A memorial with crosses for those who have died locally from COVID-19 at Spokane City Hall was vandalized after a protest against stay-home orders on Friday, according to the memorial’s organizer.
The organizer, Tom Robinson, posted photos of the memorial before and after the protest, as well as video showing a tense interaction with protesters and a man wearing a bulletproof vest inscribed with the name of the far-right Proud Boys organization. The video contains strong language.
Photos show the crosses pushed into a pile and damage to a number of them.
The video shows the man wearing the Proud Boys vest, who identified himself as “Milkshake” and as being from Western Washington, step over the crosses as Robinson stands nearby and protesters call him a communist.
Milkshake was captured in other videos and photos at the protest making hand gestures that have been associated with white supremacist movements.
When Milkshake and other protesters came close to Robinson, he asked them to respect his social distancing but was met with laughs. Milkshake did stand one of the crosses back up and said “Don’t disrespect” when someone knocked it over.
Protesters then began to call for Robinson to remove his masks as they circled around him and some began taking video. One woman continued to walk toward Robinson and stretch her arm out toward him.
“This is what Proud Boys do,” Robinson said during the video.
Robinson told The Spokesman-Review he set up the memorial before protesters arrived. But when protesters surrounded him he said he worried someone would spit on him or try to start a violent conflict.
“I made a run for the nearest police vehicle and didn’t dare go back over there,” said Robinson, who waited out the rally locked in his car.
He said several officers were nearby but didn’t do anything to discourage conflict.
The police escorted Robinson back to the memorial after the rally for him to collect his supplies, he said. That’s when he found the damaged crosses in a pile.
He said he reached out to Spokane police Chief Craig Meidl about filing a complaint regarding the vandalism of the crosses, which Robinson called a Christian memorial.
“I believe it constitutes a hate crime,” Robinson said.
Robinson said he believes the damage was inflicted by the Proud Boys or other people who protested with Matt Shea.
Spokane police received no recent calls for service at Spokane City Hall related to the protest or vandalism, according to Ofc. Richie Plunkett.
Robinson said in a Facebook post that he would restore the memorial on Saturday with new crosses made of recycled materials to replace ones that were damaged. He said the damage would be on display as well.
A photo of Robinson’s memorial accompanied a column in The Spokesman-Review written by Shawn Vestal following the May 1 stay-home protest at the Spokane County Courthouse organized by many of the same leaders.
Robinson also set up a memorial at the courthouse during that protest but did not discover any damage.
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