An organization tied to multiple men and women, who patrolled the streets of downtown Spokane during Black Lives Matter protests, is speaking out against claims of white nationalism and white supremacy.
The group, American Patriots Three Percent, released the following statement in "regard to the unfounded accusations and blatant lies from some in the downtown Spokane community":
"We are NOT White supremacists. We are NOT a militia. We are a Three percent group. We are (a) multi, diverse group of individuals who answered the call of business owners we personally know. These business owners were told all week by SPD (Spokane Police Dept.) to "leave town" or that there was a large presence of Antifa coming to town and brace for rioting and damage to their establishments.
We arrived at 6:15 p.m. to our location and IMMEDIATELY notified SPD of our presence, the number of individuals, what (our) job was (protect from looting and damage), what we were armed with and they were welcome to come by to check our permit/conceal carry license. We encountered no trouble as SPD and all law enforcement did a great job. The guard was staged behind us, as well as a bus filled with SPD officers.
We refute the claim we are anything other than diverse group of individuals who love Spokane, our home and do not want it turned into the next Seattle. We are a group of many nationalities including a Hispanic who is the lead. We have LGBTQ members. We are also small business owners, retired law enforcement and mostly veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan wars and current military reservists."
The group also claims several members are being 'doxxed,' which means "to publicly identify or publish private information about (someone) especially as a form of punishment or revenge."
"We are appalled at the lynch mob mentality of a few that would doxx our members and try to find out who the business owners were that had asked for our help, as stated on the Occupy Spokane page. You would think that business owners would be supportive of their fellow business owners to make Spokane thrive and have a healthy influx of business and be a beacon for Eastern Washington. The lies that have been told are just that. We support the protests 100%, we support everyone's Constitutional right to protest and some of us were even in the crowd doing exactly that. What we do not accept is the rioting, vandalism, graffiti and destruction of our fellow business owners and community members. We will always answer the call for help and always maintain a working relationship with law enforcement as we have the highest respect and include in our organization. Finally, we do not tolerate any illegal activity within our organization and to claim otherwise is nonsense," the Three Percenter's stated.
In a statement to KHQ, Occupy Spokane responded to the statement by the Three Percenter's:
"In The Inland Northwest we have experienced hate groups, white supremacists, Nazis and extreme religious groups take to the streets with their guns trying to hijack our movement. Your First Amendment right to freedom assembly is your choice, if you are out in public walking around with a gun and hanging out with hate groups, you may be affiliated with such hate groups. Please think long and hard about what side of history you want to be on! WWJD," Occupy Spokane stated.
Several business owners have spoken out against the armed presence in downtown Spokane, calling on the city and Spokane police to take action.
However, both Mayor Nadine Woodward and SPD Chief Craig Meidl said there is nothing legally wrong with what the armed men and women are doing.
"We are an open carry state, so I know our officers were watching them very, very closely. There are no indications that there were any problems they were causing," Woodward said.
"One of the challenges is it's unusual, right?" Meidl said. "You see all these men in camouflage gear with a rifle slung over their back or their front, and it's very uncommon to see that in downtown Spokane. Washington state, as the mayor has said, is an open carry state. If someone, in essence, has to engage in some specific behavior that makes a specific person feel threatened, a general feeling of being threatened because an individual has a rifle on them is not a prosecutable offense. When we're looking at what these individuals were doing, it's allowed by Washington state right now."
"Having said that, we didn't want guns there either. In our conversations, we made it very clear: we don't want anyone coming down here with guns. It's a very tense environment right now, we don't need to add firearms to the equation. We did make that very clear that we did not prefer folks to be down there with guns, but unless they were specifically threatening someone, there's not a lot we can do," Meidl said.
Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell said there didn't appear to be anything legally wrong with what armed groups did on the previous two Sundays.
"There has to be more than somebody saw somebody with firearm, and they became afraid for their safety. There has to be more than just seeing it. There has to be some conduct on the person carrying it that would qualify it as a violation of the law," Haskell said.
"The fact is the law is pretty clear in instances where someone is merely present with a firearm," he said. "Under most circumstances, you're not going to rise to the level of a violation of the law. Again, it's a very fact-specific analysis... but the mere presence of someone carrying a firearm is not going to violate the law."
Other then the Three Percenters, individuals claim they came to downtown Spokane on their own, including this man, who asked to remain anonymous.
"I love that they are protesting. I don't want my town burned down, though," he said. "I told lots of people that I 100 percent support your right to protest and think cops should be held accountable. I was there because this is my home and I don't want it destroyed, they could be protesting anything for all i care. It's their God given right. It's their right also to be scared, but their fear doesnt trump my right to self preservation by a standard i see fit, which is also endowed by our creator as well."