SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward, Spokane Police Chief Meidl, City Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson and African-American community leaders were in firm agreement that Sunday's peaceful protests locally were "who we are as a city."
"I want to thank the prayer warriors in this city for praying for protection and safety during our protest," Woodward said in part. "Our protest for most of the afternoon, was a powerful example of unity and solidarity...about what we are as a community."
"The sea of people there looked like the Spokane we want," Wilkerson said. "It was so diverse and it was unified. The rally was amazing."
Unfortunately, as demonstrators peacefully protested and proceeded to return to their homes, separate groups showed up in the area., and havoc ensued.
"This event was definitely hi-jacked," NAACP Spokane President Kurtis Robinson said while mentioning fringe groups that responded to the area.
Chief Meidl says they had prepared for this event a while back, and had intelligence about possible antagonists coming in with experience in staging riots or causing disorder. Sunday, officers witnessed people arriving to the area with water and milk (commonly used for tear gas relief) along with other possible weapons.
Meidl says many officers stood in solidarity during the protests, despite a few incidents with some violence or individuals being taken into custody.
Once the rally ended, SPD says 400-500 people went south into the city, "zig-zagging" along blocks. From about 5 p.m. Sunday through almost midnight, these groups vandalized cars and buildings while ignoring dispersal notices.
With the assistance of several other Inland Northwest agencies and the National Guard, the group was finally cleared late Sunday night.
Meidl says a number of entities were identified in this process, including Antifa and Proud Boys. He reminded citizens that Washington is an open carry state, and open carriers in the area at the time were allowed to do so, but asked to leave along with everyone else during the inflicted curfew downtown.
Video footage of various vandalism incidents around downtown and Meidl expects more identifications and arrests to ensue.
Many protesters and other community members returned after the curfew expired Monday morning to clean up the mess made by these antagonists.
Woodward had reached out to the Downtown Spokane partnership prior to the event, saying some ambassadors should be extra staffed for potential cleanup. When those ambassadors arrived Monday, Woodward was told there was nothing to clean up.
"Who we are returned this morning, our community members," Woodward said. "What an incredible, incredible thing."
Going forward, various leaders at Monday's press conference echoed similar thoughts, motivation and steps to take as a community.
"You can be upset, but use that to rebuild the community," Kitara Johnson said.
Former NAACP President Phil Tyler mentioned a saying his mother told him: "You have four fingers and one thumb; that makes you human. What you do with those determines your humanity."
"We can use our hands to be interlocked as we are today, to say: 'You can't break us, you can't divide us, we are Spokane'," Tyler said in part.
Pastor Mike Davis said advancement requires "bridge-builders" and not "wall builders."
Wilkerson says there has to be a tomorrow.
"Don't loot, don't destroy property, but please keep protesting," Wilkerson said.
"Spokane spoke up, Spokane meant it, hopefully Spokane will continue to do so," Robinson said.
"It's a new day, and our city is back to what it was before," Woodward said.
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