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News / Clark County News

Armed groups argue after Kevin Peterson Jr. protest in downtown Vancouver

Weapons draw concern from bystanders; one person arrested, no damage reported

By Micah Rice, Columbian Sports Editor
Published: November 29, 2020, 5:11pm
2 Photos
An armed protester stands on Franklin Street in downtown Vancouver on Sunday after a demonstration calling for arrests in the police shooting of Kevin Peterson Jr.
An armed protester stands on Franklin Street in downtown Vancouver on Sunday after a demonstration calling for arrests in the police shooting of Kevin Peterson Jr. (Micah Rice/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A Black Lives Matter demonstration drew about 75 protesters and counterprotesters to downtown Vancouver on Sunday afternoon.

Many on each side openly carried rifles, handguns and clubs, drawing curious and concerned looks from passers-by near Esther Short Park.

There were some tense moments, but no injuries or property damage was reported. One person was arrested by Vancouver police.

The protest called for arrests in the death of Kevin E. Peterson Jr., a 21-year-old Black man who was shot by Clark County Sheriff’s Office deputies as they tried to arrest him during a drug bust on Oct. 29.

A recently completed law enforcement investigation found that deputies fired 34 shots in the fatal encounter. Four rounds struck Peterson, who had a handgun. The investigation found no evidence Peterson fired his weapon.

The findings of the investigation have been forwarded to the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office for review.

Sunday’s march first congregated at an apartment building on McLoughlin Boulevard where Jeremy Brown, one of the deputies involved in the fatal encounter, lives.

Protesters, with “Back the Blue” counterprotesters in tow, then marched to Esther Short Park and Vancouver City Hall. The formal demonstration ended with speeches calling for arrests in Peterson’s shooting and that “dealing drugs should not be a death sentence.”

The two opposing groups began milling around the park, then moved onto Franklin Street just north of West Eighth Street.

Though protesters and counterprotesters have faced off a few times since Peterson’s death, what made this encounter notable was the large presence of weapons on both sides. At least a dozen long rifles were being carried, along with handguns, knives, bear mace and baseball bats.

That drew worried looks from pedestrians and motorists on Franklin Street. The groups stood in the roadway, parting when vehicles wanted to pass through.

As the groups traded conversation, ranging from sincere debate to insults, at least two Vancouver Police Department units stood by two blocks away though out of sight.

The encounter became tense when a BLM protester grabbed a female counterprotester who tried to take a photo of a vehicle’s identification number. That clash caused shoves, shouts and the alleged pointing of a weapon at counterprotesters.

Vancouver police dispersed the crowd shortly after 3 p.m., ordering both groups to clear the street and sidewalks. Police detained a man involved in the grabbing of the female counterprotester and later announced that James E. DeBacqua, 38, address unknown, was arrested on suspicion of fourth-degree assault and felony harassment and booked into the Clark County Jail.