On the May Day Parade Route With Kshama Sawant

Handing out hugs, sticking it to the enemy—a walk from Judkins with Seattle’s favorite socialist.

I’ve always wondered where the line is drawn between the politicians that get security guards and the ones that don’t. Hillary does, and so did Francis Underwood in House of Cards. On the other hand, mayors usually don’t, and even most congressmen and senators usually seem to role with staff only.

On May Day, Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant wasn’t rolling with a guard--just her public relations guy, Josh Koritz, a tall, affable fellow who, like me, apparently hadn’t had the sense to wear a hat on a day set to reach 80 degrees. While organizers rallied the crowd at Judkins park, before the start of Thursday’s mid-afternoon march, Koritz and Sawant waited behind the crowd, answering questions from supporters and TV reporters.

“The most exciting thing is seeing young people,” Sawant said. “Already in the last half hour, I’ve seen so many new people. That’s a sign.”

As the march got going, Sawant quickly planted herself near the back of the block-long procession, where she and Koritz walked with a phalanx of supporters from the minimum wage activist group 15Now, all the way to Westlake Center. Although the avowed socialist was there to stick it to the man, she marched in what has become her unique style: strikingly approachable, yet relentlessly on-message, flanked by a phalanx of young activists, and with an eye for the long game that would make any politician proud.

Sawant, a veteran organizer, admitted that Thursday was far from her first march. But, she said, it felt special because of the progress that has been made recently in Seattle toward raising the minimum wage--a sentiment she echoed in a speech after the march at Westlake Center.

There, Sawant focused on the same issue, calling a proposal unveiled by the mayor earlier in the day—a proposal that, if approved by the City Council, would increase Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 incrementally over the coruse of 7 years—a step in the right direction, but not enough.

After her speech, the city’s newest council member spent 20 minutes greeting Seattleites and giving interviews. And then, as unobtrusively as she had marched, Sawant slipped away.

Her destination, Koritz confirmed after she left, was the anniversary party for Seattle housing advocacy group SAFE, taking place at China Harbor restaurant—well away from downtown and the second march of the day, the anti-capitalist march expected to depart from Capitol Hill shortly after the end of the afternoon march from Judkins.

The move was purposeful, Koritz confirmed, as a way to avoid involvement in tactics that wouldn’t work.

“Violent actions with the police is not what we’re about,” he said. “We’re about building a movement that can win.”


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