To cheers and sustained applause, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and other newly and reelected city officials were sworn into office today before a standing-room-only crowd at City Hall.
The usual formal ceremony in city council chambers was replaced with speeches that mixed calls for class struggle with pragmatic politics. Sawant got the biggest cheers from the audience that included supporters who waved signs supporting a $15 minimum wage. After taking the oath of office, administered by Nicole Grant, vice president of the Washington State Labor Council, both women turned to the hundreds of spectators packed into City Hall and raised their fists, a gesture that seemed to signal defiance from politics as usual and solidarity with working people.
Sawant also denounced the “glittering fortunes of the super wealthy” saying they came at the same time as the lives of working people and the unemployed “grow more difficult by the day.”
Murray, the city’s first openly gay mayor, also got sustained applause when he took the oath of office from former Governor and ambassador to China, Gary Locke, on a bible held by Murray’s husband, Michael Shiosaki.
In contrast to Sawant, Murray praised Seattle business for its innovation and creativity and suggested that the path to economic equality would need businesses support.
He also suggested that government could help improve people’s lives. He said he saw government as a place not for political posturing or ideology, but a place for pragmatism.
Sawant invited more than 1,000 supporters and activists. In an email last week she urged them to “show their support for a new type of politics, one that represents the interests of working people rather than corporate greed.” She also suggested they bring signs about taxing the rich or rent control.
Among her invited guests was Joe Higgins, an Irish member of Parliament and a Socialist aligned with Sawant’s Socialist Alternative Party. Carlos Hernandez, a fast food worker fired from Subway in August after participating in a living-wage march, was also seated with Sawant’s official guests.
Murray, who also invited about 1,000 friends and supporters, spent the hours leading up to the inauguration in a series of symbolic public appearances. He breakfasted with homeless women and children at Mary’s Place, an emergency shelter. He, his staff and department directors toured the race exhibit at the Pacific Science Center. He attended mass at the Seattle University chapel.
Council member Mike O’Brien was sworn in by his two sons, Elliott and Wyatt. Councilmember Nick Licata was sworn in by his wife, Andrea Okomski. Sally Bagshaw was sworn in by her husband, Bradley Bagshaw, and City Attorney Pete Holmes was sworn in by his wife, Ann Holmes.
Murray and supporters planned to attend an inaugural ball this evening at Benaroya Hall. The ball will be paid for by his campaign committee.