SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane City Council voted 'yes' on expanding the reach of a Washington state law that prohibits the unauthorized gatherings of armed militias. It passed 6-1.
This ordinance to prosecute armed militias comes after protests during the spring and summer of 2020. As Black Lives Matter protesters fought for racial equality, armed militia members were patrolling the streets claiming they were there to keep the peace and protect businesses.
Prior to this move by the City Council, Spokane County prosecutor Larry Haskell said it is a law that is difficult to enforce because they are not subject to prosecution for mere presence.
The ordinance gets rid of that issue by making the law city code.
Spokane Police already enforce this state law, the ordinance moves the court jurisdiction from county to city.
"I think it's very important it's enforced," City Council President Breean Beggs said. "People are just fearful when they see people organized in groups with guns, it's just scary - and that's no judgment on the intent or beliefs of those people, it's just anytime you get a lot of guns together in public especially if there are protests going around it is scary. If you look at videos that happened in Washington DC at the capitol building you can see people dressed in military uniforms as a unit acting organized as they went up the capitol steps and that is very different than people bringing their grievances to the government."
During the meeting, City Councilwoman Lori Kinnear said Spokane needs to stand strong against militias due to events that have unfolded the past week at the U.S. Capitol building along with the campus in Olympia.