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Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Feb. 28, 2024

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Dozens march in downtown Vancouver in response to police shootings

Demonstration ends with rally in park, pleas from social justice groups

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter
5 Photos
Tiffini Dillard hugs Mollie Wickenhagen during a march Tuesday in downtown Vancouver. Michael Pierce, the father of Wickenhagen’s daughter, was shot and killed Feb. 28 by Vancouver police.
Tiffini Dillard hugs Mollie Wickenhagen during a march Tuesday in downtown Vancouver. Michael Pierce, the father of Wickenhagen’s daughter, was shot and killed Feb. 28 by Vancouver police. (James Rexroad for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A few dozen people marched Tuesday evening in downtown Vancouver after recent police shootings.

The march started on East Mill Plain Boulevard near D Street and ended with a rally in Esther Short Park, a response to four Vancouver police shootings — three of which were fatal — earlier this year. Family and friends of Michael Pierce and Carlos Hunter, both of whom were killed in officer-involved shootings, along with representatives of social justice organizations marched on sidewalks with signs and chants during the peaceful demonstration. The march was organized by various social justice groups.

“The trust is gone,” Aleaka Tate, executive director of Change The Gray Street Outreach, a nonprofit organization for at-risk youth, told the group. “This is when we need to be united.”

Among the demands by protesters were that the Vancouver Police Department purchase body and dash cameras and review its use-of-force policies. Chants included “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” and “Hands up, don’t shoot,” along with some that used expletives toward police.

Police have said Hunter, a known gang member, reached for a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun in his right front pants pocket before the March 7 shooting. During the rally, demonstrators held a six-minute moment of silence meant to represent the number of hours Hunter’s body remained untouched after his death while investigators documented the scene.

“It’s not just my brother. It’s your brother, your father, your sister,” Pam Hunter, Carlos Hunter’s sister, told marchers at the rally. “If my brother was in the wrong, you should be willing to show what wrong he was in.”

James Hunter, Carlos Hunter’s nephew, carried a sign that read, “Carlos, I love you Uncle,” and wore a shirt with a family photo that included both of them. The nephew, who was at work when he heard about the shooting, cried at times Tuesday. He said work has been a distraction but that the memories of that day flooded back during the march.

“That’s unjust that they want to say a man would want to lose his life and he’s about to have a kid,” James Hunter said. “I just don’t believe that.”

Family and friends of Michael Pierce, a homeless man who was shot and killed after police and witnesses say he was waving what turned out to be replica pistols on a street corner in downtown Vancouver, as well as advocates for the homeless, were also present Tuesday. David Carpenter, who has been homeless for three years, carried a sign that read, in part, “Happy hunting homeless.”

Mollie Wickenhagen, who has said that Pierce was the father of her daughter, said she is looking for answers about the shooting.

“It’s a much bigger fight than people see on TV. Every day we have to live out here,” Wickenhagen said.

Wickenhagen said it was helpful to speak with other families who are in similar situations.

“It was exactly what I was hoping it would be, people who are hurting like me,” Wickenhagen said of the march.

Joey Gibson, leader of right-wing provocateur group Patriot Prayer, trailed the marchers along with a handful of other people. The group recorded the march and challenged some of the chants, but demonstrators and Gibson’s group remained nonviolent.

Ronald Collins, 56, of Vancouver, marched with his granddaughters Trinity, 12, and Aryanna, 9. They carried signs with phrases like “Cops are killers,” “Stop killing” and “Stop killing homeless people now.”

“I’m in charge of civic responsibility in this house,” Collins said. “Cops are good, but they need to be supervised like the rest of us.”

Trinity agreed.

“It’s not respectful to, like, kill innocent people,” she said.

Collins and his granddaughters have attended protests before and canvassed for Democrats ahead of the 2018 general election. Why would a grandfather and his two granddaughters attend such an event?

“We all ask ourselves that question, right?” Collins said. “Nothing’s going to happen until the public makes it happen.”

Columbian county government and small cities reporter