• Jose S. Gutierrez Jr.

BBQ Becky strikes in the CD. Police called for legally playing music and claims LBB is a nuisance.

Openly brags about organizing neighbors to call the police and affordable housing being a problem in his neighborhood.

By Jose S. Gutierrez Jr. M.Ed/MIT

In June of 2019, local filmmaker, community member and Central District resident, Georgio Brown, birthed a vision of good times, togetherness and community with music, food and people as the foundation.  Atop the recently christened Liberty Bank Building (LBB), which had its official public opening in March of this year, Brown envisioned a coming together of a community, which has been fragmented over the past two decades by a combination of socio-economic challenges, crime, soaring housing costs, gentrification and a departure of many members of this historic enclave of Black/African-American people in Seattle’s Central District.

“I wanted  the rooftop of LBB to be a beacon for the community - it is a beautiful building with a panoramic view of the city (east of Capital Hill)”, says Brown.  “This is our community and we have an opportunity to be together and celebrate each other with each other.”  Brown’s seemingly festive vision would include residents of the building and the general public, who are all welcome to come in peace and felloeship together - and in June, the gathering began as a monthly vision-come-true.  So popular and well-received, in fact, was the first rooftop event, that the summer scenery filled with sounds of soul, Hip-Hop, reggae/dancehall, Afrobeat, Jazz/Blues and all genres of music as the soundtrack - that the event morphed into a once a week evening event starting before sunset until the 10pm hour (the music actually stops at 9:45pm, a whole 15 minutes before the 10pm city ordinance time).

Brown created the night as a platform for community and the people showed up, including DJs, artists and well-reputed members of the wider community to hear the beats ring out into the Seattle night.  All seemed well and good, until last Thursday August 22, 2019. 

The seemingly harmless fun, where no incidents of violence or mischief have been reported, was apparently not so fun for some neighbors in the surrounding outskirts and far reaches of the Central District - just several blocks away.  One person in particular, David Gissel a supposed Central District and Microsoft Engineer living not far away, took to the Liberty Bank Building’s Facebook page to make a public statement against the LBB itself as well as the rooftop parties which, according to his exact perception of how “the negative impact this building is forcing on the community”.  He proceeded this statement in his Facebook comment stating, “Unfortunately, the new Liberty Bank Building affordable housing has become a terrible nuisance to this once wonderful peaceful neighborhood in just a few short months…”  Gissel’s primary complaints surround the audio volume which can apparently be heard blocks and blocks away - which is the fantasy of many DJ's and party people, but likely not for everyone.  Brown understands the volume issue, but was never approached about the problem by any community members - only the Seattle Police.

The Seattle Police showed up and detailed the concern of noise complaints from neighbors, which Brown respects.  “The music was loud, but we did not receive any direct complaints until the police came and we can turn down the music.”  However, Brown is not okay with the statements made by his neighbors, about disparaging commentary about the event, such as the quality of music and the comments that mischaracterize the entire LBB.  “I think music is not the problem that has caused pain and harm in our community - I think there are other problems, greater than music”, explains Brown.  “We are in the Central District - this community has been known for generations as a community of speakeasies, juke joints, social clubs, the music and soul source of Seattle - people should get to know their community, before making rude comments…”  

Brown says that he is playing beautiful music and does not intend to harm the community at all, rather help build it - and if he needs to respect the community wishes by turning the volume down a bit, he will.  However, this small, but very noticeable clash is indicative of the iceberg-paced convergence of the newly arrived residents of the Central District - largely financially well-off, often tech-industry associated and generally unfamiliar with the rich heritage of the Central District.  Coupled with the remaining community members and families of traditional the Central District, who have withstood the tidal wave of gentrification, rising costs of living and the exodus to cities like Renton, Kent and Federal Way, this intersection of cultural differences could be executed in a more neighborly fashion, of course, but with the threat of police being called as a first resort (rather than, say, a neighbor showing up in person to politely request a decrease in volume at the party), prospects seem shaky for a friendly making of new acquaintances.  Brown guarantees that he will continue the weekly events for the next two Thursdays, and welcomes all residents of LBB and the general public to join and take part in the rooftop parties - in the spirit of peace, love, unity and having fun.

The question remains, as opposed to calling the Seattle Police why not just call over to the building or drop by and voice your concern? Some others neighbors did that and they were well received.

For the Seattle Police Department, considering your officers are overwhelmed dealing with crime, homelessness, and the effects of the opioid crisis across the city, is David Gissel's actions of organizing his neighbors to flood the 911 system with noise complaints the correct course of action? Especially when no law is being broken?

Facebook comments and interaction have been included in this transmission for full disclosure.

Stay tuned for updates on this story.

Jose S. Gutierrez Jr. M.Ed/MIT

Africatown Media Contributor

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