A protest urging the community to stand in solidarity against police brutality and racism in police departments will be held Thursday, August 6, at 6:30 pm outside the Auburn Police Department. The Rally for Justice will be a peaceful protest to “raise awareness to the blind eye the Auburn police department, its Police Chief, and Mayor have demonstrated [with] their inactions in disciplining violent officers,” said rally co-organizer Elaine Simons.
Simons is the foster mother of Jesse Sarey (26), who was shot and killed last year during a confrontation with Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson.
Just after 6:00 pm on Friday, May 31, 2019, Nelson responded to reports of a man throwing and kicking objects at cars. After initial contact with Sarey near Walgreens, Nelson re-contacted him outside Sunshine Grocery on Auburn Way N. According to Nelson, he had probable cause to arrest Sarey for Disorderly Conduct. A physical altercation ensued after Sarey allegedly resisted the arrest. Sarey was shot twice during the altercation.
“All we ask is justice for our families and loves ones they lost.”
Sarey was transported to Harborview Medical Center, where he died from his injuries. “My foster son died alone in the hospital without the love and comfort of his family. Our notification of his death was from the medical examiner after he had already died,” said Simons.
Nelson was placed on paid administrative leave immediately after the incident. The King County Prosecutor’s office has not yet made a charging determination in the case. Currently, Nelson is on administrative duty and has no contact with the public. This has caused an outcry from the community and Sarey’s family, demanding that Nelson be terminated and prosecuted.
When asked why Nelson remains with the department, City of Auburn Communications Division Manager Kalyn Brady stated that “given the ongoing nature of this case, we aren’t able to provide any additional comment at this time.”
Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant
Simons explains that “this rally is to shine light to all the unjustified killings of black, brown and native bodies. Each time we see in the news yet another person of color killed by police, it triggers families all over the nation of loss love ones and a systemic racist police system.”
The full list of the rally organizer’s demands can be found on the Facebook event page. Some of the demands include defunding the Auburn police department by 50% and requiring all Auburn police officers to be equipped with body cameras while on duty.
Auburn Police Commander Mike Hirman explained body cameras are used by Auburn police traffic unit, parking control, animal control, and bicycle officers. When it comes to the remaining officers, Hirman states, “We simply do not have funding for body cams for all officers. As it is, we have those body cams on the officers I mentioned earlier, the other cameras are dash cameras and remote microphones on the patrol officers.”
“All we ask is justice for our families and loves ones they lost,” said Simons.
Voices of the Rally
Like the ‘I Can’t Breathe’ BLM protest held June 2, there will be guest speakers from the families of those impacted by police-involved shootings. The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe will also be present, opening the rally with Native Land Acknowledgments.
Speakers expected at Thursday’s rally include members of Sarey’s family, including Simons, and the Asian Pacific Islander community. Rally co-organizer Katrina Johnson will also be speaking. Johnson’s cousin Charleena Lyles was fatally shot by two Seattle police officers three years ago.
During the rally, Simran Chhetri will be presenting a petition that’s goal is “accountability [and] justice for the murder of Jesse Sarey.”
Simons states, “We need to keep saying the names of those loved ones, such as Jesse Sarey, that have been executed by unnecessary police brutality. Take to the streets and speak out to the unjustified murders of loved ones like Jesse Sarey until something is done.”
After the June 2 protest, Mayor Nancy Backus acknowledged, “the first step [to be an inclusive and equitable city] has already been taken, and that is just to listen. We need to really hear what our communities of color have to say. Secondly, we will continue with even more fervor the work we started last year around equity in Auburn. The protests have only deepened our resolve to break down the barriers that keep people of color from obtaining equal footing with the rest of us. It is no longer OK for anyone to remain silent, turn a blind eye, or deny that there’s a problem. And it is on us – those of us with privilege. I need to be clear on Auburn’s effort, though. While the end result is the same for all communities, how we achieve our end result is unique. We are not Seattle. We are not Minneapolis. We are not Atlanta. We are Auburn, and we must honor that too.”
Keeping The Rally Safe
The June 2 protest was peaceful, with an estimated 1,000 participants. The same intentions are present for the upcoming family-friendly Rally for Justice this Thursday. However, as many peaceful protests around the nation have swiftly turned into volatile riots, the safety of all involved remains at the forefront for both the protest organizers and the Auburn police department.
Hirman states, “We are working on a deployment plan which changes as we receive additional information.” Although the Auburn police department does not discuss specific tactics, Hirman continued, “we are working on safety contingencies for all involved.” “Please wear masks and practice social distancing!”
“Please wear masks and practice social distancing!”
Simons has also expressed her desire to keep things peaceful. ‘My son was killed because of violence. Our goal is non-violent; however, we have no control over folks with other intentions. We can only hope.”
Like many protests, Simons shared that Thursday’s rally will have independent medics and a safety team. Mutual Aid South King County will provide these precautionary teams.
After bricks were found in many trash cans around downtown Auburn ahead of the June 2 protest, safety concerns of the community and local businesses were raised. Backus shared her disappointment regarding the pre-placed items, stating, “I was shocked to hear what our staff members [found]. I am glad we were able to prevent whatever the persons that placed them there were planning.”
Hirman explains that there will be sweeping of the area ahead of time to ensure projectiles are not placed near the protest site.
Social distancing is also a key concern for the protest organizers.
“Please wear masks and practice social distancing!” urged Simons. “We will have some masks on hand for free if needed.” There will be hand-made and disposable face masks provided by the Sarey family to encourage a safe social gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There will be a Facebook Live video for those who can’t attend. Updates and additional information regarding the event will be posted on the Facebook event page here.
The Auburn Examiner supports those who exercise their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. We encourage anyone who is uncertain of this, or any, protest environment to remain home and support the protest cause in another manner. If you are protesting and at any time it becomes an unsafe situation, for your safety, we urge you to leave immediately.