SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. — A group of 16 Spokane-area elected officials released a joint statement on Thursday afternoon condemning armed militia groups seen at protests downtown over the past two weeks.
The statement was signed by the entire Spokane City Council, Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward, three state-level officials, Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton and four Spokane Public Schools Board members.
"We, as elected leaders from the Spokane community, declare that we oppose the presence of armed vigilantes roaming the streets of our city," the statement begins.
Later on in the statement, the officials "strongly condemn the presence of armed vigilantes and find their actions contrary to the values of our community."
Owners of downtown businesses, including Auntie's Bookstore and the Globe Bar and Kitchen, have distanced themselves from the groups and asked them to stop gathering outside their locations. The groups were seen during protests in downtown Spokane on May 31 and June 7.
Spokane Police Sgt. Terry Preuninger has previously said officers were aware of the groups, but they had not committed crimes and left after the implemented curfew began.
While the groups have Second Amendment rights to bear arms, a Washington law makes it illegal for a person to display or carry a weapon "at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons."
Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell said his office rarely prosecutes the statute, saying its difficult to prosecute.
The full statement, including the list of officials who signed off on it, is replicated below:
"We, as elected leaders from the Spokane community, declare that we oppose the presence of armed vigilantes’ roaming the streets of our city.
The past two weekends, during and after protests in downtown Spokane sparked by the murder of George Floyd and others, armed vigilantes were observed individually and in groups around downtown Spokane. Their presence did not contribute positively in any way to the protests. In fact, their presence made the situation more tense and our city more dangerous for all involved.
We strongly condemn the presence of armed vigilantes and find their actions contrary to the values of our community. The tactics used to intimidate and put fear in the citizenry, businesses and people peacefully protesting against personal and systematic racism and promoting justice have no place in our City.
Senator Andy Billig
Representative Timm Ormsby
Representative Marcus Riccelli
Mayor Nadine Woodward
Council President Breean Beggs
Council member Candace Mumm
Council member Karen Stratton
Council member Lori Kinnear
Council member Kate Burke
Council member Michael Cathcart
Council member Betsy Wilkerson
County Auditor Vicky Dalton
School board member Nikki Lockwood
School board member Jenny Slagle
School board member Kevin Morrison
School board member Mike Wiser"