Protester Diaz Love speaks out about deadly Seattle car ramming and the journey to recovering
Diaz Love of Portland on Wednesday shared anecdotes from the morning of the July 4 car collision on Interstate 5 that left them severely injured and another protester, Summer Taylor, dead.
Love says they aren't sure exactly what their recovery will look like, but that they intend to get back out onto the front lines of civil rights demonstrations as soon as possible.
They had just gotten back to Portland after a stint traveling through the U.S. when a series of protests began erupting across the country in response to police violence and racism. That was in late May.
Love took the next couple of weeks to complete their bachelor's degree in Portland, and then made their way to Seattle to participate in demonstrations at the now dismantled Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP).
"I had already told myself that if Portland wasn't ready to occupy, then I'm going back to Seattle because I think occupying is the next strategic move in the Black Lives Matter conversation and what we do," Love said in an interview with Converge Media on Wednesday.
The Seattle Police Department ultimately forced protesters out of the CHOP zone on July 1. Then on the night of July 3, heading into the early morning hours of July 4, Love was gathered with organizers and demonstrators in the Black Femme March, which occupied Interstate 5.
Love had been live streaming protests organized by the same group for about a week at that point, and did the same the night of the collision.
"I think live streaming is just security and it's protection for all of us out there," Love said. "It's not about the number of people who are watching, but it's about having video record of evidence in case anything happens. Like that night, a bunch of random things happened that we caught."
In what they say were there final memories leading up to the car ramming, Love recalled demonstrators eating pizza, discussing their demands to government officials for change, and dancing to the song Cupid Shuffle. One of those demonstrators was 24-year-old Summer Taylor.
Love, from their hospital bed at Harborview Medical Center, described seeing Taylor "just dancing and doing this clap around thing and just being so confident ... sassy and just so self-assured of who they are."
"And I just was so drawn to that as a fellow human," Love continued. "So my last memories were just watching Summer dance and be playful and thinking how beautiful they were."
Moments later, a driver circumvented road closures that had been established by the Washington State Patrol to access the freeway. He barreled past several vehicles intended to act as a barricade by driving up the shoulder of I-5. The driver, 27-year-old Dawit Kelete, veered sharply to the left, ramming into both Love and Taylor.
Taylor died from their injuries later that day. Love is recovering from several injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, broken tailbone, shattered elbow, broken pelvis, and an ankle injury.
Love said they'd had a feeling earlier in the night leading up to the collision that something bad was going to happen, and had posted about it on social media.
"It's eerie that my post before being hurt and all this stuff was me saying, 'I'm scared as shit — like something's going to happen tonight. I hope everyone ends up okay, but like something's going to go down tonight.'"
Love said they are unsure of the extent to which they will recover from their injuries, but that doctors believe they will be able to walk again. Their most immediate goal is to be able to transport themself using a wheelchair, and they are asking anyone able to donate a motorized scooter to consider doing so.
"All the money I have that's being donated is going to have to be the money that lasts me until who knows," Love said, adding that Kelete did not have car insurance at the time he struck them and Taylor.
Because of their brain injury, Love has also had trouble focusing and has developed a speech impediment. They are urging protesters to wear helmets and protective gear when out at demonstrations.
Love said they have been touched by the outpouring of support they have received, but that they have also been on the receiving end of some hateful messages.
"People can say all they want — that we shouldn't have been on the highway," they said. "But there are a lot of things that shouldn't be happening that are happening, and we're going to disrupt the things that need to be disrupted."
Their injuries and the trauma of the collision notwithstanding, Love said they intend to get back out onto the front lines of local civil rights demonstrations as soon as possible.
"Are you fucking kidding me? It’s my first stop when I get out of here," they said.
"I'm the exactly wrong person to leave alive in this situation — 'settlement' is not a word that I'm open to hearing whatsoever," Love added. "I will not stop pushing until we get the justice we deserve, until Summer gets the justice they deserve, and all of the protesters get the justice they deserve."
In the meantime, they are are celebrating the little victories each day.
"I mean, I cried when they told me that I could put underwear on today," Love said. "So I have underwear on and I'm just like so, so excited about it."