As White Supremacy spreads locally, Chief Meidl effectively says no comment

As racist fliers pop up in neighborhoods and violence is threatened against members of the Black community, the Police Chief declines to denounce white supremacy in responses to City Council.

I call this “Why would we want our Police Chief to denounce white supremacy? Exhibit A” // Source KXLY Oct 15 2019


Back in early June, the Spokane City Council sent a series of questions to Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl asking about the police response to the protest on May 31 and growing concerns of white supremacist activity in the region.

Last week, Council member Burke passed Chief Meidl’s response to RANGE, frustrated with the answers he gave.

I’ll post the entire document below for transparency, but I want to focus on one specific question and the Chief’s disappointing answer. Here’s the complete back and forth:

Does SPD denounce White Supremacy, White Nationalists, the Proud Boys, and other domestic terror groups?

The role of SPD is to abide by the federal and state constitutions as well as the city charter. We are responsible for maintaining order and investigating criminal activity. Our message to the community is that we will abide by the documents mentioned above, serve to protect all members of the community with fairness and equity and act in good faith to enforce laws passed by the legislative branch. It is the Chief’s philosophy that publicly denouncing groups is the realm of elected politicians, not the Chief of Police.

Wait, what?

White supremacy isn’t a group. White supremacy is an ideology of intolerance toward people of color and other minorities that is inherently violent. White nationalism advocates for ethnic cleansing. Both often preach outright genocide.

The Council’s question wasn’t “Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip?”

It wasn’t “Cougs or Zags?”

The question was does the Spokane Police Department think it’s okay for people to advocate and work toward the removal or extermination of entire groups of people?

The softest of softballs.

And Meidl ducked it, not wanting to come across as political.

This answer from a top law enforcement official would be inexcusable anywhere in America, but it’s especially tone-deaf in Spokane, given our region’s long, deep history of white supremacist violence.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s dig in to the immediate context of the questions and the deeper legacy of hate:

THE PROTEST

Even according to the Police and Sheriff, the May 31 protest was largely peaceful, though there was violence at the courthouse — a few protesters threw rocks and, weirdly, a potato — which the police chose not to escalate. Later in the evening the protest moved downtown where, around 8 pm, vandalism of the Nike Store triggered a police response that included tear gas, bean-bag rounds fired from shotguns and other impact munitions (this kind of ordinance is commonly called “less-lethal” but given the damage they have done to members of our community and the world, that’s not a term I’ll use).

Also downtown that night were militia members claiming association with the III%er ideology and the 63rd Lightfoot Militia. Among them was former congressional candidate Jered Bonneau.

Lightfoot returned the next week as well, in both cases to head off a national Antifa invasion law enforcement was warning about. There were lots of people reporting Proud Boy sightings that night but I wasn’t able to verify their presence.

The night of the protest, the authorities and news crews were focused on a perceived threat from what Sheriff Knezovich called “Antifa Socialists” that never materialized. They all but ignored the right wing groups downtown.

WHITE SUPREMACY, WHITE NATIONALISTS, THE PROUD BOYS AND OTHER DOMESTIC TERROR GROUPS (a short history)

While violence from an organized leftist group like Antifa is entirely theoretical, Spokane has an intimate, bloody, decades-long relationship with right-wing extremism from various factions of White Supremacists, White Nationalists, Christian Identitarians and Neo-Nazis seeking to incite race riots, holy war and mass death.

From the Ruby Ridge standoff to the violence that radiated from the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden to Kevin Harpham’s failed attempt to bomb the 2011 MLK Jr march downtown, the history is blood-soaked.

The recent federal execution of Danny Lewis Lee for a trio of 1996 killings in Arkansas reminded Spokanites of a certain age that the Oklahoma-native cut his teeth as a young Neo-Nazi skinhead by terrorizing the local punk music scene throughout the mid-90s and detonating a bomb at Spokane City Hall, also in 1996.

Our home-grown hate has attracted people from all over America, and just last year we went international when the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee passed a resolution supporting the immigration of Austrian “former” Neo-Nazi Martin Seller after the federal government blocked him from entering the United States to come live with his fiance in Post Falls. Sellner’s fiance, Brittany Pettibone is originally from California but lived in Post Falls at the time.

According to the Inlander:

Sellner is a key figure in Generation Identity, an aggressive pan-European activist group of millennials that advocates for ethnic homogeneity in European nations

Okay so not a Nazi, just someone who “advocates for ethnic homogeneity.” Got it.

Pettibone likewise advocates a “full stop on immigration” to America and used white supremacist crowdfunding platform Hatreon before it was shutdown in 2017.

Soon after, the Associated Press published a lengthy look at hate group activities on the Washington/Idaho border in a report called “Hate Makes a Comeback in the Pacific Northwest.

Then just this year!

In the last couple months, during events like the right-wing REOPEN Washington protests on May 1 and May 15, as many as a dozen members of the Proud Boys were seen in their signature Fred Perry polo shirts. Others associated with the group wore tactical gear Hawaiian shirts and flashed white-supremacist hand signs.

A brief aside: this absurd uniform is worn by adherents to the Boogaloo movement — a loose group with heterodox beliefs united in their desire to trigger a second civil war. Here’s the best primer I’ve found on the young movement, which has sprung, like all the worst things lately, out of 4chan message boards.

So the guy in the photo is repping both Proud Boy and Boogaloo iconography while flashing the okay sign famously repurposed for hate by racist trolls on the alt-right. It’s important to note: he was making this gesture directly to a TV reporter of color.

One of the primary organizers of the REOPEN protests was Matt Shea, a separatist former Spokane Valley legislator whose hobbies include inciting bloodshed to create a 51st state in Eastern Washington and advocating training child soldiers for a Christian holy war.

I don’t even have time to talk about what’s happening in North Idaho.

Are you tired yet? I’m exhausted.

Now to this month! On July 12, neighbors in both West Central and Airway Heights woke up to find their cars papered with horrific threats of violence against minority groups by a relatively new group of local Neo-Nazis calling themselves 14First. I hesitate to post them — they’re absolutely vile — but it’s important:

The group’s name is a reference to a neo-nazi slogan called the 14 words.

We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.

The leader of this group, Eddie McBride, recently moved to Spokane from Delaware looking for a more welcoming environment for his hatred. Another hate transplant!

Finally, on a personal note: several people commenting on a KHQ thread about the Black Lives Matter mural downtown said my wife, myself, many of our friends and anyone else involved in elevating black voices should be wiped off the face of the earth.

And then, of course, the mural actually got defaced yesterday with red, white and blue paint:

How’s your July going?

If that isn’t symbolic of the profound disconnect between a vision of America built for everyone and a vision of America as a land of the white, I honestly don’t know what is.

WE ARE AT A CROSSROADS

What is happening right now has been building for over a decade — a national rise of right-wing domestic terror far outstripping left-wing and islamist terror — a trend that has gotten a lot more deadly in recent years.

Source: REVEAL

And even short of committing actual terror, experts are warning of the chilling effect on democratic processes of armed militia roaming the streets. In an analysis of far-right threats on racial justice movements nationwide, one of the biggest red dots is smack-dab over Spokane.

Source: High Country News

Let me underline that: White supremacists are specifically targeting racial justice protesters, and Spokane is a ground zero.

IN SHORT, while it’s easy to pretend the Aryan Nation is in our past, and maybe fun to pretend there’s some vast new Marxist conspiracy coming to destroy Christianity and capitalism, the reality is pretty simple:

The buses of “Antifa Socialists” never showed up, and the Nazis have never left.

So that’s the context in which Spokane City Council asked the chief to do a little check-in about white supremacy in June. The Chief responded on July 7. His responses were detached. Almost clinical. Here’s an example:

Why were chemical weapons (tear gas) used on a civilian population, when it is outlawed by the Geneva Convention?

SPD follows the laws and Constitution of the United States and Washington state.

I’ve uploaded the full document. You can read it here:

There’s a lot to unpack, but I wanted to focus completely on the white supremacy question, because with everything that is happening in our country, and with our region’s profound history of violent hatred, Meidl’s answer just isn’t good enough.

So here’s the question again:

Does SPD denounce White Supremacy, White Nationalists, the Proud Boys, and other domestic terror groups?

The role of SPD is to abide by the federal and state constitutions as well as the city charter. We are responsible for maintaining order and investigating criminal activity. Our message to the community is that we will abide by the documents mentioned above, serve to protect all members of the community with fairness and equity and act in good faith to enforce laws passed by the legislative branch. It is the Chief’s philosophy that publicly denouncing groups is the realm of elected politicians, not the Chief of Police.

Ages like a fine wine, doesn’t it?

Our neighbors are being threatened with mass murder in a region with a history of racist mass violence and our police chief is like:

Except it’s not bait. It should be the easiest question of his career.

I’VE HAD THIS DOCUMENT FOR ABOUT TWO WEEKS.

In that time, I’ve spent hours trying to put myself in the chief’s shoes here, to understand why he would answer this way. In the end I just can’t get there.

I can’t imagine looking a member of our community in the eye and saying:

This ideology wants you dead. You want to stay alive. I’m not going to take sides here, but if someone tries to kill you, give us a call!

I don’t feel like I should have to say this to a city leader in 2020, much less someone in law enforcement, but working to undermine and destroy ideologies that advocate ethnic cleansing and mass death isn’t playing politics. It’s keeping people safe and also helping them feel secure.

It’s literally the mandated role of the police.

Ironically, in not taking a stand — by not affirming the inherent, intrinsic, constitutional right to equal protection and the natural human rights of safety and freedom from harm — the chief has actually made this political.

Make no mistake: denouncing ideologies that preach genocide is not political, but failing to denounce them is.

So let’s take the politics back out of this, shall we? This isn’t about scoring cheap points. It’s about intrinsic American freedoms and basic human morality:

Everyone in Spokane deserves to feel safe and protected by their police force. Not just white, straight, gender normative folks.

Anyone in leadership of an organization mandated to upholding the law and keeping people safe should understand that profound impact hate has on people’s mental well-being and physical safety. Speaking out against hate is everyone’s responsibility.

Yes, even the Chief of Police.

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