January 19, 2009 in City

Protest of police violence turns violent

By Rolf Boone Olympian
 

OLYMPIA – About 40 people involved in a protest that ended with lit torches being thrown at a west Olympia police car and station were demonstrating against police violence and a resident’s recent shooting death, participants say.

The demonstration was spurred partly by the death of Jose Ramirez-Jimenez, of Olympia, who was shot and killed after a police chase in November in Lacey, participant Jeff Berryhill, of Olympia, said Saturday.

Some demonstrators held road flares, torches and signs; others played banjo and guitar. After gathering about 10:40 p.m. Friday and circling through downtown a couple of times, Olympia police followed the protesters through town toward a police substation, Berryhill said.

Police say protesters then threw lit torches against the station wall and a police car, which were quickly extinguished.

No injuries or damage were reported, police said.

The stick torches had cans attached filled with a flammable fluid, Sgt. Paul Johnson said. Also collected at the scene were 14 signs, some of which said “Liar liar cops on fire” and “Fire all cops, all cops are murderers.”

“I would consider them threatening towards law enforcement,” Johnson said about the signs.

More than 20 people were detained, identified and photographed, and three were arrested on suspicion of rioting and failing to obey police officers.

Of the motivation for the demonstration, Berryhill said: “Whenever police violence is visited upon the community, there needs to be an appropriate political and social response to illustrate that this kind of police conduct is unacceptable.”

Because of the changing nature of Olympia protests, more officers are made available to respond to these kinds of demonstrations, Commander Tor Bjornstad said.

“The majority of people involved in protests are peaceful,” he said, although he added that recent protests have been characterized by small groups of people hiding among the larger protest for their own means.

About 10 officers responded to the Friday night incident.


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