Thousands turn out for today's protest against police brutality in downtown Spokane and march in the streets

click to enlarge Thousands turn out for today's protest against police brutality in downtown Spokane and march in the streets
Young Kwak photo
Protesters marching in the street today.

UPDATE 6:50 PM: Many of the demonstrators have left the area, but a smaller group remained, rallying along Spokane Fall Boulevard. Men in camo and openly carrying firearms were also spotted downtown.
UPDATE 4:25 PM: Demonstrators marched over the Monroe Street Bridge to Boone Avenue and back down via Washington Street, returning to Riverfront Park.  UPDATE 3:55 PM: Demonstrators are leaving the Lilac Bowl and marching in the street near City Hall.  UPDATE 3 PM: The crowd continues to grow.

UPDATE 2:30 PM: Kiantha Duncan, a vice president of Spokane NAACP, took a moment at the start of Sunday’s protest to speak to three groups among the more than 1,000 who had gathered by 2 pm. First, for those who came to agitate, and to “get the shit kicked up,” Duncan says, “I love you, and you in your heart know what is right and what is wrong,” summing it up with “sit yo ass down.”

Next, to those in law enforcement of any kind, she calls for them to remember the oath they took to protect the people of the United States. “It is not your job or your position to harm other people,” Duncan says. “If you are in law enforcement and you are using your power as a means of brutality against black people, against brown people, against Native people, against white people, knock it off.”

Lastly she thanks those there to peacefully protest and support the movement, ending with a call to remember that all lives matter, and black lives matter.

click to enlarge Thousands turn out for today's protest against police brutality in downtown Spokane and march in the streets (3)
Young Kwak photo
Israel Blackwell painting a portrait of George Floyd.

click to enlarge Thousands turn out for today's protest against police brutality in downtown Spokane and march in the streets (2)
Young Kwak photo
The scene at today's protest in the Lilac Bowl in Riverfront Park.

Throngs of demonstrators have filled the Lilac Bowl in Riverfront Park to call attention to police brutality, with early estimates suggesting more than a thousand protesters have turned out already for the rally that officially started at 2. Staff reporter Samantha Wohlfeil and staff photographer Young Kwak are on scene at the protest.

Organizers of another protest in downtown Spokane today say they want everything to go peacefully, with calls for participants to respect the scheduled start and end times of 2 pm to 7 pm, before heading home.

Expected to be the largest protest since last Sunday, the afternoon event was set to continue calls for police reform in the wake of the deaths of black Americans George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others.

Floyd was killed two weeks ago when a Minnesota officer knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes, sparking protests around the world that have in the days since then. Taylor was a medical worker in Louisville, Kentucky, and was killed when police entered her home on a no-knock warrant in March, despite the fact the suspect they were looking for had been located. Their deaths reignited calls for reform to eliminate excessive police use of force, which is often used against black, Native American, Latino and other minority Americans.

Occupy Spokane, which with the Spokane NAACP organized Sunday's protest and rally at the Lilac Bowl Amphitheatre at Riverfront Park, said in a Facebook post that with threats against the event, an 8 pm curfew is suggested. Officials, however, have not declared a curfew for downtown Spokane, but that could change depending on events.  
"We have made it noticeably clear that we will not tolerate any fringe groups infiltrating or agitators instigating violence or destruction of any kind and we have communicated that unified intent to our governing municipalities," organizers say.

At least one white supremacist in Spokane has said he plans to attend with others who support his neo-Nazi ideals, though he'd promised Spokane County Sheriff's deputies who serve on a Joint Terrorism Task Force with the FBI that he didn't plan to be violent — unless others were first. Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich confirmed earlier in the week that law enforcement had been looking into multiple violent threats against continued protests.
Last week, when some people started looting the Nike store downtown, police decided a day of mostly peaceful protesting had turned into a violent riot and ordered people to disperse. When people refused dispersal orders, and, according to Spokane Police Sgt. Terry Preuninger, continued throwing bottles, rocks, and improvised explosives (like Molotov cocktails) at officers, they made the call to use less-lethal munitions to get people to leave. 
Law enforcement and organizers alike hoped today's event would go smoothly and avoid a repeat of last week's use of tear gas, smoke, and foam, sponge and rubber munitions used to clear crowds. 

Echoes of Expo @ Riverfront Park

Through July 7
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Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...