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Racially Charged: America’s Misdemeanor Problem – The Spokane Event. By Linda Greene

by May 23, 2021 1

After watching “Racially Charged: America’s Misdemeanor Problem,” Meaningful Movies Spokane leader Barb Stuebing hosted a community conversation with Kendrick Washington who works as Youth Policy Counsel at ACLU Washington in Seattle; and Anwar Peace, a long-time activist for police accountability and a current member of the City of Spokane’s Human Rights Commission. 

As Youth Policy Counsel, Washington leads the development of the ACLU-WA’s policy goals on ending the school to prison pipeline and reforming juvenile justice. Having officers in schools is seen as making schools safer, but he pointed out that the mass shootings at Columbine and Parkland both had officers on campus. Immature, unwise and harmless activities carried out by teens are escalated to arrestable offenses when police become involved. When pursued aggressively, a few such incidents lead to suspension or arrest and subsequent dropping out of school. Students of color are those most targeted, and without the support and stability of school, they easily become fodder for the criminal justice system. Washington said that he would never call the police if his house was being robbed and he worries all the time about his 21 year old son just walking down the street.

When asked about the numerous new laws concerning policing just signed by Gov. Inslee, Washington was a bit skeptical. He said these laws are fine but they are just words on paper.  In fact, If the police had followed the law as written, a lot of the injustices we’ve seen would not have happened. 

Anwar Peace told us of his recent arrest for jaywalking in downtown Spokane.  He had seen an officer dealing disrespectfully with a homeless man and crossed the street. The officer told Peace that he was being arrested only after Peace intervened. Five other police officers showed up for this minor incident. Peace asked the officer for the RCW and the officer said he’d charge Peace with obstruction as well. Because Peace is a City Human Rights Commissioner and is known to the leadership of Spokane, he didn’t have to go through the time consuming and expensive legal processes that others would be required to do to clear his name. There is no question that the overwhelming response by the police to this incident stemmed from the fact that Peace is a person of color. He said that he has seen a number of white people jaywalking right in front of the police with no response.  If we, as citizens, see questionable police activity try to be a witness in any way possible, including using cell phone video.

During the period from 2013 to 2020 Spokane had the third highest rate of police killings of all cities in the entire nation.  This is unconscionable. Our community must act to stop the police from making our streets less safe by their aggressive behavior towards our citizens. Peace and Washington exhort us to become involved, supporting organizations such as SCAR (Spokane Community Against Racism), APIC (Asian Pacific Islander Coalition), NAACP and PJALS. Go to their meetings and do what needs to be done, including signing on to SCAR’s community sponsored platform for change.  Also, never underestimate the power that we hold. Contacting our elected officials, our state representatives and senators as well as our City Council members really makes a difference. 

GET INVOLVED! Please donate to, and volunteer with, the organizations linked in this article.


1 Comment so far

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  1. Debbie
    #1 Debbie 25 May, 2021, 14:06

    Good job Anwar Peace. Glad that you intervened and stood up for this person. It does make a difference!

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