Longtime activist cites history of cooperation between Asians, Black Americans after being targeted in hate attack

harriet walden

Police brutality and social justice activist Rev. Harriett Walden was subject to an assault on Nov. 18 and has since spoken out about the increase of hate crimes against Black and Asian Americans.

The incident: Walden, a 75-year-old Seattle resident, was called slurs and hit with a bottle of motor oil while crossing Columbia Street at First Avenue in Seattle around 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 18, reported The Seattle Times.

  • Walden called into a news conference on Nov. 23 where she recounted the attack.
  • She said a white man, approximately 30 years old, stopped at a red light and began yelling slurs and insults at her. He kept approaching Walden in his car, causing her to think he was going to hit her.
  • She kept walking and was struck in the lower back by a bottle of motor oil, causing her to nearly lose her balance and later leaving bruises.
  • Walden said that she was blessed that her attacker only had the motor oil to use as a weapon to hurt her.
  • “It was melanin that set the guy off, OK? Let’s be clear. It was melanin, and it’s not going away,” Walden said at the news conference.

Call to action: Walden, the co-founder of Mothers for Police Accountability and a longtime community advocate for Seattle Police reform, said the encounter left her “stunned.” Now, she is making a call to action to stop hate crimes against all races.

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  • A Seattle resident for 45 years, Walden recognizes an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans in the city.
  • While making her statement she said Black and Asian Americans “have lived in this country for generations and have a long history of working together on social justice issues.”
  • “If you don’t like living in a community with all people, you best try to get your own spaceship. There’s a place for you, but it might not be in Seattle,” Walden continued. “Hatred is in the head. Love is in the heart. In order to move the energy, we have to move from our head to our heart. And that’s where we solve problems at.”
  • She is calling for the media and wider Seattle communities to work together to come up with a plan to cover and assist in the unification of their communities.
  • “There’s a lot of new people here and that’s good. … And they might think this is normal. This is not normal Seattle,” she said.

Investigation: The Seattle Police Department (SPD) is currently investigating the encounter as a hate crime.

  • The department’s online blotter detailed the incident without naming Walden as the victim: “Police are following leads in the case but are hoping someone out there may have more information about the driver and his dark-colored hatchback, which may have been lowered.”
  • Those with information on the assault are asked to call SPD’s violent crimes tip line at 206-233-5000. 

According to data provided by a spokesperson for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, there have been 209 criminal charges involving hate crime elements since 2018. Thus far in 2021, there have been 10 hate crime charges filed in cases with Black victims and seven involving Asian victims.

Featured Image via Jud Morris, Church Council of Greater Seattle

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