by Deborah Wang, originally published at KUOW
Inauguration in Seattle has usually been a low-key affair. But not this year.
Hundreds packed the lobby of Seattle City Hall on Monday. Some came to see Ed Murray, the city’s first openly gay mayor, take the oath of office. But many more came to catch a glimpse of Kshama Sawant, Seattle’s first Socialist City Council member who has attracted international attention.
“Well, we’ve got a new council lady, she’s a socialist, and I became a socialist after being a Republican,” said Carl Brecht, a real estate broker who supported Sawant’s campaign.
Seattle resident Linda Jansen clutched a red Sawant campaign sign in the back of the huge crowd. “It’s tremendous, it’s so moving. In fact, I got teary,” she said.
Sawant unseated long-time incumbent Richard Conlin after campaigning for a $15 hourly minimum wage in the city.
After reciting the oath of office at the ceremonial swearing in on Monday, Sawant raised her fist in a salute of solidarity, to cheers from the crowd.
She then delivered a blistering critique of global capitalism, which she said had made fortunes for the super-rich, and made life worse for poor people.
“This is the product of the gigantic casino of speculation created by the highway robbers on Wall Street,” she said.
Sawant says her first priority in office is to push for a $15 an hour minimum wage. But she is also organizing a “mass movement” to keep the pressure on the city’s elected officials. She’s helped form a new group called 15now.org, which is having its first public rally next week. The group was recruiting heavily at Monday’s City Hall event.