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As city workers dismantle the CHOP, Omari Salisbury reflects

caption: Omari Salisbury of Converge Media outside his office in the (former) CHOP.
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Omari Salisbury of Converge Media outside his office in the (former) CHOP.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

From Seattle's protests after the killing of George Floyd to the closing of the CHOP, journalist Omari Salisbury with Converge Media has been live-streaming from the scene every single day.

Now, as police and city workers dismantle the CHOP, he stands in his doorway overlooking Cal Anderson Park. And he struggles with emotion while answering a seemingly simple question: What do you see out there?

The following is his answer.


ow, that's a that's a tough question. Clearly, you know, through one lens I just see Cal Anderson Park, but, I mean, it's been a lot over the last month, you know.

It was a week right there, the western barricade was there. I remember all those long nights there covering that and everything from you know, tear gas and rubber bullets, to me and Bobby Stills and Eric Calligraphy running to make a human chain because some kids wanted to charge the police station and we ran over to stop them.

I just I remember so many people, who … It’s really the majority of people who just wanted to be heard. I mean, we reach the end of these things and, you know, sometimes these arguments are so polarizing. We forget that there's just a lot of people who just really just want to be heard in a peaceful way and in a peaceful capacity.

When I look out here, I see a missed opportunity by our leaders to lead. You know what I'm saying?

I see the gap that’s in our city, between the street level and City Hall. You have to imagine that this whole thing came and went and not one person —and this very well may be the saddest thing that we could say about our city — that in one month, there wasn't one person that could build genuine ties, and genuine understanding between City Hall and the streets. That's a sad state for our city to be in, you know, and that was something that was really unveiled right here.

Imagine that even right now, you've got the mayor and the council member for this district ... they're trying to throw each other out of office and everything else. But there was nobody, with this national and international spotlight, who could just emerge here, and who could just speak with a little bit of humanity, to the people in the street and understand it, and also build a bridge down the City Hall, and everything else.

What I see is, what would have happened if there was just a little bit of trust? If the protesters would had been able to march peacefully through like they always said? They never burned this precinct. And these guys, they sat out there, you know, and they protected it.

I see amazing people, like the people from Seattle public works... like [Seattle Public Utilities' General Manager Mami Hara], you know, I'm seeing her out here every day building ties and then the protesters have so much respect for SPU, so much respect for those workers. There is so much respect for [Seattle Fire] Chief Scoggins and so much respect for [Seattle Department of Transportation] Director [Sam] Zimbabwe.

I mean, those those were people on the city level, who walked the streets every day and they talked to different protesters of all kinds of background or whatever, and they had meaningful, you know, meaningful conversations.

I see a neighborhood that supported this protest, and a neighborhood that also probably feels somewhat a bit heartbroken that something that they were so supportive of probably didn't live up to what it could have been in a sense of social change directly. And we never know the outcome. You know, it's not over as to what will occur here.

But that's probably, in one month, the best question that anybody's asked me.

Right now as I look over there to Cal Anderson Park the things that I see are just numerous. But one thing I’ll say for sure is that I still see a lot of optimism and a lot of hope for the future of our city.

KUOW has been collecting first person accounts of this unique moment in history. First the pandemic, then the protests. Share your story here.

Music in this story by Alec Cowan.

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