About a month after racist posters were plastered on areas of downtown Spokane, more signs were posted in three different locations around the city early Thursday morning.
The Community Building at 35 W. Main Ave., the Spokane County Democrats building at 1403 W. Third Ave. and a Starbucks at 2703 N. Division St. all had multiple racist, white nationalist and anti-Semitic signs posted on their buildings.
The signs, some of which were the same as those posted last month, linked to well-known “alt-right” websites. They featured slogans such as “refugees not welcome,” and “Tired of non-white aggressions? You are not alone.”
Other signs featured deeply anti-Semitic sentiments and cartoons, including one featuring a caricature of a Jewish man wearing an Uncle Sam-style hat conducting a train that’s about to run over the Statue of Liberty. The train appears to be hauling cars of “socialized healthcare,” “IRS tax slavery” and “chemtrails fluoride,” among others.
This is the third instance of racist signs posted in or around Spokane since the N-word was spray-painted onto the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in mid-November.
In response to the racist graffiti, Phillip Tyler, president of Spokane NAACP, held a news conference today where prominent community leaders spoke out against racism to a packed room full of community members and concerned residents in the Community Building.
Tyler told the crowd he was mad.
“I hope you are too,” he said. “This is domestic terrorism. This is designed to cause fear. It is designed to intimidate.”
Tyler, who has issued a statement in each of these cases, said he was tired of having to deal with the aftermath of these occurrences, especially when it comes just four days after he hosted a “Recreation Against Racism” event.
“This is becoming our new norm,” he said. “Yet another hateful act is occurring in our community.”
Other leaders also spoke, including Assistant Spokane Police Chief Justin Lundgren and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who jointly condemned the act and are committed in “trying to find who is responsible,” Lundgren said.
Knezovich, who has been sheriff for the county since 2006, said this has been a yearly occurrence in the community. He challenged the residents to condemn this act with law enforcement.
“For some reason we’re not catching onto the fact that everybody in this room and everybody outside on the street, everybody in Spokane, are getting tired of the hate,” he said. “And hate begets very bad things. People died because of hate.”
Tamar Malino, the rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom, which recently held its Kosher Dinner, an event where the community is invited to try kosher cooking and bond with members of the church, spoke as well.
“These posters are such an affront to all of our identity as members of the Spokane community,” she said. “We welcome all the support that you can offer us.”
Jim Sheehan, the owner of the Community Building where the posters were stuck to the windows and doors, said a worker at a business there – who is also a refugee – was the first to find them sometime before 7 a.m.
“Whoever did this knows that what they were doing was hateful for the people who are here,” he said. “The people of Spokane cannot, absolutely not, stand for this type of activity. It isn’t what this country is based on.”
When it comes to investigating acts like this, Lundgren said it’s difficult because law enforcement has to respect the First Amendment. But he did say – just like with past events – that they’re actively looking for who’s responsible.
“With something like this, obviously we would like to know who’s responsible,” he said. “Our concern is how acts like this can turn into other types of violence.”
In an emotional speech, John Lemus, chair of the Spokane Human Rights Commission, urged the community to “send the message that hate has no place in our community.”
“I am very sad today,” he said while choking up. “So much good work happens in this building. It is not fair. It is not fair.”
Spokane Mayor David Condon, who was not in attendance, also issued a statement.
“Spokane does not and will not tolerate the offensive acts of an individual or individuals,” he wrote. “The hurtful language is in stark contrast to who we are and serves only to galvanize our resolve as a city and community to send a clear message that bias, intolerance and hate has no place in Spokane.”