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Demonstrators at Olympia City Hall rally Thursday for racial justice

Police officers look on as a group of about 20 people gather outside Olympia City Hall Thursday morning to protest police brutality and stand in solidarity following recent killings of black people by law enforcement.
Police officers look on as a group of about 20 people gather outside Olympia City Hall Thursday morning to protest police brutality and stand in solidarity following recent killings of black people by law enforcement. bmuir@theolympian.com

About 20 people gathered outside Olympia City Hall Thursday morning to protest police brutality against blacks and to advocate for a change in the state’s use of deadly force law that applies to police.

The demonstration began at 7 a.m. and was organized by the Olympia chapter of Showing Up For Racial Justice, or SURJ. Demonstrators passed out Black Lives Matter posters and police officer cutouts with word bubbles attached saying, “My badge is to protect you, not me.”

SURJ’s mission is to visibly demonstrate that white people condemn police violence. Protesters called on officers to condemn the violence and work to end the killings of black people, according to a press release.

"We want police to sign I-873," said protest organizer Emily Pieper, referring to the initiative that addresses the state law on use of deadly force by police. I-873 would eliminate language in the current state law that exempts officers from criminal liability if they use deadly force “without malice and with a good faith belief.”

“This defense means police ultimately know they’re not accountable,” said demonstration organizer Leslie Cushman. “This makes them above the law.

“I-873 would change their frame of reference. It would change their training, and it will ensure accountability,” Cushman said.

But Sarah Stockholm, a SURJ member and organizer of Thursday’s demonstration, also wanted to make it clear that the demonstration was not meant to stand against law enforcement.

“The movement for black lives has repeatedly said that ‘we’re against all violence,’ ” Stockholm said. “No one is advocating for any violence against the police. We’re against police brutality, not the police.

“Our goal is to reach out to primarily white people and lift up the message of the movement for black lives,” she said.

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