The Journal’s View: Protest message shouldn’t be lost to outside agitators
~June 4th, 2020
Sunday, during the day of protest calling for equity and justice for all people, we saw some of the best of Spokane.
While the protest was marred later in the night by violence, vandalism, and looting in the central business district, rays of hope are shining here that Spokane is united in supporting a message the protest organizers intended.
We saw the event begin at Riverfront Park’s Red Wagon with prayers for a peaceful protest.
We saw African American leaders diffusing tense situations to keep the event peaceful and ensure protesters could be heard. We saw Spokane police officers demonstrating solidarity in their support of protesters, showing that they, too, feel the pain brought by disturbing videos of George Floyd, an unarmed and restrained black man, dying in the street, pleading for breath while in the custody Minneapolis police.
While the march and protest involving thousands of supporters here were peaceful during the day, the violence and damage we saw Sunday night wasn’t what Spokane is about.
We’re hearing “outside antagonists” described as anti-government or anti-capitalist were here to capitalize on the anger and frustrations behind the protest and to attempt to provoke law enforcement officers.
But such violent activity casts a shadow over the message of the day, fomenting fear and division instead of driving social change to bring people together.
Beyond damaging businesses, such violence increases the chances for further loss of life, something that by all accounts George Floyd would not have wanted in his memory.
Still, even through that mayhem and chaos, Spokane should commend the real protestors, who also later acted as community protectors as they stood against the agitators at their own personal risk, attempting to prevent further damage, de-escalate violence, and stop the looting.
By morning, many of the protest organizers were back, helping to remove debris and glass from the sidewalks. City streetsweepers had cleaned the streets. And volunteers scrubbed away graffiti.
Businesses were open, though some were boarded up.
The chaos wasn’t allowed to rule the day and steal away the message of the protest.
At a noon press conference Monday led by Mayor Nadine Woodward, several local African American leaders said they saw examples of what Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson said “looked like the Spokane we want—diverse and unified.”
Spokane Pastor Shon Davis said the Spokane Police Department has made progress in the last eight years with its community policing program “to build bridges instead of walls.”
The circumstances surrounding Sunday’s event aren’t over, as protests here and around the country continue, the wheels of justice for George Floyd have barely begun to turn in Minneapolis, and lasting change is still to be seen.
It’s important that conversations about equity and justice continue between underrepresented people, law enforcement representatives, and the overall community.
While there’s still work to be done in this arena, people of Spokane have shown that embracing unity and diversity makes a better community. That’s the legacy that George Floyd, and many others before him, deserve.