A Reporter Shares Her Impressions Of "Black Lives Matters" Protests
Spokane’s Black Lives Matter protest will resume Sunday afternoon; the site hasn’t yet been announced.
Reporter Natalie Newcomb from Northwest Public Broadcasting has attended two of the previous nights’ protests and she gave Doug Nadvornick a few of her impressions.
“The event that they had was amazing. It was meant for youth and, if you were under 25, you were allowed to go up there and speak," Newcomb said. "There was lots of very strong testimony of youth talking about police brutality that they’ve personally experienced, whether it be experiences that their parents had and how it’s impacted them, whether it be different slurs they heard or have been called at school and, so, there was very much strong testimony.”
There was one woman who caught Newcomb’s eye, a woman who worked to keep the peace.
“The first night I was there, which was the second night of the protest, was Monday night. The protests remained calm throughout the duration of the protest," Newcomb said. "The woman I was focusing on was Renee White. She’s a single black mother and emerged as a leader at the protest and was a key on keeping everything very peaceful. Protesters encouraged those who were going to be violent to go home.”
Newcomb says when police and SWAT teams quickly began to circle the area, people became nervous and there was tension in the area.
Natalie Newcomb: “Among members of the press who were there, I was given a recommendation to stay on the periphery in case rubber bullets were to be fired. So everybody was very nervous. But White rallied the crowd and reminded everyone to remain peaceful and a giant circle was formed around her. She had everybody move off the sidewalk and into the grass and she had everyone take a knee, hold their fist up. White insisted on everyone being quiet to make sure police could not use any form or reason to take action against them. For over two hours, White held the protesters’ attention by walking up and down the block, preaching to the crowd. She preached about bringing books and computers so everyone could learn about who was running in this upcoming election year. It was amazing how she just captured the attention and everyone remained calm.”
Newcomb says White joined the rest of the crowd about eight minutes before the protest was to end, kneeling with her fist up.
“There was such a strong sense of unity and passion for the coming days of planned protest. Everyone pledged to be back at that same location the next day. All of the protesters left the park in the next 15-20 minutes. It was under agreement with the police that if everyone left the park within 10-15 minutes after 10 o’clock that there would be no police, that the police would not engage with them," Newcomb said.
Newcomb was there one more night, Wednesday, and she noticed the unity of Monday night was gone, with groups splintering. She says there was a faith group affiliated with outgoing state Rep. Matt Shea, and a group that promoted the rights and interests of LGBTQ people.
“It did seem that both parties were prioritizing their personal beliefs, especially the LGBTQ community as it is Pride Month. However, right now, the public eye is toward Black Lives Matter," she said.
And, as the other agendas and interests gained momentum, Newcomb says she noticed a lot of the steam went out of the original message, the Black Lives Matter message, and Renee White decided not to attend.
“In fact I’ll read you a text that she sent to me. She says, quote, I know I said I was going to be there every day at 6 pm, but my people have to let the negativity die down. We can’t invest all that hard work just to have it teared down with negativity," Newcomb said.
Natalie Newcomb is a reporter and announcer at Northwest Public Broadcasting. She’s also a student in the WSU College of Communications.