Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. Everyone’s life matters.
That was the message put forth by speaker after speaker at a Black Lives Matter rally outside the Spokane County Courthouse on Saturday as hundreds of people, many of them white, listened and cheered.
Phil Tyler, president of the Spokane NAACP, said the event had to happen because of the outpouring of emotion after a week that saw black men killed by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota and then five police officers killed as they were escorting a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas.
“We had to have this to bring everyone together,” he said. “We will not allow it to creep into Spokane.”
The NAACP and other groups have been working with the Spokane Police Department over the past few years to improve relationships between the African-American community and police. Tyler said he believes there has been progress.
“There’s still work to do, but we’re learning,” he said.
Assistant Police Chief Craig Meidl attended the event with some of his command staff.
“There’s so much raw emotion right now in the nation,” he said. “I think police departments have a role to play in the healing. We can’t fix it alone. We have to fix it with community partners.”
As Tyler spoke to the crowd, he sometimes had to dab tears from his eyes or take a moment to compose himself.
“It’s got to stop,” said Tyler, a former lieutenant at the Spokane County Jail. “It’s got to stop. That’s why we’re here, to find solutions.”
At one point, the mood turned tense when a man pushed his way into the crowd, cursing and yelling against the Black Lives Matter movement. At first, people tried to argue with him, then tried ignoring him. After he pushed his way to the front of the crowd, the moment was defused after a black woman embraced him and spoke to him.
Sandy Williams, publisher of the Black Lens newspaper, said she has heard people say they don’t see color.
“Yes, we do see color,” she said. “Because if you cannot see my color, you cannot see me.”
Williams spoke of her daughter being afraid to approach a police officer for help, because she didn’t know how he would react to being approached by a black woman on a dark street.
“I know that all cops are not bad,” she said. “I know that. But some are. I don’t know which ones are which.”
Tyler noted that the five police officers who died were protecting protesters. “That shouldn’t have happened,” he said. “We must stand together. We are better than the hate.”
Tyler led the large crowd around the corner of the courthouse to the Law Enforcement Memorial that sits outside the Public Safety Building. He read the names of the five Dallas police officers who died and asked for a moment of silence before a prayer was said for their families.
“We have never said that their lives don’t matter,” he said. “Let’s not let the fear and the hate and the divisiveness divide our community. We are united in stopping this violence.”
Meidl said he appreciated Tyler’s inclusion of the fallen officers in the rally.
“He is extending the bridge to healing,” he said.
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