A Spokane branch of a national protest art organization shined “No Honor in Genocide” on the Spokane County Superior Court house around 8 p.m. Friday, as a preview of the Saturday event in protest of Fort George Wright Drive.
The road, which leads to historic Fort George Wright, is named for the Spokane colonel who ordered the killing of 800 from local tribes and lured and hanged 17 American Indian leaders under the ruse of a white flag. Hangman Creek is named for this event.
The “most prominent thing (Wright) did in this area was murder people,” said Eastern Washington University history professor Larry Cebula in 2015.
Controversy over honoring Wright has been going on for decades in Spokane, said projectionist Steve Parker who led the group Friday night.
Parker is a member of the Backbone Campaign, based on Vashon Island in Washington. The group has teams shining messages in about 37 U.S. cities, said Deputy Director Amy Morrison, from Spokane. Some of their images have gone viral, including a projection of George Floyd’s face on a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
In Spokane, Parker and other Backbone Campaign members shined “We can’t breathe,” on the courthouse the same week police pepper sprayed Black Lives Matter protesters downtown.
Now, Parker’s attention is turned to renaming Fort George Wright Drive, but he’s known of Wright’s killings for decades as a long-time Spokane resident.
“I didn’t like traveling on a street in my town that uses the name of somebody who is essentially a war criminal,” Parker said.
Parker said he finds it interesting that some Americans worry removing monuments to certain racist historical figures erases history, but he disagrees. He said his daughter’s foreign exchange students from Germany showed him another way.
“They have no monuments to Nazi leaders, but they have many museums,” Parker said. “They are ardent about teaching about the errors and sins of the past.”
Parker said the fort could act as a museum educating the public, but the road’s name seems to honor a man who does not deserve honor.
Protesters aren’t asking for much, Parker said, as he believes it would be easy to rename the road. He said protesters are “not even suggesting a name,” though he said he’d like for local tribes to have a “very big say” in a new name.
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