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

Video captures looting of downtown Spokane’s Nike store

A line of riot police, below, move toward the crowd of protesters and looters filling the intersection of Howard Street and Main Avenue right after the Nike Store, at left, was looted Sunday, May 31, 2020. The event initiated an evening-long cat-and-mouse game between violent rioters and police. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Editor’s note: Veteran S-R photographer Jesse Tinsley worked Sunday during the downtown Spokane riots. He captured the looting of the Nike Factory Store on video. This is his brief account.

It was the looting of the Nike Factory Store that prompted police Sunday to first use tear gas, rubber bullets and other measures against the crowd in downtown Spokane.

Before that, there was more than three hours of tense but peaceful protesting at the Spokane County Courthouse.

As the main crowd broke up and people drifted away from the organized protest, a substantial group, perhaps as many as 200 people, gathered in front of the federal building at the intersection of Riverside and Monroe. I was asked to take a few pictures there and return to the newspaper office.

But police chased the crowd away, possibly as some began spraying graffiti. The group began wandering aimlessly, down the middle of streets, led mostly by young men but with many young women trailing or in small groups. The group was restless and walked a few blocks before arriving at the Nike store.

When those in the front of the group ran toward the Nike store, I was half a block away. I saw two to four young men alternately kicking and ramming the glass doors before finally crashing through.

There was a small cheer from the larger group, and looters began filing through the broken window whooping and cheering.

Jesse Tinsley - The Spokesman-Review

I inched closer and observed from 10 feet away as people, nearly all young men but some young women as well, ran in and out, some with armloads of clothing, some with a single pair of shoes under an arm. A few protesters screamed “Don’t loot!” or “Stop looting!” But their shouts were lost in the mayhem.

After about two minutes, I moved away. As the frantic activity slowed, I was afraid to be there when the mob became restless again, so I crossed the street and waited for police.

When I turned and reached the other side of Main Avenue, I saw that six to eight male protesters were standing in front of the broken doors and windows, preventing more looting.

Within five minutes, the BearCat – an armored police vehicle – and officers on foot were entering the block from the west. I quickly moved to get out of the way of law enforcement.

Over a loudspeaker, a police officer was saying, “This is an illegal assembly. You must leave the area now.” This was said three or more times while officers prepared to advance.

The announcement seemed to galvanize the remaining protesters into forming a line across Main Avenue on the east side of Howard Street where they taunted police.

Tear gas canisters began to fly.

I watched from behind the police vehicles as the rioters began to scatter. A few picked up active tear gas canisters and threw them back. More officers arrived. Over the next several hours, the rioters would move back a few dozen yards, form up and begin taunting police again, starting several more clashes until police forces pushed out everyone who was on the sidewalk shortly before midnight.