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First sit-in arrests of Seattle's civil rights movement occur on July 25, 1963.

HistoryLink.org Essay 3162 : Printer-Friendly Format

On July 25, 1963, police arrest 22 persons in the first arrests of the civil rights movement in Seattle. The demonstrators are protesting Mayor Gordon S. Clinton’s (1920-2011) nominees for a newly created human rights commission. Protesters had occupied the chambers of the city council for four days and are arrested after refusing a police order to leave.

The Seattle City Council had met on July 22, 1963, to consider Clinton’s nominees for the 12-member commission, charged with writing an open housing ordinance. Racial discrimination in housing in Seattle was a major source of discontent among African Americans, and Clinton had named only two African Americans to the commission. Three hundred people concerned about the commission crowded into the chambers designed to accommodate 170. At the end of the council meeting, four young African American women, Infanta Spence, 21; Beverly Hubbard, 17; Sally Sagasi, 16; and Edna Reid, 11; sat down in protest. Leaders called for more protesters.

The demonstrators occupied the 11th floor chambers for four days. On July 25, as council members were stepping through people lying on the floor, Councilman Charles M. Carroll fell. The council decided to remove the protesters when the building closed that afternoon. At 5:00 p.m., Acting Police Chief Charles A. Rouse ordered the protesters to leave. He told them, "A police record will stay with you all the rest of your lives. I think you could accomplish your purpose in a better manner." Uniformed officers "using care, but acting firmly" (The Seattle Times) removed each person to an elevator and to jail.

Nine adults and 13 juveniles were arrested for creating a disturbance, loitering in a public building, and resisting arrest:

  • Marjorie Lou Rader, student nurse, age 22, Seattle
  • Infanta Maria Spence, student, 21, Seattle
  • Ray Alan Cooper, laborer, 21, Seattle
  • Gary Glenn Givens, musician, 21, Seattle
  • Mellina Elizabeth Jones, unemployed, 20, Seattle
  • Alice Naomi Gilmartin, student, 20, Seattle
  • Susan Van Donge, canvasser, 20, Seattle
  • Zonyia Cheryle Clayton, secretary, 20, Seattle
  • Patricia Ann Johnston, student, 19, Kent
  • Patti Louise Rabbit, 16, Seattle
  • Linda Renee Givens, 15, Seattle
  • Betty Joan Ellis, 15, Seattle
  • Johnell Doreen White, 15, Seattle
  • Jacqueline Marie Ellis, 11, Seattle
  • Johnnie Lee Jenkins, 16, Seattle
  • Clarence Sylvan Ellis, Jr., 16, Seattle
  • Gregory Odell Brooks, 16, Seattle
  • Zelda Juel Brooks, 14, Seattle
  • Kevin Michael Guilmet, 15, Edmonds
  • David K. Jones, 15, Tacoma
  • Frederick Ticeson Garret, 14, Seattle
  • John Reed Rabbit, 13, Seattle

Mayor Clinton was "grieved" that they city had to resort to arrests. Councilman Wing Luke stated, "I am not at all convinced that this (removal) was necessary" (The Seattle Times).

The Human Rights Commission was established by the city council and was asked to draft an open housing ordinance. Civil rights leaders critical of the panel's lack of diversity were surprised when it proposed an ordinance providing for criminal penalties for discrimination in housing based on race.

Seattle voters rejected the ordinance in March 1964. The city council passed an open housing ordinance in April 1968.

Sources:
"Negro Girls Lead Sit-in at City Hall," The Seattle Times, July 22, 1963, p. 1; "Group Continues Sit-in at City Hall," Ibid., July 23, 1963, p. 11; "Sit-in Sends Councilman Sprawling," Ibid., July 25, 1963, p. 1; Douglas Willix, "Necessity for Arrests Grieves Mayor," Ibid., July 26, 1963, p. 2; Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle's Central District from 1870s through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994), 205-208.
Note: This essay was corrected on April 19, 2012.


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