Olympia public defender speaks at Black Lives Matter demonstration
Two groups took to the streets of downtown Olympia on Thursday evening in reaction to Wednesday’s announcement that two black Olympia men who were shot by a white Olympia police officer would face assault charges, and no charges would be filed against the officer.
A group of 50 protesters, many wearing black bandanas, blocked Fourth Avenue at Cherry Street starting at about 6 p.m. Traffic was diverted around them. They held signs that read “Stop lying Olympia” and “We want revenge.”
Another group of about 300 set up a tent outside Last Word Books on Cherry Street. They wore tags that said “Justice for Andre and Bryson,” “listening” and “It’s not about me.”
“I don’t feel safe in this community, based on the decision that the prosecutor made when he decided to charge these men,” public defender and Olympia resident Larry Jefferson said outside the book store. “I don’t think it reflects our community’s values.”
Speaking to the group, Jefferson called for Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim to resign, saying he had “forfeited the community’s trust.”
During a speech, Steffany Brown gave a list of demands on behalf of Full Circle United, the group that organized the demonstration. She asked that Officer Ryan Donald be fired by the Olympia Police Department and charged with attempted murder, that Bryson Chaplin and Andre Thompson — the men shot by Donald — be paid reparations, and that assault charges against Chaplin and Thompson be dropped.
“We feel that they’ve suffered enough at the hands of the community,” Brown said.
Speaker Jose Gutierez Jr. referenced the other group on Fourth Avenue and said, “We may have different methods, but we have the same goal.”
He talked about the circumstances that led to the shooting: the alleged theft of beer and assault on a clerk at the west Olympia Safeway that prompted the police call. “This is an old pastime in our country, it’s not what people get shot for,” he said.
Several people spoke at the microphone throughout the evening, and many shared reactions to the prosecutor's decision, as well as personal experiences with racism.
Malika Lamont said she needed to speak because of a question her young daughter asked her recently, after seeing lights on a patrol car.
"She said: 'Mommy, who do I call if I need help?'" Lamont said.
It wasn't because of anything she told her daughter about police, Lamont said, but because of how she's seen people who look like her being treated.
James Bowman, 32, shared a story about being pushed from the lunch line and called a racial slur by another child when he was in third grade.
About the same age, he lost his mom at a Tumwater grocery store, and when he went to look for her in the parking lot, he was stopped by security officers, falsely accused of taking merchandise, and interrogated in a back room before his mother was paged.
"It's scary," he said.
Tunheim announced Wednesday that Olympia police officer Ryan Donald wouldn’t face criminal charges for shooting Thompson and Chaplin during the May 21 altercation. Thompson and Chaplin are each facing assault charges for allegedly attacking Donald with their skateboards.