Why not try real solutions?
Spokane could just decide to love its community more. Everyone wants less crime, but leaning on police to do all the work just creates more prisoners. We need to actually invest in our community; in each other.
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On August 30, 2020, Jeremy Logan was on his way to a protest in Spokane’s Riverfront Park when he was accosted by plainclothes officers whom, he claims, failed to identify themselves before taking him away in an unmarked van. (See reporting from The Inlander, Spokesman Review, and Huffington Post.) Similar arrests have been reported in Portland and New York, and while disturbing, they aren’t necessarily illegal. Some cities have municipal laws requiring police to identify themselves and make their badges visible when executing an arrest, but such a law doesn’t exist in the City of Spokane and Spokane County.
SCAR is concerned by the arrest and detention of Mr. Logan for several reasons. Mr. Logan was arrested on his way to a police accountability protest. The knowledge that plain-clothes officers are roaming the perimeter of protest actions could easily have a chilling affect on police accountability activism—and thus free speech—as participants fear that involvement will make them a target. Indeed, this may be the intent behind this practice. Snatch-and-grab arrests also have the potential to escalate the confrontational nature of an arrest, despite Sherriff Ozzie Knezovich’s defense of the practice as a “de-escalation technique.”
Sheriff Knezovich’s response to media coverage of Logan’s arrest is also disturbing. During a September 8 press conference, the Sheriff painted the majority of protests as “riots,” advanced the conspiracy theory that said “riots” in Spokane—and cities across the nation—are organized by a centralized anti-fascist organization which transports agitators to protests with violent intent. He additionally suggested protestors are being funded by outside sources, and that wearers of the Iron Front symbol—a historical symbol of anti-totalitarianism—are part of a violent organization.
Finally, Sheriff Knezovich’s statements and actions indicate that his agency does not carry out arrest warrants with professional impartiality, accesses the private Facebook accounts of community members who criticize police, and is motivated to act by the contents of private social media regardless of whether those contents violate the law. In short, Mr. Logan’s arrest can be reasonably understood as an act of political retaliation.
The subject of a snatch-and-grab arrest is placed in a nearly impossible position. Law enforcement officers dressed in plain clothes or military fatigues are, to the average person, indistinguishable from members of a gang or militia. Additionally, reports from Portland, Oregon and New York indicate that officers conducting snatch-and-grab arrests often refuse to identify themselves or indicate their agency. When officers fail to identify themselves and forcibly remove someone from the street, the person being arrested has no way to know if they are being lawfully brought into custody or forcibly kidnapped. If they resist—understandable when one believes they are being kidnapped—they could face harsher charges for this resistance, especially if an officer is injured.
However, if the person goes willingly, they run the risk of being scooped up by actual gangs or militia members, opportunists who—observing the precedent set by law enforcement—take the opportunity to abduct political opposition from the street. It is important to note that there have been no confirmed reports of such kidnappings. Still, it is unreasonable to expect the average person to respond to being forcibly taken into custody by unidentified men with anything less than a fight, flight, or freeze response. For this reason, Knezovich’s claim that snatch-and-grab arrests are actually a form of de-escalation rings hollow.
De-escalating is defined in the dictionary a “reduction of the intensity of a conflict or potentially violent situation.” This seems to be the exact opposite of initiating a physical conflict by forcibly removing a person from the street without warning.
De-escalation may also be viewed through the lens of Initiative-940, also known as De-escalate Washington, which passed in 2018 with approximately 60% of the vote and which Knezovich opposed. The opening text reads, “The intent of the people in enacting this act is to make our communities safer … by requiring law enforcement officers to obtain violence de-escalation and mental health training, so that officers will have greater skills to resolve conflicts without the use of physical or deadly force.”
By its very nature a snatch-and-grab involves physical force—force which is likely to be resisted and thus lead to a fight between officers and arrestees. By neither the dictionary, nor the implied legal definition now contained in Washington State law, could snatch-and-grab arrests be considered de-escalation.
During his September 8 press conference Sheriff Knezovich referenced “riots” eight separate times. But in Spokane there have been no riots. Since the first George Floyd march on May 31st, fewer than ten windows have been broken in connection with protests. Some of those windows were shattered by rubber bullets fired by the Spokane Police Department. A single instance of looting at the Downtown Nike store was perpetrated by local opportunists who briefly stole merchandise before protestors assembled to defend the broken storefront. (These protestors were later dispersed by police teargas.)
To promote the narrative that Spokane has been rocked by riots in the face of such minor incidents is not only dishonest, but dangerous to the protestors who may be targeted by patrolling militia and other right wing elements who may feel their ire has been validated by the Sheriff’s office.
As an authority figure and officer of public safety, Sheriff Knezovich should be mindful of the people who may feel empowered by his words.
Sheriff Knezovich referenced “antifa” at least 18 times over the course of his September 8 press conference, suggesting it is a single organization composed of violent and well-funded outside agitators. In reality, antifa—short for “anti-fascist”—is not an organization, but a movement. As Washington Post’s Mark Bray explains in “Five myths about antifa,” anti-fascist describes “a politics of revolutionary opposition to the far right. There are antifa groups, such as Rose City Antifa in Portland and NYC Antifa, just as there are feminist groups, such as Code Pink. But neither antifa nor feminism is itself an organization.”
Moreover, arrest records show that nearly everyone arrested for property damage and looting after the May 31 protest, for whom addresses could be found, was from the Spokane area.
Finally, the claim that anti-fascist protestors must have “outside funding” is an unnecessary conclusion given that the gas masks and high-powered two-way radios—which Knezovich pointed to as evidence of funding—may be purchased from Amazon for less than $50 and $100 respectively.
Knezovich’s “funded outside agitator” narrative simply doesn’t hold water.
Knezovich referenced “Iron Front” at least three times during his press conference, characterizing it as a “radical extremist element” and “violent” group. Viewers could be led to believe Iron Front is the name of an organized and violent anti-fascist gang. This, however, is a grave distortion of reality.
The symbol for Iron Front is also known as the Three Arrows, a symbol developed by 1930s Social Democrats in Germany’s former Weimar Republic. The three downward arrows essentially communicated “Down with Nazis, down with Communism, down with monarchism.” In the United States, the symbol has been adopted by those who generally consider themselves against totalitarian government, especially fascism.
Those who wear Iron Front symbols on their person or belongings are not necessarily members of any contemporary organization, but are using the symbol to indicate their personal ideology, similar to how some Christians indicate their beliefs with the symbol of a fish.
Of course, Sheriff Knezovich is not the first person to challenge the Three Arrows, as Portland Timbers fans know well. The ultimate acceptance of the symbol at regional sporting events should assure the sheriff that Iron Front is already a part of mainstream Northwest culture, and not the symbol of a dangerous fringe element his agency needs to be concerned about.
More importantly, residents of Spokane should be wary of attempts by law enforcement to infer gang or organizational affiliation from popular imagery, fashion, and symbols—a tactic which, in American policing, has often led to the over-policing of Black urban youth. Any element law enforcement wishes to more stringently control could become a target.
Making Enemies of People
According to Sheriff Knezovich, Mr. Logan’s arrest was motivated by a seven-year-old warrant issued in Douglas County for “failure to appear.” If this is the case, why show screen-grabs of Logan’s potentially offensive Facebook posts during the press conference? What is the relevance of these posts to an arrest when—as conceded by Sheriff’s office Spokesman Mark Gregory—they are protected by the First Amendment and perfectly legal? In fact, why pursue a stale warrant from distant Douglas County, one which Douglas County apparently had little interest in enforcing?
Sheriff Knezovich answered this question clearly when he said Mr. Logan “upped the ante by making threats and his rhetoric was increasingly violent.” In other words, Mr. Logan’s legal social media posts motivated the Sheriff’s Office to more aggressively pursue him and search for a pretext to arrest him.
That the sheriff’s office even had access to Mr. Logan’s private Facebook posts raises the question of surveillance, and what methods the Sheriff’s department is using to monitor citizens’ social media.
After all the effort the Spokane Sheriff’s office spent executing a warrant on behalf of Douglas County, Mr. Logan was never extradited, but instead was briefly detained by Spokane law enforcement before being sent home the next day.
The Sheriff’s rhetorical efforts would be well spent reassuring the public that he and his employees take the First Amendment and personal privacy seriously, and that people in Spokane have the right to lawfully assemble, protest, and demand accountability from public servants without fear of being targeted by those public servants for retaliation.
Among the listed values of the Spokane Sheriff’s Department is fairness. Its website states: “We shall seek to be fair in adhering to a balanced standard of impartiality, equality, openness and due process without relevance to our feelings or inclinations.” If this value were to be fully realized, the Department would not consider inflammatory critique of law enforcement to be relevant to why they executed an arrest warrant. It would not deem social media history to be relevant. Patches, gasmasks, and radios wouldn’t be relevant. The feelings of law enforcement toward a given resident and the role they play in the community would not be relevant. Yet the Sheriff made it clear that all of these things factored into the actions his Department took on August 30.
If we—the residents of Spokane—are uncomfortable with this reality, we must be vigilant. We must carefully evaluate the people to whom we entrust a license to use violence and deadly force. If they fall short, we must replace them. The safety of our community demands nothing less.