City council members in Spokane, Washington are considering a resolution asking the city’s police department to boot armed protesters out of the city or arrest them for violating state law, even though the resolution’s author has been highly critical of what he calls an overzealous police response to other protests in the city.
“The City Council believes that the appearance of armed private militias marching with firearms, including rifles such as AR-15s, during the protests in May 2020 were crimes under state law,” the resolution states.
At the time, Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl did not condone the militia groups but said they have the right to bear arms. They moved along when asked to by police, he said.
Washington law prohibits private militias from bringing “themselves together as a military company” to “organize or parade in public with firearms.”
City Council President Breean Beggs told The Spokesman-Review on Tuesday it appears police were not aware of the state law.
“We’re bringing it to their very public attention,” Beggs said.
Meidl asked the city’s legal department for an interpretation of the law, according to police spokeswoman Julie Humphreys. She said police have discouraged militias from responding to protests, but that people have the right to bear arms unless they are specifically threatening someone else.
It’s Breean Beggs’ hypocrisy that really needs to be brought to the public’s attention. Beggs is eager to see law enforcement crack down on those exercising their Second Amendment rights, even as he’s advocated for de-escalation on the part of police when responding to calls.
I do not believe we need more commissioned police officers — people who carry a gun and are ready at a moment’s notice to use their guns.
We do need people who will de-escalate conflict. They don’t have to have a gun to de-escalate conflict. Actually, not having a gun usually works better. We do need more social workers.
We don’t have to send an armed commissioned officer to every call. We don’t have to do that anymore. Having someone commissioned and well-trained and the ability to use firearms costs more than other types of positions in our current economy.Do we need more people doing the work that makes our community safer? Yes. But it’s probably a different mix that has been done before.
“SPD does not interfere with the lawful exercise of a citizen’s liberty regarding the second amendment, just as we would not interfere with the lawful exercise of other liberties such as free speech and peaceful assembly,” Humphreys wrote in an email. “SPD has interacted with armed individuals in the past at large gatherings and has emphasized the desire for citizens to be prudent and judicious in their decisions regarding the carrying of firearms.”
In a statement to The Spokesman-Review, Meidl said he is unaware of any cities that have charged people with crimes based on the law cited in the council’s resolution.
That’s a solid statement by the Spokane police, and it demonstrates far more fealty to the law and respect for our individual rights than the resolution that will be considered by the Spokane city council on Monday. I have no doubt that the resolution will pass handily next week, but I hope that council members get an earful from the public before their vote is cast. If the city is truly interested in de-escalation, they’ll back off their desire for police to arrest those exercising their First and Second Amendment rights in a peaceful manner.