ForFortyTwo, a Kent group in favor of defunding Kent Police, says it is “disappointed” but “not surprised” that Mayor Dana Ralph issued a directive to advance race and equity initiatives after a City Council majority postponed adoption of the resolution.
“We are disappointed that Mayor Ralph decided to issue this mayoral directive when she is aware that this resolution falls short of what BIPOC Kent residents asked,” according to a ForFortyTwo statement emailed to the Kent Reporter. “Although we are disappointed, we are not surprised that an elected official would move to silence Black, Indigenous, and People of Color voices.”
ForFortyTwo is named for the number of Kent public schools.
“We are tired of seeing the same imbalances and inaction from elected officials that ignore BIPOC demands,” according to the group. “We must be able to control what happens in our city. We will not allow for racial inequity and injustice to continue to exist in this city, regardless of how much Mayor Ralph attempts to suppress us.”
Council members Marli Larimer, Satwinder Kaur, Brenda Fincher and Zandria Michaud voiced concerns at a Oct. 6 meeting that the race and equity resolution needed to be revised before a vote. Council President Toni Troutner, Bill Boyce and Les Thomas each said they supported the measure.
Larimer, Kaur and Fincher said in a statement to the Kent Reporter after the vote to table the measure that the resolution doesn’t commit the city to providing a mental health co-response model and transparent police data collection should the state Legislature fail to do so. They also oppose Ralph’s move because, “it is incumbent on us as elected representatives to listen to our residents who told us very clearly on Tuesday (Oct. 6) that this document, even with amendments, was not a sufficient start.”
Several ForFortyTwo members testified at the virtual council meeting that the resolution isn’t strong enough to make any difference. The group wants a 50% cut in officers and more funds to support Black, Indigenous and people of color and youth.
“Dana Ralph continues to ignore the demands of the Kent Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) community and has chosen to issue a mayoral directive to pass a race and equity resolution that she claims ‘cannot wait,’” according to the ForFortyTwo statement. “Rushing to pass this race and equity resolution after BIPOC youth and communities spoke against it at the Oct. 6 city council meeting is a form of gaslighting. It undermines the perspective of BIPOC youth who have been organizing in the city for months, controls the narrative regarding racial injustice in Kent and forcefully diminishes the voices of BIPOC Kent residents.”
ForFortyTwo formed after a Black Lives Matter peaceful protest march through downtown Kent in June following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The group organized its own protest in August outside of City Hall and the Police Department to defund police and spend more money on BIPOC and youth programs.
The group said after the council voted unanimously to table the resolution, council members Fincher, Larimer and Kaur reached out to ForFortyTwo to engage in open dialogue. The group said it has not heard from Ralph.
“Dana Ralph and most city council members have not consulted with BIPOC communities to make a genuine effort at actual change,” according to the group. “Dana Ralph cannot wait to pass a heavily criticized race and equity resolution but she has no issue choosing to not talk with BIPOC folks. Every legislative decision the mayor and council members pass without community engagement gets them one step further from challenging themselves with creative solutions that account for community concerns. They are ignoring the communities they claim to engage with, simplifying their role in governing.”
Ralph in a press release about her reasons for issuing the directive said initiatives needed to move forward and community members will be involved in a future strategic plan on race and equity. The directive includes the creation of an equity manager position, review of hiring and promotion practices, race and equity training for all city employees, the formalization of the police department’s diversity task force and review of police policies including use-of-force policies, duty-to-intervene policies and equity policies.
“As the 10th most diverse city in the country we simply can’t kick the can down the road on such a critical issue,” Ralph said. “We must take steps today to ensure Kent is a welcoming place with a government that serves all residents equitably and with the respect they deserve. This directive doesn’t replace a much larger strategic plan we need to create. During the creation of that plan we will engage our BIPOC community to incorporate their vision into our shared plan.”
ForFortyTwo disagrees with even calling it a race and equity resolution or directive.
“The mayor, council members, and the community at large should take this moment to learn that equity is impossible to approach without the inclusion of race, so calling a resolution race and equity does not make sense,” according to the statement. “Race must be understood to be what it is, a structure of inequity. True equity cannot be achieved without combating racism and white supremacy. Furthermore, true equity cannot be achieved without the leadership and guidance of those most impacted by inequity: Black, Indigenous, People of Color, youth and otherwise marginalized communities.”