Pierce Pioneer

Local Activism Sparking Social Change

Social Justice is becoming a hot topic


Streets have been flooded with protestors throughout the country, and those in Tacoma have not been left out. Massive protests have drawn thousands to march; one of the more notable was Woman's march, that spanned through Olympia, Tacoma, and Seattle, as well as being a global protest crossing every time zone. More recently, the March for Science that took place Earth day, just one month ago bringing hundreds of protestors out once again.

Local and national activism have skyrocketed since the 2016 presidential election, with politics and protests flowing right into mainstream news and becoming a hot topic for people in every social group.

Sparks began nationally after the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9th, 2014. The subsequent protests gained international notoriety, and started a domino effect of activism including other protests and the formation of organizations concerned with a wide variety of social issues.

The most highly publicized issues include things such as immigration, refugees, police brutality, woman’s rights, indigenous treaties, climate change, and LGBT+. The progress made for these issues in the last couple years has spiked as the general public is growing more aware of the many social injustices in the United States and around the world. Pierce County is no exception to this conflagrating activism. Many grass roots groups work throughout the county in efforts against environmental destruction, deportation of immigrants, and discrimination.

Some of the largest marches that have taken place in locally just within the last year include the Woman’s March, the Tax March, and the March for Science. Each had between a few hundred to over ten thousand participants taking a stand, and steps, for a better world.

Pierce College has hosted an event by the People’s Assembly of Tacoma called 'The Takeback' over the last few weeks. This local activist group was formed to promote the advancement of oppressed communities and to spread a message of equality amongst all groups. During the event they use open discussion to encourage people with all perspectives and walks of life to speak up about problematic experiences in their communities, as well as speeches and activities to express their purpose.

Sarah Morken, a prevalent local activist, explains how she began; "I didn't dive headlong into activism. I dabbled for a while when an issue came up that really grabbed me personally." She and her group Redline Tacoma have worked on projects and protests to fight the building of a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) pipeline in Tacoma that has the potential to be extremely dangerous for the local community. She also works with groups like Green Party Tahoma, Youth Activism Pierce County, and Tacoma Direct Action. She is a icon for the many ways in which anyone can become involved in political movements.

Rallies and events have sprung up all across the county, ranging from small groups of people discussing issues, to numbers in the thousands turning out for marches. There are ways anyone can express their views and become a part of an influential movement for change in their community.

Equity Rally: A Coalition for the People

Educators join the AFT Union rally in Olympia


Drudging in freezing cold rain and muddy shoes, activists from all over the state are kept warm with hope as they fight against the possible defunding of public education.

On President’s day, educators and activists united in Olympia to form a line between the legislative building and the temple of Justice. Groups that support Planned Parenthood, fight against for-profit prisons, resist against deportation, and are firm against privatization of public schools all united to contact their local government.

Becca Ritchie, a fellow BAT, who was tired of seeing students struggle in class. “I see institutional racism in classrooms all the time. We need to see structure in this system,” Ritchie said.

Many educators rallied in response to Betsy Devos’ plan for public school education.

Feb. 7, Betsy Devos was sworn in as secretary of education. Devos is very outspoken on funding charter schools and private school, advocating for “educational choice.” However, her education plan on diverting funds for charter schools deeply concern public school educators.

National Public Radio reports her support for the AFC (American Federation for Children), which is a group that favors voucher programs—using state funds for private institutions.

One of the speakers at the rally, Julianna Dauble, an educator in Renton and does not accept Devos’ plan. “A lot of forces are converging. We are on the cusp of change. What we need now is to tax the rich and to support teachers. Washington has one of the worst tax systems, the working class has to pay a huge portion while the rich pay very little.”

AFT Washington is the educational union for state schools and public education. They organize committees for legal defense, auditing, human rights, and legislative power groups. The coordinator for AFT Washington is Jen Haggard-Mlynarek, the person who posted all of the banners on canvas. Haggard summarizes the union’s purpose to achieve equal education for all public schools and to promote social justice.

Educators such as Marc Hobbs and Beth Norman were in allegiance with AFT Washington, a union whose main goal is to have affordable education for all students. Them, along with educator group such as “Bad Ass Teachers” AKA BATs and the Owl group, displayed several banners in plastic bags.

Rally attendants were gathered around the capitol to hear personal stories from many of the speakers. From the prayers of the Yakima natives, to the chants of activists like “if you hurt our schools, you hurt us,” to local community leaders.

Yet even with all the communal support, there was some lash back. One woman held a sign saying, “divert funds for illegals and refugees to public schools.” She began yelling during some of the speeches, but was soon blocked by some of the other people.

At noon, people began to pour into the legislative building to talk with their local legislatures. Senators and House of representatives both had filled aisle seats along with crowded halls of protestors. One by one, each and every person had their voices heard.

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