates for the rights of Filipinos living in the Philippines and abroad.
“I can’t help but connect that [development] to what happens in the Philippines, where farmers and peasants face land seizure and near indentured servitude at the hands of landlords who work together with multinational corporations, such as Amazon, to extract resources and labor, [and] that resources and labor are stolen historically from marginalized communities,” they said.
While many gathered to urge Amazon to pull its permit, Suleman reiterated the importance for the community investment into BIPOC youth at Franklin High School and other nearby schools.
“All of these murals that are going on here, these young people have a vision for this community,” Suleman said while pointing across the street to the murals alongside the fence at Franklin High School. “Everything has to be communal; these young people know that they want to localize our neighborhoods, and make sure that we’re empowered.”
Several of the speakers during the rally emphasized the importance of grassroots organizing, and its role in bringing communities together for their cause. As the rally came to a close, a banner was dropped alongside the walkway above Rainier Avenue South with the words “Keep Amazon Out of Mt Baker.”
“Time and time again, when developing the warehouses, Amazon tries to hide it from the public until it’s too late,” Thompson-Wiley said. “We’re going to continue to organize and get together.”
As of July 28, the permitting process is in fact incomplete. According to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI), “At present, the applicant has submitted preliminary application material, which includes a brief project description, a site plan, and applicant contact information listed under a tracking number 002423-21PA. No complete permit applications have been filed and no other plans have been provided to SDCI. On April 6, 2021, SDCI staff asked for more detailed information to process the Preliminary Application Form, which must be completed before the applicant begins the permitting process. We haven’t received that information yet.”
Ronnie Estoque is a South Seattle-based freelance photographer and videographer. You can keep up with his work by checking out his website.
? Featured Image: On July 23, 2022, local community leaders gathered at the closed-down Starbucks across from Franklin High School for a rally in opposition to a proposed Amazon warehouse in the neighborhood. (Photo: Ronnie Estoque)
Be the first to get new stories sent straight into your inbox.
Join 1,699 other subscribers