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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Seventeen arrested in park

Group scuffles with Spokane police during protest

Demonstrator Cassie Kirkeby, protesting police brutality is arrested at the clock tower in Riverfront Park, July 4, 2007. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman Review)
By Jonathan Brunt and James Hagengruber The Spokesman-Review
In the Inland Northwest, it was a Fourth of July to celebrate freedom - or clash over the freedoms Americans have. Under the Clocktower in Riverfront Park, 17 people protesting police brutality were arrested about 6:45 p.m. as people gathered in the park for Neighbor Day and the annual fireworks displays. Officers charged the group, which included self-proclaimed anarchists and other young adults and teens, after ordering them to disperse. One arrest came after what police say was an assault on an officer. Protesters dispute that. Spokane Police Sgt. Jason Hartman said the gathering was halted in part because it was interfering with a nearby concert sponsored by Clear Channel Communications Inc. He noted that the protesters hadn’t obtained a permit. “It was interfering with their event,” he said. The arrests “were based on their failure to comply with our order to lawfully disperse from the park.” Others saw it differently. “They were assembled peacefully,” said Jorgi Martin, who witnessed part of the protest. “They were having a picnic, just like everybody else in the park was having a picnic.” About 50 people, from a group calling itself Alternative Solutions and Possibilities and mostly dressed in black, had assembled next to the tower after marching through Peaceful Valley and downtown Spokane in a planned event. While some in the group began to picnic, sitting on a large American flag, a few others held signs and distributed fliers. Some asked police, who were beginning to congregate around them, if they wanted a copy of their handouts. Officers declined. Police soon began to assemble around the group, and a couple with cameras photographed those in the crowd, who responded by chanting, “We are not afraid.” One officer began walking within a few inches of some protesters to take their pictures. A few protesters tried to block the camera with their signs. A scuffle began, and a protester was taken to the ground and arrested. Police allege the male pushed and tried to choke the officer. Protesters said the officer shoved the man to the ground without provocation. After the man was dragged off, more officers assembled, and remaining protesters stood tightly together holding a sign that read “Those who hold power must be targeted.” More officers gathered, and one read an order telling the protesters to disperse. Moments later, police charged the group, ripping down their sign and pushing protesters to the ground. Those who were arrested were forced onto their stomachs. Their hands were tied behind them with plastic ties. Police and some working at the event formed a circle around those who were arrested. Periodically over the next half hour or so, police went into the crowd and dragged people into the circle to detain them. Many in the crowd cheered as police made arrests. But the spectacle, which lasted for about an hour, also created a debate between those who felt police were overreaching and infringing on citizens’ rights of assembly and speech and those who felt the protesters were desecrating the flag and disturbing the peace of those who were there to watch fireworks. Police broke up some of the debates that became overly heated. Those arrested were taken to jail on charges of failure to disperse and trespassing. Hartman also said one was booked on a charge of assaulting an officer.
Elsewhere in the Inland Northwest, the Fourth of July was celebrated in more traditional fashion with parades, fireworks and picnics. In downtown Coeur d’Alene, spectators lined up four deep on both sides of Sherman Avenue along the town’s parade route. Michael Frank, a security officer from Post Falls, estimated he walked 10 miles Wednesday morning during a lengthy shift of guard duty at work. Still, he didn’t hesitate to spend another hour, or so, marching with his fellow Vietnam veterans in the July Fourth parade. “It was my first time,” Frank said, moments after finishing the march. “I wanted to show my belief in America.” Spectators stood and applauded as the veterans passed, including Frank and members of the local chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America. The country wasn’t exactly welcoming to Frank when he flew home 35 years ago. It was a tough homecoming, Frank said, and he can’t help but compare his experiences to the warm reception now given to veterans after service in the Middle East. Marching through downtown Coeur d’Alene on Wednesday - cheered on most of the way - made Frank happy. “Anytime a Vietnam veteran or any veteran can participate in something like this, it’s beneficial to them,” Frank said. The parade also left spectators feeling upbeat, despite the wilting sunshine and near-record heat. One of the more popular floats was entered by ROW, a Coeur d’Alene-based river guiding business. Riders on the float sprayed crowds with giant water guns. A squadron of wet children walked alongside, begging for another blast. Standing out of the spray zone was Jo Deen, who traveled form Nampa, Idaho, to visit family in the Coeur d’Alene area during the holiday. “Look at all the people. It’s awesome,” she said. “The amount of people who came out for this is great.” Deen watched the parade for nearly two hours before her granddaughter’s entry passed. “Down in Boise, (the parade) is over in a half-hour or 45 minutes. This goes on forever,” Deen said. One of the few spectators less than thrilled by the parade was 14-month-old Kean Standiford. The boy was captivated by the pirate-themed float entered by the CDA Chamber, according to his mother, Courtney, but he burst into tears when a fleet of city snowplows rumbled past, blowing air horns. “It’s new for him,” his mother said.