Group plans Ferguson protest in downtown Tacoma

A grass-roots group calling itself Tacoma Stands Up is organizing a rally Tuesday in downtown Tacoma to “stand in solidarity with Ferguson, Missouri.”

Matthew Wilson said he and co-worker Cathy Nguyen got the idea for the rally last week during an impromptu protest at South 21st Street and Pacific Avenue.

They had taken to the street corner during their Friday lunch hour to oppose what they saw as unjust law enforcement response to peaceful protests after the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed young black man in Ferguson.

Wilson and Nguyen put out calls on Facebook and Twitter for others to join them at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the same corner near Pugnetti Park. As of Monday, more than 200 people had indicated on the Facebook event page that they planned to attend.

“We want to show that people are paying attention to what’s happening,” Wilson said.

The group is encouraging people to show up with signs that read “Don’t Shoot” or other “respectful messages calling for an end to police brutality, justice for Michael Brown and sharing your solidarity with Ferguson.”

The Facebook event page urges participants to refrain from “profanity, hostility or use of violence or intimidation in any way, shape, or form while at the event.”

Tacoma City Councilman Robert Thoms said he plans to attend the rally “to see what our community is thinking about.”

Watching news coverage as events in Ferguson unfold, Thoms said he could foresee City Council members being asked what they would do in the same circumstances.

“I would hope the elected leaders would say, ‘We are not going to allow the police to do this.’ This shouldn’t stand in any community,” Thoms said of police actions in Ferguson. “There’s a better way to resolve issues. I think this can be a teaching moment.”

Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said the department is aware of the planned protest. Police had no issues with a smaller Ferguson-related protest downtown on Saturday.

“We just drive by and make sure that there is no issue with the streets or anybody there having a problem,” Cool said. “If they’re just peacefully protesting, we just go about our business.”