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Sheriff Knezovich says arrest of protester illustrates pull of left-wing violence in region

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 8, 2020

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich speaks during a news conference at the Spokane Public Safety Building on Tuesday. Knezovich defended his office’s arrest of a political protester, arguing he had a valid felony warrant in an incident that has drawn national media attention.  (Kip Hill)
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich speaks during a news conference at the Spokane Public Safety Building on Tuesday. Knezovich defended his office’s arrest of a political protester, arguing he had a valid felony warrant in an incident that has drawn national media attention. (Kip Hill)

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich defended the arrest of a police protester who received national attention last week, saying the action wasn’t inspired by the man’s political beliefs.

But he added in an hourlong news conference Tuesday that those beliefs demonstrated a dangerous turn for left-leaning groups in the region.

“I’m an equal opportunity sheriff, when it comes to people who want to hurt my community, our community,” said Knezovich, defending the arrest of Jeremy Logan, a 40-year-old active in tenants’ rights and Spokane Democratic Socialists of America. “I will go after you no matter what your political leanings are.”

Logan’s arrest before a protest against police brutality was prompted by a 7-year-old warrant for failure to appear at a financial hearing in Douglas County on a drug charge. Knezovich reiterated Tuesday that was the reason why deputies arrested him in an unmarked vehicle prior to the downtown protest, but also said authorities had been following Logan’s social media accounts since June and had seen evidence of threats of violence against law enforcement officers.

“It’s a response to the fact that you have an individual with a warrant, and we identified he had a warrant,” Knezovich said, continuing that “he was escalating in his rhetoric, and we removed him from the street.”

Knezovich did not say whether other people were arrested for financial obligation warrants prior to or during the Sunday protest.

Logan, who had not seen the news conference early Tuesday afternoon, said his social media posts were made in anger after learning of the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old autistic Black man from Aurora, Colorado, who died after being placed in a police chokehold in 2019.

Logan posted to Facebook indicating he wanted to “take these pigs heads off with a hand saw.”

“If there’s any movement of people, it’s a movement by people that want health care, housing as a human right,” Logan said. “These basic needs for somebody to have a proper and dignified life, that’s what people are fighting for.”

During the 45-minute news conference, Knezovich defended his office against claims of white supremacy, noting that the Sheriff’s Office had participated in actions against white supremacists who’d caused violence or attempted to cause violence in Spokane, including attempted Martin Luther King bomber Kevin Harpham, who attempted to bomb the annual Martin Luther King Jr. march in downtown Spokane in January 2011. He also likened the threat of the far left, particularly people who identify as “antifa,” or anti-fascist, to that posed by far-right extremists in the past, and that beliefs of armed vigilantes abducting people off the streets were tantamount to the “conspiracy theories” espoused by those preparing for religious warfare.

“Apparently our tactics are going to lead to vigilantes and neofascists kidnapping them,” Knezovich said. “You know, I thought Matt Shea’s conspiracy theories were outlandish. Maybe not so much.”

Shea, a Republican state representative from Spokane Valley, was removed from the Republican caucus after an independent investigation found his role in the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge in 2016 amounted to “an act of domestic terrorism against the United States.”

National news media outlets have reported arrests by plainclothes officers, some of them federal, during recent protests in Portland and elsewhere. Knezovich defended the tactic of arresting someone with an open warrant on a street away from a protest as a means of de-escalation.

He showed photos of people protesting prior to a demonstration downtown May 31 that turned violent, with some marchers wearing iconography linked to antifa. Arrest records showed many of those taken into custody for property damage lived in Spokane, and when pressed on whether there was evidence out-of-town groups were responsible for the unrest, Knezovich cited an “active investigation.”

“This isn’t a one-off. There are active investigations going on,” said Knezovich, who noted specifically that authorities are interested in who’s providing funds for protesters to purchase riot gear and high-speed radios.

Knezovich said he was forced into talking about politics due to the story published by the Huffington Post, and a response by Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs requesting records of city involvement in Logan’s arrest.

“I can’t help the politics being interjected into this,” the sheriff said.

Beggs said his interactions with Logan have been confined to issues of tenants’ rights and disputed the sheriff’s characterization of him as an “ally” of Logan.

“I have requested that our police provide us with a full report regarding any potential threats to them and their involvement in an arrest for an out-of-county warrant for failure to make legal financial obligation payments. I am not aware of anyone I know who identifies as Antifacist and have never commented on their actions,” Beggs wrote in an email. “I strive for peace, social harmony and justice for all and will continue to be an advocate for the same in our city.”

Logan said his protest is driven by the belief that police are protectors of the wealthy class that he said Knezovich belongs to.

“Everything that he does is a function of protecting the interests of a wealthy, ruling class,” Logan said.

Logan said he’d arranged a court date in Douglas County following his arrest to fulfill his financial obligation.

Knezovich said Tuesday that Logan is no longer a target of law enforcement interest at this time.

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