SEATTLE — As the mother of a Black son, the police killing of yet another Black man has been on state Rep. April Berg’s mind relentlessly.
“I cried,” Berg said of Tyre Nichols. “And I took a minute. And then I realized, I’m policymaker. And we have work to do.”
Nichols, 29, succumbed to his injuries three days after being beaten by Memphis police officers who pulled him over for a traffic stop Jan. 7. Vice President Kamala Harris and civil rights activist Al Sharpton spoke at Nichols’ funeral Wednesday after a string of national protests.
Berg and state Sen. John Lovick discussed the killing, education and political differences Wednesday in Seattle at a “Civic Cocktail” event. Berg and Lovick represent the 44th Legislative District, encompassing Mill Creek, Snohomish and Maltby. Along with Brandy Donaghy, the three legislators comprise the only all-Black delegation in Washington since the 1970s.
Alicia Crank, executive director of Seattle CityClub, moderated their discussion at The Collective, a social club in Seattle’s South Lake Union. The conversation kicked off Black History Month.
Berg touched on proposed House Bill 1513 called “Traffic Safety for All” that would aim to improve traffic safety by focusing enforcement resources on high-risk behavior. According to the bill, data shows that “high discretion” traffic violations, including those unrelated to road safety, fall “disproportionately on Black, brown, and Indigenous road users, as well as low-income road users.”
The bill would aim to reduce biased traffic stops.
Lovick recounted growing up in Louisiana as a young Black man, with the fear that his grandmother endured every time he left the house. He spoke of the fear he now has for his children and grandchildren.
“What a burden we carry,” Lovick said. “If you looked at the crowd tonight, people were there from all races, all sexes, all orientations, and that is what this is about. … Start celebrating each other.”
Another proposed bill, House Bill 1025, would allow victims of police misconduct to sue for damages in civil court and move to end qualified immunity for police officers.
Berg, of Mill Creek, won her second term in office last November, defeating Republican challenger Ryne Rohla. Lovick, also of Mill Creek, won his second term after getting appointed to the Senate seat in fall 2021. He beat Republican challenger Jeb Brewer.
Asked to name an issue where the two Democrats differ, Lovick, the former Snohomish County sheriff, said he is a “big fan” of school resource officers and the partnerships they offer.
Speaking on other current events involving questions of race, Berg, “a recovering school board director,” said she was “disappointed” to see the news that The College Board had altered its Advanced Placement African American studies program to remove Black writers associated with Critical Race Theory and queer studies, among other changes.
“I truly believe that (the Florida governor’s push to change the AP program was) about us not being seen as fully human and valuable and historical,” Berg said.
She advised people to explore the breadth of educational opportunities in each community and to not rely exclusively on one option, like AP.
“Know what your districts offer. Know what the community organizations in your areas offer,” Berg said. “Don’t rely on a system that was not made for us completely.”
Berg also briefly talked about Washington’s “upside down” tax policy, saying “poverty is a policy choice” that Washington continues to make. In past Herald interviews, Berg has said the state relies too heavily on sales tax.
Crank currently writes a column for the Daily Herald. On Jan. 28, she wrote that her current role at the Seattle CityClub is “a culmination of my life’s journey to this point.”
“As some areas of society becomes more polarized, and people want and deserve to be heard, civility in sharing views has been on a steady decline,” Crank wrote. “It’s challenging to maintain civility amid disrespectful exchanges, but I find it a noble cause to keep pursuing.”
Kayla J. Dunn: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @KaylaJ_Dunn.
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