Northwest News

Olympia police shooting of 2 men prompts civic conversations, civil protests

Olympia reacted to Thursday’s police shooting in two ways at separate public gatherings.

Up to 400 people who mostly identified as The Evergreen State College students gathered at Woodruff Park on Olympia’s west side and debated their mission before heading toward City Hall. As of 7:45 p.m., the crowd was seated in a downtown intersection, taking a 4 1/2-minute pause to commemorate the 4 1/2 hours Michael Brown’s body was in the street. Brown was the 18-year-old who was shot and killed by a policeman Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Missouri, igniting weeks of nationwide protests over police use of deadly force.

The march began with speakers addressing the crowd from Woodruff Park. Speakers talked about recent shootings nationwide, and how angry they were to see a similar event in their own town.

“It’s not a problem that privilege exists,” said Jose Gutierez Jr. “It always will. It’s how we use it.”

Olympia attorney Kevin Johnson asked demonstrators to be respectful and peaceful. He said protesters shouldn’t respond to violence with more violence.

“What happened to those kids has to stop,” Johnson said. “There was a time in this country when two packs of beer wouldn’t get you shot.”

Meanwhile, city officials and community leaders gathered at Temple Beth Hatfiloh to discuss the shooting of two young black men by a white Olympia police officer. One suggestion was for a citizen’s review committee for the police department. The event was organized by a group of clergy representing about 20 faith organizations.

Kathy Baros Friedt said she wanted to participate in the forum at the temple because she loves the community, and doesn’t want the same outcome that’s played out elsewhere in the country after police shootings.

“I’m looking to see that our community responds differently,” she said.

Among those attending the event were the mayor, the city manager, two City Council members and the police chief.

Dozens of people spoke at the event. Many demanded a citizens committee to oversee the police department. Some asked the city to install dash cameras and have officers wear lapel cameras. Some asked for better support for officers, and diversity training.

Several expressed grief over Thursday’s incident.

“I’m angry, I’m hurt, but mostly I’m disappointed that this town would be like this,” said Ayana Egans, 22, as she broke into tears.

She said she hopes the community can make a difference and a plan “and not let this happen anywhere.”

Earlier, administrators at The Evergreen State College organized a campus conversation concerning the shooting. People shared their personal experiences, and talked about steps to promote social justice.

Evergreen graduate Morgan Chambers said he’s been watching online coverage of police shootings across the country in the past months, thinking: “That could be here.”

He asked those gathered to commit to not riot. The 31-year-old was concerned about his business, Capitol Eclectic Merchants downtown, and said he was taking steps to protect the shop.

He said he initially was worried about violence from protesters but later said he was less concerned after the conversation at Evergreen.

Student and former military policeman Cash Court, 28, said he wanted more action from governments to systematically support social justice for everyone.

“I basically had hopes of freedom and equality,” he said about his time serving at Fort Hood in Texas.

Related stories from Bellingham Herald