A group of men claiming to be members of the far-right group Proud Boys has claimed responsibility for taking down a memorial display for people who have died of COVID-19.
The memorial, which featured a small wooden white cross for each person who has died from COVID-19 in Spokane County, was a counterprotest to Friday’s rally against Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order.
That rally in front of Spokane City Hall included state Rep. Matt Shea, who has helped organized similar events over the last couple of weeks. The crosses were present at past protests, but were not altered until Friday’s rally.
Before the crosses were removed, the activist behind the memorial counterprotest, Tom Robinson, posted a video at the protest showing him in a confrontation with several men, some of whom were wearing bulletproof vests inscribed with the name Proud Boys.
In the protest video, which was posted to Robinson’s group Stronger Together Spokane’s Facebook page, Robinson tells protesters to stay six feet away from him to adhere to social distancing guidelines, and then argues with a protestor in a Proud Boy vest who identified himself as “Milkshake.” In the video, Robinson knocks down a cross while moving away from protestors, and Proud Boys member “Milkshake” stands up a cross that was knocked down.
Robinson said he felt afraid and left the area where he set up the crosses. When he returned, he said, the crosses had been moved into a pile. He claims that protestors – most likely the Proud Boys – vandalized the memorial.
In a video posted to a Proud Boys social media page, the same men who appear in Robinson’s video can be seen at the protest. One image from the video shows the crosses gathered into a pile in front of the side entrance of City Hall with the message “Antifa made a fear propaganda cemetry. We cleaned it up. We dont stand for Communist Fear!”
In the same image of the pile of crosses, a man’s hand is making the OK symbol, a common gesture which far-right groups have attempted to co-opt and associate with white supremacy.
Robinson said two of the 31 crosses were broken on Friday. On Monday he said planned to report the incident to Crime Check.
“Obviously I was unhappy that they decided to desecrate a memorial to people who have died,” he said, “That just isn’t right.”
Robinson said he set up the crosses again on Saturday and has since replaced the two that were broken. He said the crosses represent people who have died and been diagnosed with COVID-19, and the people in the area who died of the virus, but were never formally diagnosed.
He said he plans to set up the crosses again across the street from another protest on Tuesday at Planned Parenthood.
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