Activists demand police reform outside Spokane City Hall on Juneteenth

SPOKANE, Wash. —  Each year, thousands of people nationwide commemorate June 19- the day a group of enslaved people in Texas learned they were finally free. 

It’s been over 150 years, but local activists in Spokane say there’s still work to be done. They gathered outside City Hall on Friday, calling for police reform. 

“I can’t pursue life, liberty or happiness with somebody’s knee on my neck, because I can’t breathe,” Walter Kendricks of Spokane Community Against Racism said.

Spokane Community Against Racism aims to “identify and address racial disparities through a variety of community efforts,” according to its website

Organizers spoke about policies and changes they hope to see made in the police department. That includes City Council members rejecting a proposed Spokane Police Guild contract, which protesters say, if passed, will hold officers less accountable. 

“We don’t trust them enough to allow them to police themselves, therefore, there has to be an organization outside of the police department that will provide oversight,” Kendricks said.

READ: Spokane Police Guild contract up in the air, under intense scrutiny

As it stands, the ombudsman only has resources to investigate, but no power to discipline the Spokane Police Department and its officers. 

The contract would also allow the ombudsman to appeal decisions made by the police chief during an investigation. 

Activists with SCAR say that’s not enough; the contract needs to include outside authority to investigate police whenever necessary.

If that contract is approved, it would only last until the end of the year.

Mayor Nadine Woodward has said negotations for a new one would begin as soon as that agreement is reached.

Protesters want that change now, though.

“New contracts are based on old contracts,” Jack Archer of SCAR said. “We don’t want the precedent of the police guild to look over the shoulder of the very body that’s supposed to be holding them accountable.”

The organization also wants Spokane Public Schools to end its relationship with Spokane Police.

Right now, the district said it has Campus Resource Officers in schools, but they say that is different than an actual police officer.

Still, the district pays for those officers out of a campus safety budget.

Protesters want that money to be used elsewhere.

“Investment in their growth, investment in their emotional well-being, and police can’t help with that,” Archer said.

You can see a full list of what community members want to see changed HERE.

READ: Washington bill proposed making Juneteenth a state holiday