Vigil, march protests police violence
About 80 people gathered at the corner of Seattle's Boren Avenue and Howell Street on Tuesday evening to draw attention to police violence and in particular the slaying of Williams, 50, a transient Native American wood carver, who was killed by Seattle police Officer Ian Birk on Aug. 30.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The sight of the sidewalk where John T. Williams was killed made Trina Thornton stop mid-sentence and point.
"My uncle got killed right there," she said.
She stood at Boren Avenue and Howell Street Tuesday evening, joining about 80 others gathered to draw attention to police violence and in particular the slaying of Williams, 50, a Native American woodcarver killed by Seattle police Officer Ian Birk on Aug. 30. Williams, who was often homeless, was also known to be a chronic inebriate.
Birk, 27, shot Williams, who was carrying a 3-inch folding knife, when he failed to put down the knife after being repeatedly ordered to do so.
Thornton, who is also Native American, said Williams was not her biological uncle but she felt as if she were a part of his family. "We love our elders," she said.
A Seattle affiliate of the October 22nd Coalition, a national group concerned about police violence, organized Tuesday's "vigil and speakout." Several people spoke into a megaphone, held signs with Williams' photo and clutched some of his carvings. Williams often carved and sold miniature totem poles.
Feanette Blackbear held what she said was the last piece Williams worked on before he died. It looked to be barely started — with only a few notches cut out of the thick wood. Sofia Porter admired a complete carving he had given her.
"We're going to pass it on through the family," she said.
Some people who joined the rally are or have been members of Seattle's homeless community and knew Williams from the streets.
Brenda Michael said she met Williams about eight years ago when she was living in a park on Capitol Hill.
"He was a really gentle person," she said. "Violence is not in his nature."
The group later marched, stretching for more than a block as they walked and chanted, to the Seattle Police Department's West Precinct.
Information from The Seattle Times archives was used in this report.
Carly Flandro: 206-464-2108 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo captions that appeared in this article incorrectly identified Dawn Williams as a sister of Native-American carver John T. Williams. Although Ms. Williams identified herself that way to photographers, two of John Williams' brothers said Dawn Williams is not related to them. John Williams was fatally shot Aug. 30 by a Seattle police officer.
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