Washington lawmakers on Monday called for justice for George Lloyd and expressed their support for peaceful demonstrations.
On Sunday, protesters in Spokane joined a wave of unrest that has spread across the U.S. in the days since 46-year-old George Floyd died in police custody May 25 in Minneapolis. Protesters also have invoked the names of other African Americans recently killed by police or civilians, including medical worker Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.
As in other cities, the protest in Spokane was mostly peaceful, but it later turned violent as some participants destroyed property and looted stores and police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds.
In an interview Monday, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, called Floyd’s death “heart-wrenching” and said, “I want justice for George Floyd. He should be alive today.”
“Every person in America – no matter your background, no matter your race – needs to have confidence in our criminal justice system,” McMorris Rodgers said. “That means holding police officers accountable and responsible. That is a part of making sure that the justice system actually provides justice.”
Floyd died after Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the prone man’s neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd pleaded with the officers to let him breathe. The Hennepin County medical examiner’s office classified the death as a homicide. Chauvin has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
In a statement Monday, Sen. Patty Murray said she shares “the grief, sorrow, anger, and frustration of so many people here in Washington state and across the country that is so clearly a product of our country’s long history of racial injustice.
“Our country owes grieving families and communities change that is as long overdue as our country is old,” the Washington Democrat said, “and I am committed to this fight for the long-haul.”
Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee activated the Washington National Guard statewide Sunday night, following requests for help from officials in Spokane. He had earlier authorized up to 400 members of the Guard to support police in Seattle and Bellevue on Saturday.
In a call with the nation’s governors Monday morning, President Donald Trump encouraged them to use force and “dominate” to stop violent protests. Several news outlets obtained and published audio of the call.
“It’s like we’re talking about a war,” Trump said to Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards. “It is a war in a certain sense, and we’re going to end it fast, so be tough.”
Hours later on Twitter, Inslee called Trump’s remarks on the call “the rantings of an insecure man trying to look strong.”
In a statement on Twitter Sunday, Murray also criticized Trump’s handling of the protests.
“We know the President will sow chaos and damage to distract us from the urgent, overdue work in front of us to make justice and equality realities rather than distant ideals in our country,” the senator wrote. “We can’t let him.”
On the call with governors, Trump took aim at protesters who have looted stores and destroyed property, threatening long prison sentences.
“We’re going to clamp down very, very strong,” he said. “You’ve got to arrest people. You have to try people. You have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again.”
Asked about the president’s remarks, McMorris Rodgers sought to draw a clear distinction between those who have caused destruction and the majority of demonstrators.
“I think there’s a difference between the peaceful protesters and those that are taking advantage of a situation for other purposes,” she said. “That is not acceptable. And I do believe that they need to be held accountable.”
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.