EVERETT — About 50 people gathered Saturday afternoon in front of the Denney Juvenile Justice Center in Everett to demand its closure, calling it the “injustice center.”
The event was organized by the Snohomish County Equity Alliance as part of its kick-off for the group’s no youth jail campaign.
“Our youth should not be thrown away,” said event organizer Jazz Jarrell.
The group is demanding the youth jail be converted into a community space dedicated to serving the county’s youth, “without giving them a criminal record and starting them down the prison pipeline.” They are also advocating for the county to invest in alternative forms of justice that don’t focus on punishment; for youth to no longer be sent to the Green Hill School correctional facility in Chehalis; and for police to no longer interact with youth in crisis.
Rain sprinkled on the crowd as speakers shared their stories. They related recent encounters with police, including when 18-year-old Benjamin Hansen was arrested for dangling a doughnut in front of a Snohomish County sheriff’s lieutenant, and when another protester was arrested after they got on the hood of an SUV and was carried down the street. Marysville musicians retold the story of how they were cited for their weekly protests of police brutality.
Attorney Braden Pence spoke about the case of a 17-year-old girl who was shot five times in the back by Arlington police in 2017, and survived. Police reported Nina Semone Robinson had attacked them with a knife. She was charged as an adult after she turned 18, and eventually entered an Alford plea to two misdemeanors, fourth-degree assault and unlawful display of a weapon. The lawsuit contended Robinson was acting suicidal and that police weren’t properly trained to handle the situation, and instead needlessly escalated it. The city settled the lawsuit for $1.5 million.
“Everything that happened to her, the shooting, the prosecution, the delay in charging, everything was legal. Everything fits within the rules of the system as it exists,” Pence said. “It’s a perfect demonstration of why it has to change.”
Many of the cases talked about at the rally didn’t directly involve the Denney Juvenile Justice Center.
After the speakers were done talking, the group marched down to nearby Wiggums Hollow Park, where the event continued into the afternoon.
Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @zachariahtb.