Valley Indivisible Progressives, an activist group, held a rally at Spokane Valley City Hall on Tuesday evening encouraging city council members to denounce racism.
The rally drew about 40 people and was attended by human rights organizations Families Against Bigotry and Spokane Community Against Racism, who are concerned about recent displays of white nationalism – specifically, the Northwest Grassroots meeting that hosted white nationalist James Allsup.
“It’s a continuation of the rally held at the Spokane County Courthouse against racism,” said Leilani DeLong, organizer of the rally. “The GOP had three people resign and put out a declaration against white nationalism and bigotry. We are simply asking our City Council to do the same.”
Cecily Wright – who resigned as chairwoman from the Spokane County Republican Party board this month – came under fire for introducing Allsup during the July Northwest Grassroots meeting. Allsup, who belongs to white separatist group Identity Evropa, was invited to speak at the meeting to “dispel the label he has been identified with as a racist and white supremacist.”
“I profoundly apologize for giving Mr. Allsup a platform to speak at the Northwest Grassroots meeting in July,” Wright said in a statement. “I consider this a serious mistake in my judgment and deeply regret that decision. The Spokane County GOP remains committed to standing against white supremacy, racism and bigotry of all forms.”
Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins, who attended the Northwest Grassroots meeting, told the Spokesman Review earlier this month that he didn’t know Allsup.
Spokane County Treasurer Rob Chase said he attended the Northwest Grassroots meeting along with Higgins.
“We did not know who James Allsup was and we did not hear him say anything racist,” he said at the council meeting Tuesday evening. “There were calls for our resignation from public office because of our attendance and, yet, we did nothing wrong and that is the truth.”
Liberty Lake resident Steven Peter said the rally initially called for Higgins to resign, but it has since changed to denounce white nationalism.
He said while Higgins has served on the City Council, Spokane Valley has thrived by keeping property taxes low, maintaining roads and maximizing public safety dollars by contracting with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department.
“This seems to be a thinly veiled attempt to tarnish the city of Spokane Valley, the City Council in general and Mayor Higgins specifically,” he said. “I think it’s common knowledge that the City Council, including Mayor Higgins, are against white supremacy. Rather than attacking the city government and its mayor, maybe people should be giving them a pat on the back for all the work they’ve done to make a great city.”
The council meeting, which was attended by more than 50 residents, became heated at moments.
During public testimony, one resident rose from his seat and shouted at Higgins, stating “the only person that is manipulating is you by getting all your friends in here to speak for you and take up all the time!”
Group members at the meeting urged the City Council to consider signing a resolution against racism and bigotry to show the Valley is a city of inclusion.
Liberty Lake resident Gary Vandusen said although the City Council does good work, they are judged by the company they keep.
“And whether you like it or not, partially some of the council members have a hidden company with those who seem to be in fringe groups,” he said. “Communities that aren’t welcoming and don’t celebrate diversity – it doesn’t speak well for the location for people like business parks to come in and I think creating business opportunities is one of the reasons the Valley was originated in the first place.”
DeLong initially applauded the City Council for passing an anti-discrimination resolution in March.
“But now, the citizens of Spokane Valley are asking that you pass a resolution against white nationalism and the need for this has occurred because our mayor was at an organization called Northwest Grassroots speaking as the mayor of our city – a representative of our city – and James Allsup did speak there,” she said. “So, I’m asking the City Council to take a bold action prove to the world this a wrong perception of our city. We need to correct it. We are not a center of ignorance, racial discrimination and bigotry. This resolution is a step forward.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.