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NAACP Vancouver condemns property damage at recent protests

Two nights of unrest have followed shooting death of Kevin E. Peterson Jr.

By , Columbian Sports Editor
Published:
2 Photos
Alisha, one of the event organizers who declined to give her last name, holds a photo of Kevin Peterson Jr., a 21-year-old Black Camas man who was killed Thursday, as he is remembered with a candlelight vigil at the Hazel Dell branch of U.S. Bank on Friday night, Oct. 30, 2020.
Alisha, one of the event organizers who declined to give her last name, holds a photo of Kevin Peterson Jr., a 21-year-old Black Camas man who was killed Thursday, as he is remembered with a candlelight vigil at the Hazel Dell branch of U.S. Bank on Friday night, Oct. 30, 2020. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The Vancouver chapter of the NAACP condemned property damage that happened during a protest march Friday night in downtown Vancouver.

Protesters mourning the death of Kevin E. Peterson Jr. moved from a vigil in Hazel Dell to downtown.

Once there, the group of about 300 faced off with law enforcement and counter-protesters, lit dumpster fires, damaged windows and tagged several buildings with graffiti. Shots were fired into the air by one person, according to police, but no one was injured.

The march eventually ended up at Esther Short Park, where Vancouver police ordered the crowd to disperse at 1 a.m. Six people were arrested for failing to do so.

Peterson, a 21-year-old Black man from Camas, was fatally shot by Clark County Sheriff’s deputies during a foot pursuit Thursday on Highway 99 in Hazel Dell.

At a press conference Friday, Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins said a narcotics investigation led to deputies chasing Peterson on foot. Peterson reportedly fired at the deputies, who returned fire and killed him.

In a statement released Sunday, NAACP Vancouver pledged to pursue justice through peaceful activities.

“We want to make it absolutely clear that the NAACP Vancouver was not involved in nor consulted in organizing the protest,” the statement said. “We also want to make it abundantly clear to the participants that your non-peaceful behavior is totally antithetical to our values as an organization and as black citizens of Vancouver.”

Also Sunday, about 25 people gathered at Vancouver Waterfront Park for a silent vigil remembering Peterson. Participants bowed their heads and held flowers while standing on the Grant Street Pier over the Columbia River.

It was in that spirit that NAACP Vancouver hopes to pursue change.

“To the people involved in organizing the (Friday) protest, we appreciate those of you who peacefully demonstrated,” the NAACP said. “To those who committed damage, please do not assume that anarchy in any way, historically or now, defines or serves the needs or desires of the NAACP or black citizens in Vancouver.”

Saturday saw a second night of unrest in downtown Vancouver. It followed dueling rallies at Esther Short Park between those mourning Peterson and a pro-police, pro-Trump rally organized by David Gellatly, a local Republican activist. The groups traded chants and insults, but no violence occurred at the park.

Just after 10 p.m. Black Lives Matter supporters began marching on streets in downtown Vancouver. Counter-protesters, led by right-wing group Patriot Prayer, marched in tow.

The marchers eventually blocked traffic on East Mill Plain Boulevard, then tried to enter Interstate 5. But Vancouver Police Department officers blocked each on-ramp from Mill Plain, preventing access to the freeway.

The marchers dispersed after midnight after VPD officers threatened to make arrests. Videos on social media showed broken windows at some downtown businesses and at Lewis and Clark Plaza, an apartment complex.

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