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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

NAACP leader calls for end to divisiveness in wake of Condon recall attempt, conflicts over law enforcement

Spokane NAACP president Phillip Tyler addresses a small group of officials and community members at a press conference Tuesday. (Rachel Alexander)
Spokane NAACP president Phillip Tyler addresses a small group of officials and community members at a press conference Tuesday. (Rachel Alexander)

“Words matter.”

That’s the simple statement NAACP president Phillip Tyler wanted to convey at a Tuesday morning gathering of elected officials and community leaders.

Tyler called together a press conference in response to a series of recent local events, including the recall campaign against Mayor David Condon and conflict at City Hall.

In a brief speech that made mention of no specific names or incidents, he spoke about divisiveness in the community and said people need to focus on creating positive change instead of sniping at each other and trying to score political points.

“We should be using our words collectively to bring us together, not drive us apart,” he said.

Following the conference, he said the NAACP as an organization is not supporting the recall effort because it doesn't get involved in partisan politics. The group’s mission is about social justice, he said.

Tyler also said he does not support the recall as an individual.

A number of public officials, including county commissioner Shelly O’Quinn, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and interim police chief Craig Meidl, attended.

Tyler was also motivated to speak by a meme posted by a black Spokane County Sheriff’s Office detective in late August criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement and Black Panthers for not coming to help flood victims in Louisiana.

Tyler commented on the post and also wrote about it on his own wall, where he said comments like that only drive a wedge between community groups and law enforcement.

Knezovich said he “chatted” with the detective, Damon Simmons, about the post, but did not take any other action. He said back-and-forth discussions over Simmons posting detract from conversations about the “root causes” of racial disparities in the criminal justice system, which include a lack of jobs, access to good education and stable family lives.

“Why aren’t we dealing with that problem? That’s something that is a huge problem compared to two individuals having a disagreement about a meme,” he said.

This post has been updated to clarify the NAACP's position on the recall.

Rachel Alexander
Rachel Alexander came to the Spokesman-Review in 2014 after working for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. She covers social services, health and science for the City Desk and writes a monthly data-focused column, Know Spokane.

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