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Spokane Prepares For Another Rally, With Shadow Looming Of Last Sunday's Downtown Clashes

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People in Spokane are preparing for another Black Lives Matter rally on Sunday, June 7.

Demonstrators and police say a protest and march from Spokane’s Riverfront Park to the county courthouse last Sunday was peaceful. But hours later, after several hundred people headed back downtown, later looting of a Nike outlet store by a few people spurred police to use tear gas and rubber bullets. That led to hours of clashes and confusion downtown.

Demonstrations in Riverfront Park have continued every night since.

Law enforcement is investigating threats of bombs and other violence by white supremacists ahead of this weekend’s demonstration.

Protesters gather at the Spokane County Courthouse Sunday, May 31, 2020 as part of nationwide demonstrations against police treatment of African Americans and other groups. The Spokane event started in the city's downtown Riverfront Park, with several thousand people marching peacefully in streets across the city's Monroe Street Bridge to the courthouse. CREDIT: Nick Deshais/N3

Protesters gather at the Spokane County Courthouse Sunday, May 31, 2020 as part of nationwide demonstrations against police treatment of African Americans and other groups. CREDIT: Nick Deshais/N3

But Spokane Police Sergeant Terry Preuninger says violence from any demonstrators also won’t be tolerated. And if a disturbance occurs downtown again this Sunday, he says police won’t be patient.

“Once that turns from that First Amendment protected activity into that unlawful gathering, we’re not going to do a do-over today,” Preuninger said. “And I don’t mean to be sarcastic or sound like a grade school kid, but the other kids have messed it up for us and we’re done. And so at that point in time, it’s criminal, and we’re going to resolve that and we’re going to move everybody out of the area.”

Organizers for this Sunday’s rally say they are waiting to announce a location because of threats.

Renee White, who’s been leading daily demonstrations and helping to keep them peaceful, says it wasn’t outsiders or even extremist groups that caused the violence in downtown Spokane a week ago.

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“I didn’t see anybody represent Antifa down there. I didn’t see anybody represent Proud Boys down there,” she said. “Racial discrimination is everywhere. It could be somebody walking down the street. Your mailman, your doctor, your boss, your apartment manager. A homeless person. It could be anybody. Literally, anybody.”

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Copyright 2020 Northwest Public Broadcasting

Nick Deshais roams eastern Washington, North Idaho and northeastern Oregon as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network. Nick has called the region home since 2008. As a journalist, he has always sought to tell the stories of the area’s many different people, from the dryland farmers above the Odessa aquifer to the roadbuilders of Spokane. Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Nick worked as a print reporter in Washington, Oregon and Michigan. Most recently, he covered city hall and urban affairs at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane. Nick was raised in rural Northern California, and is a graduate of Portland State University, where he earned degrees in history and math. When off the clock, Nick enjoys state-spanning bike tours, riding subways in foreign cities and walking slowly through museums. Nick’s reporting and writing has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and the Best of the West. He was a Knight-Wallace fellow at the University of Michigan in 2017, and a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists in 2011.