March of Silence

Many gathered to participate in the March of Silence on June 14, organized by the Black Lives Matter Walla Walla organization.

A group of citizens isn't waiting for the Walla Walla City Council to host town hall-style meetings on law enforcement to give its input on changes.

Today, Black Lives Matter Walla Walla emailed a list of demands to elected leaders on what it called "a starting point for authentic, tangible change, and transformational reform within the WWPD."

The message was sent to Council members, along with City Manager Nabiel Shawa and Walla Walla Police Chief Scott Bieber this morning, ahead of a Council meeting where plans for meetings on the issue are on the agenda.

The demands were divided into two parts: "Use of Force" and "Representation and Accountability." The group says they are against police use of brutality and force and they expect transparency and communication from the Walla Walla Police Department.

Drafted by five organizers, and sourced from research and extensive discussion within the organization, local community members, educators and policy advocates, the demands reflect "a firm stance against police brutality and force" and call for "transparency and communication."

They request police wear body cams while interacting with the public on duty and document any threat, use of force or firearm. Also requested was the discontinuation of spending on paramilitary equipment and ban of chokeholds, strangleholds and Lateral Vascular Neck Restraints.

They want the police department to adopt the practice of warning before shooting and ban shooting at moving vehicles.

For representation and accountability the first demand is the removal of "any person in any capacity that promotes or bears relation to hate speech of any kind (including but not limited to

tattoos, dress, language, social media presence). Any current officer or WWPD employee holding association with hate speech should be terminated, effective immediately."

Other requests: suspension without pay of any officer who has an active restraining order against them.

The letter seeks race and gender statistics of arrests and interactions with people in the Statistical Annual Report, as well as demographic information of members of the police force released to the community.

In the hope of transparency, the group demands independent review boards be adopted to investigate complaints placed against officers and employees of the Walla Walla Police Department, and those investigations become public knowledge.

It also beseeches the police department to contract with community agencies for differential call response, related to mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, and welfare checks.

Other demands: The release of training agendas, yearly additional courses and hours officers spend in bias/discrimination training, along with police protocol, in multiple languages, for contacting Immigration and Customs Enforcement to encourage transparency with the undocumented members of the community.

Additionally, compensation must be provided for the chief’s Advisory Board and the goals and events should be released to the public, the statement said.

"We stand in solidarity with victims of police violence and brutality, including, but not limited to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Andres Guardado, Sandra Bland and the "countless others who have been senselessly murdered at the hands of police and hope that you will stand by us,” the release stated.

The organization, not affiliated with the protests planned today at the police department, came to fruition locally after George Floyd died in police custody when an officer knelt on his neck.

Black Lives Matter Walla Walla began the first of June, inspired by protests of police brutality abroad and locally, organizers said. It has organized the Peace Rally June 7, which brought over 500 people into downtown Walla Walla. It also led the March of Silence on June 14, the Juneteenth rally and plans an event Sunday to encourage voter registration.

The organization is not affiliated with this evening's protest outside the police department.

When word of a protest against Officer Nat Small and his double lightning bolt "SS" tattoo — a tribute to his fallen comrade in Afghanistan as a Scout Sniper in the U.S. Marine Corps — was announced, Small and law enforcement supporters rallied for their own event.

Tonight's 6:30 Council meeting is expected to set plans for public meetings that will give area residents an opportunity to hear from the police chief and city attorney amid a national racial crisis that's calling for change in law enforcement.

Chloe LeValley can be reached at chloelevalley@wwub.com or 509-526-8326.

Chloe LeValley covers the cities of Walla Walla and College Place as well as agriculture and the environment in the Walla Walla Valley. She is a graduate of San Francisco State University and joined the Union-Bulletin's team in October 2019.