Protests against police violence and institutional racism continued across the country Monday, including among a small group of demonstrators who met in downtown Vancouver.
About a dozen people gathered at the roundabout in front of City Hall, holding signs and chanting “no justice, no peace” and “white silence is violence.”
“We figured we’d come out today and show some support,” said Jeramy Hopkins, a 24-year-old Vancouver resident, as a passing car honked its encouragement.
Monday’s meetup, though modest, marked the second day in a row that local protesters have gathered in downtown Vancouver to voice outrage following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week.
Floyd, a black man, was handcuffed on the ground and pleading for air while a white police officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has since been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
On Sunday, about 100 people gathered in Esther Short Park to call for an end to police brutality. The Vancouver event was peaceful, though ongoing protests just across the Columbia River in Portland have included rioting and looting.
The meetups on Sunday and Monday in Vancouver were both coordinated by individuals on social media — they were not linked to any particular organization.
Local leaders, candidates react to turmoil
Floyd’s death and the subsequent protests drew mixed reactions from some local politicians.
Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle issued a statement Saturday expressing condolences to the communities traumatized by police brutality but cautioning protesters against violence.
“Peaceful, meaningful demonstration is an exercise of our right to free speech and assembly, but it is unfortunate when these protests, including the one in Portland last night, devolve into unlawful, destructive and dangerous activity,” McEnerny-Ogle said. “The outrage at the root of these protests is understandable, but I hope we will see peaceful demonstration and dialogue as the path forward.”
The mayor added that she had “the utmost confidence” in Vancouver’s ability to protest peacefully.
None of the sitting state legislators from Clark County have issued statements on the ongoing turmoil. Neither has the region’s congressional representative, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler.
However, several challengers running for political office this year have spoken out. Carolyn Long, a Vancouver Democrat seeking to represent Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, issued a statement addressing what she described as the systemic racism that kills black people across the country.
“Our country was founded on ideals of liberty and justice for all. This is just the latest reminder that we have significant work to do toward making this a reality for all Americans, regardless of race,” Long said.
Tanisha Harris, who is running to represent the state’s 17th Legislative District in Olympia, posted a personal essay to her Facebook page about the distinct challenges of running for office as a person of color.
Harris, a Democrat, wrote that she can feel burdened with tackling inequality in a way not typically expected of her white peers. It’s exhausting, she said.
“Are other candidates and elected officials in Clark County being asked these questions? The real work begins when leadership within these systems start to act. As a woman of color, it is not my sole responsibility to solve these problems — and yet it feels as though it is a burden that I and so many of us carry each day,” Harris wrote.
“The outrage all of us feel and the fight for the justice we demand continues on.”
However, not every candidate came out in support of Floyd and the protesters.
Justin Forsman, who is running for state representative in the 49th Legislative District, posted a meme to his Facebook page claiming without evidence that Floyd’s death was a hoax.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire death was staged in order to foment race rioting, and looting,” Forsman wrote.