Demand that local Tri-Cities officials act to stop illegal armed militias

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We (the undersigned) write to call your attention to the following facts, all of which we believe you are already aware:

Throughout the Tri-Cities, and in each of your respective jurisdictions, various protests have been organized, and continue to be organized, to protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers,  police violence against African Americans, and excessive use of force by police officers generally.


As of the time we write this letter, none of the individuals attending these protests have exhibited, or been charged with, any criminal, violent, intimidating, or destructive behavior.


A group has organized itself through a Facebook page titled “Defend the Tri” (hereafter, those individuals are referred to collectively as “DTT”).


For the last several evenings, members of DTT have armed themselves and have stationed themselves in the parking lots of local businesses, ostensibly to
deter any criminal behavior directed towards those businesses.


These armed individuals have coordinated their actions through the DTT FB Page and have done so with the knowledge, acquiescence, guidance, permission and assistance of each of the police forces of your local jurisdictions.  


In the next few days, additional peaceful protests related to George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement are planned (hereafter, “upcoming protests”). 


Members of DTT have publicly indicated that they intend to attend these upcoming protests, that they intend to be armed when they do, and that their motivation is to “protect” those protesters.


The organizers, supporters and persons planning to participate in these upcoming protests (hereafter protesters) have publicly stated that they are opposed to any armed groups being present at their nonviolent protest, and hereby we place each of your jurisdictions on notice of the following:


We do not see these armed groups as protecting us. They will not be at protests with our consent. We have expressed to them that they are not welcome. Their stance goes against our explicitly peaceful mission, and we want to be clear that we will view their presence at our protests as intimidation and in violation of our 1st amendment rights.


Intimidation by groups of armed people, who are coordinating for the purpose of violating our civil rights is illegal, according to Wash. Rev. Code § 38.40.120.  This prohibition is constitutional.  The Supreme Court has reiterated that the Second Amendment, "does not prevent the prohibition of private paramilitary organizations." District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 621 (2008). The Second Amendment does not allow for the activities that are specifically prohibited by RCW § 38.40.120 and which have been validated by the words and deeds of law enforcement officials this past week.  


Should the police and sheriff departments of your various cities and counties allow these armed gangs to attend peaceful free speech demonstrations, we will be suing the cities and counties involved for violating our civil rights.


Your city and county governments and law enforcement are on notice. We will be bringing legal action against you if you allow further intimidation to occur by groups of armed vigilantes.


We are demanding that city and county officials speak up clearly and publicly against intimidation of protesters exercising first amendment rights.


We demand that you promise to prosecute to the full extent of the law any violation committed by armed people, including blocking access to public spaces, gathering as an armed group, and acting in coordinated efforts against individuals of certain racial or ethnic groups under the guise of law enforcement.


We furthermore emphasize that we believe that this violation of our first amendment rights and intimidation tactics by armed coordinated groups is being allowed by city and county governments and law enforcement because of our beliefs and racial, ethnic, and other identities, and we are experiencing this as a concerted form of discrimination by elected officials.
 
Signed,

Afrose Ahmed

John Roach

 
Wash. Rev. Code § 38.40.120. Authorized military organizations No organized body other than the recognized militia organizations of this state, armed forces of the United States, students of educational institutions where military science is a prescribed part of the course of instruction or bona fide veterans organizations shall associate themselves together as a military company or organize or parade in public with firearms: PROVIDED, That nothing herein shall be construed to prevent authorized parades by the organized militia of another state or armed forces of foreign countries. Any person participating in any such unauthorized organization shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. 

 

 

Addressed to:
Benton County:

Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Andy Miller; prosecuting@co.benton.wa.us, 509) 735-3591

Benton County Sheriff Jerry Hatcher; jerry.hatcher@co.benton.wa.us, (509) 735-6555

                Kennewick:

City of Kennewick Attorney Lisa Beaton; attorney-info@ci.kennewick.wa.us, 509-585-4271

City of Kennewick Manager Marie Mosley; Jackie.aman@ci.kennewick.wa.us, 509-585-4238

City of Kennewick Mayor Don Britain; 509-430-4178

Kennewick Police Department Chief Ken Hohenburg; 509-582-1300

                Richland:

City of Richland Attorney Heather Kintzley; hkintzley@ci.richland.wa.us, (509) 942-7385

City of Richland Manager Cindy Reents; creents@ci.richland.wa.us, (509) 942-7381

City of Richland Mayor Ryan Lukson; rlukson@ci.richland.wa.us

Richland Police Department Chief John Bruce; jbruce@ci.richland.wa.us,

Franklin County:

Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Shawn Sant; district@co.franklin.wa.us, (509) 545-3543

Franklin County Sheriff J.D. Raymond; jraymond@co.franklin.wa.us, 509-545-3501

                Pasco:

City of Pasco Attorney Bell, Brown & Rio, PLLC

City of Pasco Manager Dave Zabell; zabelld@pasco-wa.gov, (509) 545-3404

City of Pasco Mayor Saul Martinez; martinezcouncil@pasco-wa.gov, (509) 545-3404

Pasco Police Department Chief Ken Roske; (509) 545-3481