Seattle Cops Kill Indigenous Carver from Vancouver Island

John T. Williams one of five people murdered by King County police in the last weeks.

*Warning: the following article contains information mostly taken from mainstream sources. Apologies if any of the statements contained below misrepresent John T. Williams’ life in any way.

By Annie Elation writing for the Vancouver Media Co-Op.

In the last week alone, five people were killed in “officer-involved” shootings in the Puget Sound region. On August 31, John T. Williams became the first of this last string of killings by police. John Williams, age 50, was a native man from the Dididaht, Nuu Chan Nulth nation on the west coast of Vancouver Island. He was shot four times in the chest by Seattle police officer Ian D. Birk, age 27.

The police say that Ian D. Birk shot Williams from a distance of at least 9 feet after Williams did not put down a knife as told to by police. According to Williams’ family he was deaf in one ear and partially deaf in another. At the time of his death Williams was carving. A photo of the knife recovered by police show the blade is 3-inches — a knife that is legal to carry in Seattle.

Williams was a seventh-generation carver, family said. Williams’ grandfather came to Seattle in the 1920s carved and sold his work to shops there. Williams, who sold carvings to the same shops as his grandfather, was one of 11 children — seven boys and four girls — all who learned to carve at age 5 or 6, his older brother said.

He would get serious about carving, Rick Williams, brother of John Williams, said. He would record stories in his work, and share with others where totem carvings originated. Williams’ friends and  family say he was the least threatening person one could imagine. They say the only thing he could have possible scared was a piece of yellow cedar.

“He looked out for people,” said Rick Williams. “He made sure they had food and what they needed… He was my teacher and my friend.”

Possibly in response to the many articles citing Williams as ‘homeless,’ Leona, Williams’ cousin said, “He wasn’t homeless, he had a home and a family and he shouldn’t have been taken from us.”

Hundreds turned out for a candlelight vigil in front of the Chief Seattle Club, an organization that Williams participated in, which provides food, medical support and housing in downtown Seattle, Thursday night, September 2nd.

A gathering and a press conference was held at the club on Friday. According to a Seattle blog, Alexis Jackson, a 74-year-old elder and friend of Williams’ rose to speak at Thursday’s news conference said he’d been beaten many times by Seattle police over the years. “That policeman,” Jackson said, “should be charged with murder.” Fliers were distributed at the press conference showing an elderly Indian woman weaving, and this message: “FYI: Practicing Indian Culture is Not A Crime.”

As is commonly seen after officer-involved shootings, spokesmen for the police department have asked for patience. “It is just so early. There is going to be so much more on this, we do ask that as difficult as it may be, that people have some patience and faith that the information will be presented in its due course.”

Just as others have already stated, it is apparent that all the information that we need we already have: John T. Williams was murdered at the hands of the police. According to James Bible, chapter president of the NAACP, “The inquest process in King County rarely leads to any form of justice whatsoever.” Even with the best possible outcome of an inquest, police murders would not stop.  And they won’t stop until there are no more police in the streets.

Clearly, many are not waiting and have already begun to act.

Another vigil is to take place this Tuesday, September 7th at 5:30pm at the intersection of Howell and Boren in Seattle, where Williams was killed.

A memorial for Williams is being planned at the Chief Seattle Club for later in September.

More demonstrations are set to take place in Seattle and Tacoma with regards to the police murder of John T. Williams and 4 other  people killed by police this week in the Puget Sound area: On August 31, King Ramses Hoover, age 27, was tasered to death by police at a house where he was staying as a guest. Also on August 30, David Charles Young, age 23, was shot to death in Federal Way. On September 3rd, a man was shot to death by Tacoma police on 6th Ave. Police say he was wielding a knife, although witnesses disagree. On September 4th, in Gold Bar, Adam Colliers, age 25, was tasered to death by cops for “causing a disturbance.”

Two videos of drumming and singing from the vigil for John T. Williams held on Thursday:

At the scene of the shooting a street brother of John William’s is distraught. Police put him on the ground  and cuff him in order to check his pockets. All he had was a green pepper.


Posted on September 8, 2010, in Anti-Police, Indigenous Struggles, State Repression and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Seattle Cops Kill Indigenous Carver from Vancouver Island.

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