A century-old Washington state law bans private armed groups from demonstrating and the Spokane City Council wants it to be enforced

A century-old Washington state law bans private armed groups from demonstrating and the Spokane City Council wants it to be enforced

An armed citizen during a protest in downtown Spokane. I t was the evening before the 2020 election, and with the potential of civil unrest looming, some members of the Spokane City Council were worried. "I have received enough emails from citizens who are truly afraid to be out tomorrow night, on election night, because they don’t feel safe," Councilwoman Karen Stratton says. After all, the racial justice protests over the past few months, in Spokane and across the country, haven’t just involved clashes between police and unarmed protesters. There have also been private citizens with guns — patrolling the streets, keeping an eye on demonstrators or claiming to be protecting businesses against looters. Some of them, like those wearing camo and surveilling a June Black Lives Matter demonstration in Spokane, have identified themselves as official members of the Lightfoot Militia. Others represented themselves as from more loosely defined armed groups in the militia movement like the Three Percenters. Councilwoman Stratton says she doesn’t have an issue with people who own guns, but this was different. "I do have serious issues with those people who carry guns, who come down to our downtown core and other areas to intimidate and frighten people," she says. Back in June, Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward, the City Council and other local elected officials issued a statement that they "oppose the presence of armed vigilantes roaming the streets of our city." Similarly, while Police Chief Craig Meidl defended the rights of citizens to open […]

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