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Friday, August 14, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Human Rights Commission backs police accountability activist for seat despite restraining order

UPDATED: Thu., July 2, 2020

Anwar Peace, a police accountability activist, listens June 19 during a Spokane Community Against Racism protest at the Spokane Tribal Gathering Place.  (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Anwar Peace, a police accountability activist, listens June 19 during a Spokane Community Against Racism protest at the Spokane Tribal Gathering Place. (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The city of Spokane’s Human Rights Commission affirmed its recommendation that Anwar Peace, an advocate for police accountability, be appointed to a three-year term on Wednesday, despite an active restraining order against him.

Peace’s appointment to the Human Rights Commission will now be considered for the second time by the Spokane City Council, after a short and unexplained delay earlier this week.

Peace had already received the recommendation of the Human Rights Commission last month and was set for a formal appointment for a three-year term by the Spokane City Council at its meeting on Monday.

But Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs stepped in and asked the council to delay the vote on Peace’s appointment, saying the Human Rights Commission wanted a second interview with Peace.

At its meeting on Wednesday, held remotely due to the coronavirus, the Human Rights Commission briefly discussed Peace’s candidacy.

The commission is tasked with making recommendations to the City Council on matters related to human rights. Its members are nominated by the mayor, vetted by the commission members and approved by the City Council.

Chair Lance Kissler asked other commissioners if they had the opportunity to read information regarding Peace he had distributed earlier that day.

He then allowed Peace to speak.

Peace chalked up the delay to “family drama” that he was not hiding, but had hoped to avoid bringing into public view.

Court records obtained by The Spokesman-Review show that Peace has an active order for protection against him, applied for by his mother and granted in Spokane Superior Court last August.

After commissioners confirmed that the order in Peace’s record was not criminal in nature, they voted to again recommend him for appointment. His appointment will now be taken up by the City Council.

Peace could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

When reached by The Spokesman-Review, Peace’s mother asked not to be named, but said she did not oppose Peace’s appointment to the commission and did not attempt to intercede.

Court documents show Peace was accused of threatening behavior, but not physical abuse. In a written response to the petition for protection, Peace wrote that he did not wish harm upon his mother, denied that he had threatened her, and stated he no longer desired to have contact with her.

When asked for a copy of materials related to Peace that commission members were sent on Wednesday, Kissler told The Spokesman-Review in an email that he would first have to consult the commission’s attorney.

Peace moved to Spokane about five years ago, but was a longtime activist in Seattle.

Peace closely followed former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske with a sign alleging Kerlikowske did not care about Black people at the Seafair torchlight parade in 2003, leading to his arrest. Then, following his release from jail, Peace flooded Kerlikowske’s email with voicemails, he told The Spokesman-Review in January. It prompted Kerlikowske to take out a restraining order against Peace.

Now, Peace has taken a prominent role in recent protests against police brutality and racial injustice in Spokane.

Peace, a Black man, filed a complaint against Spokane Police after officers confronted him outside his job at the Mister Car Wash near Francis Avenue on Dec. 29. Police were searching for a white man who had reportedly held his wife hostage for 26 hours with a machete, but stopped to question Peace, who was on a break.

Officer Chris Johnson returned to the scene little more than an hour later, spoke with Peace’s supervisor and attempted to have Peace fired for obstructing their investigation despite not being the correct suspect.

According to the scene that played out on Johnson’s body camera footage, Peace asked him, “Why are you trying to get me fired right now?”

“Me? Because you did not act like a normal citizen should do when we’re trying to help a female who had a guy try to attack her with a hatchet,” Johnson replied. He said later, “You delayed and hindered our investigation.”

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