Nazi propaganda was left at around a dozen north Spokane houses on the morning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and local leaders are urging the community to focus on King’s legacy of civil rights and moving forward.
Spokane resident Carlos Matthews said he found a flier when taking out the garbage and was concerned he, or a neighbor, may have been targeted. Matthews is biracial, and his neighbor has a Black Lives Matter flag displayed at their home. He said he feels safe in his neighborhood, but it does make him concerned and angry that some people in Spokane are willing to spread hate.
“I just want people to know that this isn’t tolerated in our community and that we won’t be bullied by some hate group,” he said.
The fliers had swastikas, pictures of white children, the message “Hitler was right” and urged people to “defend their race.”
Police spokeswoman Julie Humphreys said the Spokane Police Department responded to a call from a neighbor who was concerned about the flier and looked into it, but said it does not appear a crime had been committed.
Spokane City Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson said it’s important for community leaders to call out hate every time they see it.
“When we are silent, we are just aiding and abetting,” she said. “(People say) ‘This is not our Spokane,’ but excuse me, the hell it is. These people live in our community. This is where we have to be bold, people of color and the dominant culture, we need to stand up and say this is not OK.”
Wilkerson, who is the first African American to serve on the Spokane City Council since 2003, called on other leaders in the community and individuals to also speak up against hate and racism.
“Martin Luther King Jr. Day is not just about me as a woman of color, it’s about this whole community going forward,” she said. “Their voice is just as important.”
Spokane City Councilman Michael Cathcart, who represents the northeast Spokane council district, called the fliers “disgusting” and an intimidation tactic. He asked community members to focus on moving forward.
“It’s disgusting that folks are doing that kind of stuff and threatening our community members,” he said. “It’s something that’s not right.”
He urged the community to stay unified and move forward together.
“I think we have to rise above that and push back and not let these folks get what they want,” he said.
Percy “Happy” Watkins, a longtime Spokane pastor and advocate for civil rights, also called for the community to unify, continue to work for peace and continue to move forward, referencing one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s last speeches before he was assassinated where he asked to be remembered as a “drum major for justice.”
Watkins said drums help people accomplish tasks and stay on beat together and said people should be in their own lives drumming for peace, righteousness and justice.
“The one thing I’m challenging people today, right now, young, old, middle age, Democrats, Republicans, is like Martin Luther King, be drum majors,” he said. “That’s probably what Martin Luther King would ask of us today.”
On a normal Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Watkins would be downtown attending a march and delivering King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
The march was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Watkins still delivered the speech this year; it’s available on the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center’s Facebook page.