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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Crime/Public Safety

‘We have to do more’: Spokane activists plead, march to end police violence after Nichols’ death

Feb. 4, 2023 Updated Sat., Feb. 4, 2023 at 9:31 p.m.

People march Saturday along West Broadway Avenue on their way to the Spokane County Courthouse to protest the killing of Tyre Nichols, who died after being beaten by Memphis, Tennessee, police officers last month.  (Garrett Cabeza / The Spokesman-Review)
People march Saturday along West Broadway Avenue on their way to the Spokane County Courthouse to protest the killing of Tyre Nichols, who died after being beaten by Memphis, Tennessee, police officers last month. (Garrett Cabeza / The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

Spokane activists demanding an end to police brutality in the wake of Tyre Nichols’ death said they are exhausted.

“Spokane, here we are again, having another protest about another unique community member lost to unnecessary and unjustifiable harm and violence,” said Chris Clay, a former Whitworth University student and current community health worker.

Clay said politicians continue to provide words and “face-value change.”

“When are those actions going to follow?” Clay said. “When is systemic change going to follow?”

Clay and others addressed a crowd of about 100 people on a brisk Saturday afternoon at Riverfront Park near the Podium.

The group then marched and belted chants like, “No justice, no peace, defund the police” on a half-mile walk to the Spokane County Courthouse. Many protesters held yellow signs with black words that said, “JUSTICE for TYRE NICHOLS, Jail Killer Cops!”

Rylan Montgomery, a Spokane resident, marched holding a sign that said, “STOP POLICE BRUTALITY.”

Montgomery said he wanted to raise awareness on the subject, noting it’s convenient to do it on social media but more important to be visibly seen on a sidewalk or in front of the courthouse like Saturday’s march.

“It’s just really important to be seen doing this because it’s easy to fall behind a screen,” he said. “And so being in person really draws emphasis and awareness to how important this is.”

The “Justice for Tyre Nichols” gathering was sponsored by several organizations, including the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Spokane Democratic Socialists of America, Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, Spokane Community Against Racism, Muslims for Community Action and Support, The Lands Council and APIC Spokane.

Jac Archer, a member of Peace and Justice Action League and Spokane Community Against Racism, told the crowd to protest the killing of Nichols and all others who have died at the hands of police across the country.

“When I heard that news (of Nichols), I felt kind of hollow,” Archer said. “I felt tired. I felt, ‘Here we go again.’ That sense of heavy exhaustion that has come to rest at the pit of my chest every time I hear about someone else being brutalized (and) murdered by the people whose slogan is unironically, ‘Protect and serve.’ ”

Nichols, 29, was pulled from his car, pushed to the ground and Tased during a Jan. 7 traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee. Nichols died three days later after the beating, igniting another round of protests across the nation.

Five police officers were charged with second-degree murder.

“What I would want is for Mr. Nichols to still be alive, but in lieu of that, what I want are the social conditions that would make his murder never happen again,” Archer said.

Archer demanded “radical honesty” about the root of the problem. Archer said Memphis police officers acted in a culture where somehow it was OK to beat Nichols to death on camera.

Many speakers Saturday urged attendees to take action, such as voting, attending Spokane City Council meetings and participating in groups such as the ones that sponsored Saturday’s protest.

NAACP Spokane President Kurtis Robinson said it’s going to take more than simply standing outside and protesting.

“We have to do more,” he said.

Robinson said one way to take action is conversing with neighbors and even people who disagree with you on the topic.

Debbie Novak, a member of the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability, said the coalition is working tirelessly to pass bills in Olympia and asked residents for their help.

Novak’s son, 35-year-old David Novak, was shot and killed by Spokane police in January 2019. Prosecutors cleared Officer Brandon Rankin of any wrongdoing in the shooting in August of that year.

Novak’s family filed suit against the city, which in September settled with the family for $4 million.

“He did not run, he walked to the front door with empty hands and was shot,” Debbie Novak said Saturday of her son.

She said when she watches the video of Nichols’ murder, “I drop to the ground in grief.”

“This disproportionate, violent, horrendous treatment that continues to unleash itself on people of color can no longer continue to happen,” Robinson said.

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