Snohomish Town Hall works to reconcile issues
SNOHOMISH — People looking for solutions convened online last week in a city-organized town hall about racism and how to move forward from the events from May 31.
Speakers included Police Chief Robert Palmer, city attorneys, faith leaders, school district officials and representatives from the homegrown group Snohomish For Equity. Snohomish For Equity has arranged many Black Lives Matter protests in-town, and holds bias intervention training events throughout the year.
Almost 200 people joined the June 23 online town hall. The town hall was intended as the first of a series of events, co-organizer Councilwoman Linda Redmon said. Media personality Terry Hollimon moderated the forum.
Snohomish School District officials explained that the district has a human rights committee, and is training teachers to be able to confidently step in when a bias incident happens.
During a 40-minute public comments period, a member of Snohomish For Equity asked how the events May 31 to June 2 could be put under an independent police review. Starting an independent review ultimately rests with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office asking for one, city attorney Grant Weed said. The city contracts with the sheriff’s office for police services.
Palmer said he did not personally see a Confederate flag during a walk down First Street’s sidewalks May 31, an observation which public comment speakers questioned.
A group of police officers walked up and down First Street around 7:30 p.m. that night. One pickup truck that parked along First Street had a large Confederate flag mounted on a pole.
Palmer was part of the incident response May 31 when it was led by former Chief Keith Rogers. Rogers received flak in public for describing the scene as “festive” at a prior council meeting. Palmer said during a summary report in the town hall: “It did act like it was a block party.”
By 8 p.m., local police had shut down the emergency operations center and rerouted to Bellevue, a city that gave an all-hands call for help.
The center mobilized because of tips from social media that Antifa planned to rally in Snohomish, with a meeting point at Cady Park, set up the scene May 31.
Palmer said that police saw three men with a car with a Seattle registration. Palmer said the men may have been in town as Antifa. Police couldn’t verify becase
they weren’t able to stop the car to question the men on why they were in town.
“The information we had on May 31st appeared to be credible,” Palmer said. “To date, we do not know if the message we received was spoofed or similar.”
No-one from law enforcement asked the armed individuals to convene on First Street as a counter-measure, Palmer emphasized. “These are rumors. Please — they need to stop.”
City attorneys gave an overview on First and Second Amendment rights. First Amendment rights weighed heavily on how people could display symbols such as the few who bore the Confederate flag. Government officials are restricted from controlling signs and displays from public places such as sidewalks, attorney Emily Guildner said.
Firearm open carry is legal in Washington state. Displaying a weapon can only be restricted if the weapon is used to intimidate or harass others, Weed said. And, state law pre-empts any local laws attempting to create a no-gun zone.
Furthermore, “as surprising and concerning as this might sound,” there is no statute that regulates the combination of drinking in public and carrying a firearm, Weed said. (Drinking in public itself is a violation.)
Palmer said people were warned about having alcohol in public and complied by pouring it out.
More meetings are planned.
“Legislatively, there’s not a lot we can do but we can have meetings,” Councilman Tom Merrill replied to a public question.
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