Protests continued for a third day in Spokane on Tuesday night, where two gatherings merged for a peaceful evening.
A church in Airway Heights offered its stage and sound system for Kitana Johnson’s afternoon protest at the Red Wagon in Riverfront Park. A Spokane resident donated 50 boxes of pizza, left, and came back with 50 more boxes of pizza.
Moms brought trays of cookies and passed water bottles out to the crowd, which numbered about 300 people just as night fell. A DJ walking past decided to bring equipment and play music. Teenagers and young adults lined up across the sidewalk with signs saying “Black Lives Matter,” “I can’t breathe,” and “enough is enough.”
“I used to be pissed at MLK,” Kitara Johnson, a longtime Black Spokane resident said over the speakers. “I didn’t get it. I was like, man, sometimes you just want to break some (stuff) … But then I realized something.”
Johnson was in her hometown of Chicago in the ’90s when buildings burned down during the MLK riots. She said they took decades to rebuild.
“No Proud Boys, no antifa, none of them are gonna take your voice. They’re not going to take George Floyd’s voice,” Johnson said, referring to the man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis. “None of us are going to let any of us destroy our city tonight.”
Floyd’s death has prompted nationwide protests and clashes between demonstrators and police that continued Tuesday evening.
Johnson, a mother of five, arranged a gathering at 3 p.m. for teenagers to speak their minds and connect. When Renee White arrived at 6 p.m. for a Black Lives Matter protest she organized, Johnson said they almost clashed over the space. Then they decided to join forces.
The women spent the evening passing the mic back and forth and inviting people up to the stage. As they spoke, White combed through the crowd to register people to vote.
Impromptu speakers reminded protestors to believe in themselves, love each other, pick up their trash and avoid cursing, for the youngest kids among them.
“I’m a person of color but I’m not African American. I may not ever understand, but I’ll stand with you,” Kelsey Loeun said. “I’m 15 so I can’t vote. But I can go to the store. I can go for a run. I can wear a hoodie. I can get Skittles and I could breathe. George Floyd couldn’t. … Let’s just all love each other.”
White called for action. She had the crowd chant “June 8, 6 p.m.,” the date and time of the next Spokane City Council meeting. She held up her fist and the crowd did, too.
“This is how you recognize me, baby. Hold your fist up,” White said, shaking her fist. “If I forget your name, if I forget your face by accident because there are so many beautiful faces out here, this is how I recognize you. This is how you recognize me.”
Bleach blonde and black-clad friends Ash Lovato and Cam Mason, both 19, held “silence equals violence” and “enough is enough” signs toward Spokane Falls Boulevard.
Lovato said the Tuesday protest reminded them of how Sunday’s protest began. The two went downtown with water to help wash out tear-gassed eyes and almost everyone they saw was peaceful.
Lovato pulled out her phone to show a video of kneeling people with their hands up. One man got up, pointed to his friend and moved toward him. The camera turns 180 degrees before tear gas starts to fill the frame as Lovato runs and repeats expletives.
“I’d rather be gassed and shot at again and again than do nothing,” Lovato said. “But we’re really trying not to let that happen again.”
Across the street and at the farthest point away in a parking lot, an unmarked black police SUV sat with the engine running. Two smiling police officers leaned back and kept an eye on the protest in case the energy changed.
Having been present at Sunday’s protests and tear gas deployments, the two said they had no concerns about this protest becoming chaotic.
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