Days before the anniversary of Manuel Ellis’ death, about 200 people marched a mile through Tacoma, quiet except for the beating of a drum.
The “silent march” Sunday was organized by Black religious leaders in Tacoma to commemorate Ellis, who was killed by Tacoma police on March 3, 2020.
Members of the Tacoma Ministerial Alliance said they modeled the event on the 1917 Silent Parade through Manhattan, at which thousands of people marched quietly to protest incidents of white mob violence against Black people. Similar to the 1917 event, many of the Tacoma marchers wore white clothing.
The Rev. Leslie Braxton, pastor of New Beginnings Christian Fellowship in Kent, said the 1917 marchers had “to try and convince the world that they were not violent and need not be feared, even though they were the ones that were massacred in the riots.”
“That’s the burden that falls on us,” Braxton said. “It’s the reason why unarmed people like Manuel Ellis can be hogtied by people who are supposed to protect and to serve, because when you’re Black you are always suspicious.”
Ellis, 33, died after police handcuffed him on the ground on a residential street in Tacoma, placed a “spit hood” over his head and placed a “hobble” on his legs. The Pierce County medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, attributing it to lack of oxygen due to the way he was restrained and the spit hood. The medical examiner also said methamphetamine and heart disease were contributing factors.
Ellis’ younger sister, Monet Carter-Mixon, and older brother, Matthew Ellis, walked at the front of the march along with members of Ellis’ extended family.
Marchers moved through Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood to People’s Park, where religious leaders led the group in prayer and made appeals to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson to hold police accountable.
Ferguson’s office is deciding whether to charge any of the officers involved in Ellis’ death and said a decision is expected in roughly six weeks.
“I don’t break windows, and I don’t loot,” Braxton said to the crowd. “But I do say to those whom we’ve entrusted with power that we will make your life miserable until you do with your power what you were entrusted to do with your power and protect the poor, protect the powerless.”
Activists with Tacoma Action Collective called on people to call and email Ferguson’s office and demand officials charge the officers.
“We’re going to allow Mr. Ferguson to hear from us, one and all,” said Lawrence White, who leads Church of the Living God in Tacoma. “One voice, one passion, one commitment, one burden, one family under God.”
Ronnie Estoque is a reporter and photographer with the South Seattle Emerald. This story is a co-publishing partnership with the South Seattle Emerald.