Ellenburg BLM march

Protesters turned out for the third time this past week Friday night in Ellensburg to draw attention to racism and inequity.

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Keeping it peaceful is the best way to deliver the message, according to organizers of Friday night’s Ellensburg Black Lives Matter march.

Organizers know some expect them to riot and break into shops, and that a few local residents have taken to social media to show that they are armed and are prepared to shoot in anticipation of protesters attempting to loot their business.

The message march organizers want to deliver is that people are dying needlessly because of police violence — they are dying because they live in a system that was never meant to support them.

In the speech before the march, organizer Tre Gardner told people to be careful, and to be peaceful. The last two marches have been peaceful, and there are still postings on social media, residents warning each other that these protests are likely to turn violent. Gardner said this is not necessary, there is nothing for people to protect themselves from because the protests have, and will remain, peaceful.

“For this protest, I want to make it absolutely understood that it is to be peaceful,” Gardner said. “We are to be loud, we are to be proud and we are to be moving forward, just like our journey in this civil rights movement.”

During the open mic near the end of the protest in front of the Kittitas County Courthouse on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Main Street, they were tested as a truck waving MAGA-branded items was revving its engine stopped by the side of the road. Some protesters saw this and the person inside yelling at them and started to shout back at the truck. The rest of the protesters, including Gardner, shouted “No!” and reminded the protesters that this is what the people in the truck wanted. The entire affair was over in seconds as the truck drove away.

“We win through love,” Gardner said.

The march started at Barge Hall, and moved down Main Street to Canyon Road, it turned around and moved up the road toward Safeway, and then to the courthouse. At the courthouse there was an open mic around 6:15 p.m. and a vigil at 8 p.m.

People of all races, ages and sexual orientations marched in protest, many saying they would continue to do so until police are held accountable and the American system of inequality changes.

Chants during the march were the now common, “Say his name”, “George Floyd” and “Say her name”, “Breonna Taylor.” Other chants included “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “This is what democracy looks like!”

John Thomas spoke during the open mic about how saying “Black Lives Matter” doesn’t mean “Other Lives Don’t.” He said black lives are the ones in trouble more than any other right now, and it is where the focus of these protests needs to be.

He compared the movement to one that is putting out fires. If you see a house on fire, you go to help put that fire out. You are not saying the other houses don’t matter, you are helping the one that needs help.

Former Central Washington University professor Marissa Barrientos said she was fired from CWU for speaking out against CWU racism. On Monday she was working at the university, on Friday she was not. She told the crowd during the open mic that CWU needs to change its policies and called for university president Jim Gaudino to step down.

The march to Canyon Road and back was a long one, to help the protesters, Ellensburg resident Matt E. was giving out water bottles to anyone who needed them.

He had brought 500 bottles and was passing them out to marchers from the back of his pickup. Two hundred bottles he bought himself, but the rest were donated from the community. He also had snacks for everybody.

Marcher Chase Capiti is a student at CWU. He has been to all protests this week and believed Friday’s to be the best one. He liked that hundreds of people showed up again, and it had the energy of a march that is going to get something done.

“We have been dealing with oppression from police since the start,” Capiti said. “We are just tired of being tired you know? We got to take a stand. There are a lot of people saying they support us but it is not enough.”

He is not happy with the police in Ellensburg because he does not believe they are being supportive. He said they are showing up to the protest, but they are not taking action to show their support.

Multiple times during these marches, EPD officers have been asked to take a knee in solidarity with the protest, and have refused, saying they don’t want to take a political stance while on duty. In other cities, such as Spokane, police have taken a knee in support of the peaceful protesters.

Waking up every morning has become hard for Gardner. He is terrified that he might be harmed during these protests. He has been leading the protests from the front lines and has become well known because of it.

“People need to know we are fighting for our lives,” Gardner said. “We need to be out here every day until the people in charge of the country are working for us, the people, and no one else.”

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