NAACP Vancouver is hosting a “Car Rally for Black Lives” on Saturday in memory of George Floyd and all black people killed due to racism and police brutality.
“Racism is the most challenging issue facing America today, and we must face it and destroy it. And we must do it together,” the civil rights organization said in an announcement for the rally.
The announcement for the event came after several days of demonstrations in Vancouver. On Sunday, about 100 people gathered in Esther Short Park to call for an end to police brutality. On Monday, about a dozen people gathered at the roundabout in front of City Hall, holding signs and chanting “no justice, no peace” and “white silence is violence.” Tuesday saw a small gathering of people at Esther Short.
Then, on Wednesday, another 100 or so people gathered in east Vancouver on the corners of East Mill Plain Boulevard and 98th Avenue, holding “Black Lives Matter” signs and chanting those same words. Demonstrators said posts on social media and word-of-mouth brought them out.
The car rally will start at noon at the Town Plaza Center parking lot, 5411 E. Mill Plain Blvd. Demonstrators will drive to the Port of Vancouver Terminal 1, specifically the parking lot across the street from WareHouse ’23.
People are encouraged to make signs or paint their car windows with the following themes: honor for black lives, a list of names of people killed; police brutality; white privilege; #blacklivesmatter; #saytheirnames; and #wearedonedying.
The organization opted for a car rally due to COVID-19, NAACP Vancouver Vice President Jasmine Tolbert said.
“We have heavy hearts about the recent events nationally and want to speak out, but we’re also in the middle of a pandemic,” Tolbert said. “We want people to get out and participate beyond posting their thoughts on social media, but we want to prevent further spread of COVID-19.”
She said a car rally was also a better option due to concern that some members of alt-right groups in Clark County, such as the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, could potentially show up to harass demonstrators.
NAACP Vancouver is requiring people to register for the event at https://www.naacpvancouverwa.org/event-info/car-rally-for-black-lives, and encouraging them not to gather outside of their vehicles, she said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 126 people had registered for the rally. That was before the organization started pushing out more calls for action, Tolbert said, so a significant turnout is expected.
In two separate statements, NAACP Vancouver officials said its members were feeling outrage, frustration and sadness over Floyd’s death and the impact of racism on black lives.
Floyd, a black man, was killed in Minneapolis last week. He was handcuffed on the ground and pleading for air while a white police officer kept his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The officer, Derek Chauvin, was arrested, charged with second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter with culpable negligence as of Wednesday. Three officers who stood by and did not intervene have been charged with aiding and abetting unintentional second-degree murder.
Law enforcement officers’ silence after such deaths are part of the problem, NAACP Vancouver said, adding that police unions should not support or stand by officers who commit what the organization described as acts of terror. NAACP Vancouver also encouraged city residents to support local organizations working to end discrimination. Tolbert suggested supporting the NAACP, YWCA Clark County and the Southwest Washington League of United Latin American Citizens.
NAACP Vancouver also said the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia was “a hideous situation” that “revealed the depths of racism and protectionism embodied in some law enforcement and justice departments.” Lastly, it called the fatal shooting of William Abbe in Vancouver on April 28 “disturbing.”
Three Vancouver police officers shot Abbe, who was white, while responding to an assault between him and another man at Fourth Plain Boulevard and Stapleton Road. Court records say he was homeless.
“We want to know how and why (Vancouver police officers), notwithstanding the extent and nature of the threats posed by Mr. Abbe on that day, determined that the use of deadly force was the only reasonable or necessary way to end the incident or to fulfill their duty to protect and serve the citizens of Vancouver in good faith,” NAACP Vancouver said.
Investigators looking into Abbe’s death said he was throwing pieces of sharpened pipe or construction rebar at officers just before he was shot. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office said last week that the investigation has been completed and a report was sent to the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which will determine if the use of deadly force was legal and justified.
“Is there prejudice by police of people and color and the mentally ill in Vancouver? Absolutely. But more generally, police officers as a whole are having to answer for their actions, and Clark County is a part of that whole,” Tolbert said.
Despite calls for more accountability from police, Tolbert said the Vancouver Police Department has been open to building a relationship with people of color in the community. Those conversations started after the shooting of Carlos M. Hunter on March 7, 2019. A group of officers was in the process of serving a search warrant on Hunter, a black man, during a traffic stop in Hazel Dell, when Hunter reportedly reached for a handgun in his right front pants pocket and was shot and killed, according to investigators.
“We appreciate the relationship we’ve established since then, but the thing about relationships is calling out the other person’s mistakes,” Tolbert said.