Seattle rallies for justice for Jaahnavi Kandula
Seattle, WA – On Sunday, January 28, a crowd of community members led by the Seattle Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression gathered on the steps of Seattle's West Precinct. The previous Tuesday, January 23, marked one full year since Jaahnavi Kandula, a 23-year-old student living in Seattle, was hit and killed at a crosswalk by Seattle Police Department Officer Kevin Dave.
Officer Dave was going nearly three times the speed limit without his lights or siren while responding to a non-fatal overdose call and did not stop after he struck and killed Jaahnavi. After a year, the city has taken no action for her and her family.
Community organizers held several vigils in her memory at Seattle's East Precinct as well as the site of her murder in the past week, culminating with the Seattle Alliance’s action where speakers, many affected by police violence themselves, spoke to the importance of real police accountability.
Suresh Chanmugan, of Seattle Tech4Housing, thought the timeline for consequences has been too long, stating, “It's so incredibly clear that he killed Jaahnavi Kandula, and it is unacceptable to me that he has not been charged with the crime of killing Jaahnavi. How can that take a year?”
Chanmugan went on to reference video footage that was released last September, in which top police guild leaders were recorded laughing just after Kandula’s death and saying that her life had “limited value.” Referencing the video, Chanmugan asked, “I wanna know, what did Mike Solan say after Daniel Auderer said she's dead that made Daniel Auderer laugh? Why is Mike Solan not being investigated? What did he say?”
Jeremiah Baxter of the Seattle Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression had this to say: “Jaahnavi was walking through a crosswalk! She had the right of way. But, because Dave was driving beyond recklessly, he didn't stop in time, and Jaahnavi died because of it. When I say 74 in a 25, you say Jaahnavi should still be alive!”
Baxter continued, “If anyone other than a cop was driving 74 in a 25 and hit anyone, they would be in jail right now! But a cop does it, and what happens? He gets paid vacation for a year! Does that sound like justice to you?”
Po Leapai, of the Washington Coalition of Police Accountability, said “My cousin Iosia Faletogo was killed by Seattle Police on his way to celebrate New Year's Eve in 2018. My cousin never made it and he was the third person killed by this officer. My cousin's murderer's name was Jared Keller. Keller has killed three people since joining the force about a decade ago, and we have a problem with that.” He added, “I am here because Jaahnavi's life had limitless value.”
Mantak Singh, an organizer with the University of Washington's Progressive Student Union, had this to say: “We see this time and time again, and how many times do you have to go to rallies and vigils for victims of police violence? Too many!”
Castill Hightower, of the Seattle Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, also spoke to the crowd. “Where does my family go? After hearing that my brother Herbert Hightower Jr.'s murderer, Steve Hirjak, who shot and killed Herbert 20 years ago while he was experiencing a mental health crisis, recently settled a lawsuit with the city for $800,000 and reinstatement as assistant chief of police?”
Chants of, “Convict Kevin Dave!” “Justice for Jaahnavi!” “74 in a 25, Jaahnavi should still be alive!” and “Jail killer cops!” could be heard for blocks around, while community members attached photographs of Jaahnavi to the windows and doors of the West Precinct.
The Seattle Alliance (SAARPR) and others in the community are still waiting to hear any update on the investigation, which has been delayed several times by the city.