COVID-19 Mutual Aid Seattle:
A Community Public Health Guide
We are rooted in local mutual aid and international solidarity with our communities globally who are facing the same crisis.
We are led by BIPOC communities drawing on our collective legacies of multigenerational, creative resilience.
We aim to cultivate a politics of liberation through anti-racism, decolonial, anti-capitalist, queer, feminist, disability justice centered, class struggle politics.
We are building community power, community control and autonomy.
No Body is Disposable.
Close all prisons, jails, juvies, and detention centers now!
1. Our Values
- Abolition of Police and Prisons
- Anti-racist & Pro-liberation Organizing
- Creativity, Art, & Cultural Organizing
- Disability Liberation
- Feminist and Queer Liberation
- Honor the Legacy of Intergenerational and Current Displacement
- International solidarity
- Mutual aid not Charity
- Sustainability and Accountability
- Working Class
More on what those mean here.
We point to the beloved communities in Seattle and the Greater Seattle region we have been a part of. The collective resilience, nurturing and networking within and across our predominantly BIPOC communities have allowed us to respond quickly to this crisis.
Furthermore, many of us are connected to communities in China that had first been impacted by COVID 19. We conducted a fundraiser and hosted anti-racist conversations to address the impending public health crisis that President Trump insists on calling the “Chinese virus.” When Seattle became the epicenter of the crisis, our loved ones in China offered advice and suggestions on how we can address it collectively.
COVID 19 is a global pandemic. We are pushed more than ever now to operate with anti-racist, disability justice values that recognize that no one is disposable, and to connect with our communities globally in to support and address this crisis.
1) Our list of demands and principles from an abolitionist, anti racist, anti-capitalist, working class perspective.
Disaster capitalism has often been a place for the far-right and their corporations to seize more legitimacy and control (i.e. to profit from the suffering of others – often disasters which they are responsible for). However, the right lacks the capacity, imagination, and knowledge to address the underlying social issues because they are so adamantly loyal to the laws of capitalist value that they will sacrifice our well-being and freedom to adhere to them.
We are creative. We care for one another. We value lives. No one is disposable. From this place, we develop demands that center our collective well-being and liberation.
Individual Behavior Change:
- Accurate information on public health behaviors
- Resources that make such behavioral change possible such as
- Access to hand sanitizers and hygiene products
2) Socializing and Collectivizing the impacts and collateral damage of COVID 19 through COVID-19
We recognize that many communities are already supporting each other through their networks, some of which were created in the wake of the 2016 elections and others which go back decades. This would be to supplement and enhance the work
3) Workers, Quarantines — who bears the burden of “safety” and “prevention”
We were envisioning having an event where workers — union, non-union, undocumented, and precarious etc –can come together to figure out strategies to avoid this false choice of keeping ourselves and our communities safe by not going to work, and having to survive economically. What are ways in which we can resource people to take time off if they need so they don’t individually bear the burden of quarantine?
– Demanding quarantine/social wage or hazard pay
– Fundraising for workers to take time off if they need
– Pressure on employers who won’t let people take time off — phonecalls, boycotts
– Support for front-line workers who are still exposed because they do crucial direct service work. Such as supporting nurses and other healthcare workers.
We are hoping to engage with existing unions for resources, Kshama’s office, and other institutional folks who can support. Also hoping to engage SeaSol and other mutual aid labor formations.
We are doing a call soon. Please LMK (@ insert email address here) if you’re interested.
4) Prisons and detention centers
Our folks who are currently incarcerated are extremely vulnerable right now. Hoping we can have an abolitionist response to the public health crisis that is about to break out in these institutions. King County Jail is no longer taking new bookings and I think this could be an opportunity for us to demand the release of folks in KCJ as well as the juvi, and even DOC. Could we draft a collective demand letter to the county and the state that makes a public health argument for why folks need to be out and for the state to take on the responsibility of taking drastic measures to provide adequate housing for folks.
A Community Public Health Guide:
An Abolitionist, Anti-Racist, Anti-Capitalist, Working Class response to COVID-19
We are regular folks in Seattle and King County who have been active in various organizing campaigns, mutual aid work, and more importantly, in community with each other. In moments of crisis, we realize that the fabric of our communities’ values are what we lean on.
COVID-19 has created a climate of uncertainty, anxiety and fear. We realize how fragile and incompetent our state infrastructure is in providing care and support. The impacts of austerity and systematic divestment from the essential functions of the state are made apparent to us. When disasters strike under these conditions, they threaten to amplify the suffering, oppression, and alienation we face in our everyday lives.
The State justifies its existence through dividing us by perpetuating the narrative that without the police, the military, and the prison warden, communities would descend into chaos and destruction. It also justifies its existence by holding a monopoly on the services upon which we all depend for our survival (and criminalizing those who attempt to organize these services on their own): healthcare, public health, housing, food, education, etc. However, over the last 40 years of neoliberalism, the State has cut back on social services, while continuing to ramp up violence against communities of color and workers by investing in prisons, police, the military, and other agencies and practices of surveillance and control.
Public health agencies are grossly underfunded, affordable housing is hardly available – forcing houseless folx to sleep in underfunded and crowded shelters, social services and harm reduction keep people struggling everyday — exacerbating disasters and disease outbreaks (whether it’s Hepatitis A, HIV, tuberculosis, or COVID-19). In Seattle, half of the city’s budget, a booming $400 million, goes into the Seattle Police Department, infamous for its deadly overuse of force and discriminatory patrolling; meanwhile Washington’s legislature and governor have kept funding for public health so low in the state that the Department of Health could not afford to service equipment or maintain their laboratory facility. Local health agencies depend on temporary, precarious grants for health programs, destroying any sense of community stability. Many health workers spend a significant amount of their time writing grants pleading for money instead of being able to use that time to serve the public good.
We see the consequences of neoliberalism in the chaotic scramble our informal community has had to organize to support each other, workers, parents, youth, elders, folks with disabilities, and our incarcerated loved ones, in this moment of crisis. Our action as a community is an act of rebellion against the logic of the state and neoliberal capitalism.
The continuing and accelerating community transmission of COVID-19 is a direct result of existing structural and systemic disenfranchisement which creates the conditions for poor health and vulnerability amongst us. COVID-19 has been declared a disaster by the City of Seattle, King County, the State of Washington, and now the Federal government. But what defines a disaster? A disaster occurs when a community is overwhelmed and unable to respond to a hazard (such as a storm, disease outbreak, or earthquake). For example, a strong storm that hits a well-built, healthy, prepared, and resilient community is not a disaster, but simply a minor inconvenience. An infectious disease which makes it into a well-prepared community will be prevented from spreading. In other words, a disaster is the result of the social relationships that drive our ability as a community to prevent, mitigate, prepare, respond, and recover. From this understanding we can see that there is no such thing as a “natural disaster”, and that the State and Capitalism – hierarchical relationships rooted in violence – continue to be the leading drivers of disasters here in Seattle, and worldwide.
We draw from Ruth Gilmore Wilson’s definition of racism:
“Racism, specifically, is the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death.”
Our community response to this epidemic addresses the oppressive structures from which it emerged by imagining the community structures and relationships we desire: equal, voluntary, and free from the corrupting influence of capital. Structural interventions are our way of surrendering our power to the state in the name of public health crisis and emergency. An opportunity we know it relishes.
In addition, we intervene on the level of community networks and individual support.