The groundbreaking for Seattle's Kingdome on November 2, 1972 was supposed to be a public celebration. But Asian American youth, upset that the stadium was located immediately next to Seattle's International District (ID), disrupted the event and brought media attention to concerns that had largely been ignored.
Activists worried that the people attending Kingdome events would would soon overwhelm Seattle's historically Asian American neighborhood with their parking and commercial needs. A lawsuit filed by Peter Bacho on behalf of Asian elderly in the neighborhood (including famous union leader Chris Mensalvas) failed to force King County to build the stadium elsewhere. Asian American youth, who had chosen to stay out of the Kingome issue until the lawsuit was resolved, decided it was time to take action.
An impromptu march from the Asian drop-in center to the Kingdome's groundbreaking arrived as the event's dignitaries were taking the stage. Activists shouted down speakers, threw mud balls at the stage, got in a heated exchange with City Council President Liem Tuai (who they considered a sellout), and were eventually chased off by angry Seattle police.
Though the protesters did not issue demands as much as they expressed their anger, the media coverage they generated challenged stereotypes about passive Asians and gave a greater sense of urgency to neighborhood meetings. The night of the protest, activists held a community meeting in St. Peter Claver Center to decide how to follow up on their protest. In less than two weeks, hundreds would march on the Seattle Office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to demand funds to preserve the neighborhood.
The November 14, 1972 march from Hing Hay Park to the Seattle Office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) connected the ID preservation campaign to specific demands for government funds to rehabilitate the neighborhood. What began as an inarticulate protest had morphed into a spark for a new movement.
Kingdome Groundbreaking Protest and March on HUD. Photos © Eugene Tagawa. Republication without written consent is prohibited.