King County employees and union workers gathered at the King County Administration building in Seattle on Friday Aug. 6 to march for women’s safety at work.
The march was organized after a man assaulted a woman in the bathroom of the King County Courthouse on July 29, 2021. Workers who spoke during the march said the attack in July was only the latest in a long line of violent incidents in and around the courthouse.
At 12:00 p.m. on Friday around 100 workers, many dressed in bright blue shirts that read “Aware of my surroundings and still not safe,” and “Until we all are safe, no one is” listened as their colleagues described their experiences of feeling unsafe at work.
Many who spoke said that when they brought safety concerns to their bosses, they were told “be aware of your surroundings,” and that nothing was actually done to address their concerns.
During a speech, Amy Freedheim of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office said the issue of safety around the courthouse isn’t a new concern; it’s been a concern for years among public servants who work in the area.
“A county employee waiting for the bus after work is assaulted and we’re told ‘be aware of your surroundings’ we are, and we are not safe,” Freedheim said. “We are being told to be aware of our surroundings even when an attack happened inside the courthouse… We are furious that our workplace safety is being sacrificed on the altar of political gains, difference and misogyny. We are aware of our surroundings, are you ?”
After Freedheim finished her speech everyone marched down the steps of the administration building and circled the block before gathering outside of the courthouse which is across the street from the administration building.
Some King County Council members have issued statements on the issue of safety at King County buildings. Councilmember Reagan Dunn called for the closure of the courthouse, administration building and the park that sits next to the courthouse shortly after the attack on July 29.
Councilmember Kohl-Welles issued a statement on Thursday in support of the march.
“Although I am unable to join the march in person, I stand in solidarity with the employees and others making their voices heard,” Kohl-Welles said. “I stand with the woman assaulted, with survivors of gender-based violence overall, and with others who understandably may be experiencing a wide range of emotions in the wake of this assault.”
In addition to this, the King County Sheriff’s office recently paused the return to work for their professional staff who work in the buildings.