The flier — with “Things To Do Instead Of Calling The Cops” boldly printed at the top — wasn’t an invitation to a Black Lives Matter rally. The notice found on my windshield Saturday was actually a call to inaction. It urged readers not to contact police.
Left in my north Everett neighborhood anonymously, hours before chaos erupted during protests in Seattle, its content is credited to “May Day Collective and Washtenaw Solidarity and Defense.”
With a graphic of a raised fist, the flier urges people to build “networks of mutual aid” rather than involve police in conflicts or even property loss. It suggests that bringing in police puts in peril those who may already be vulnerable.
It makes some thoughtful points. One is to check your impulse to call police about someone you believe is “suspicious” due to their race. Another suggestion is to keep a resource list, including suicide hot lines, because of risk to those who are mentally ill.
One point takes an extreme left turn: “Don’t feel obligated to defend property — especially corporate ‘private’ property,” it says.
Officer Aaron Snell, an Everett police spokesman, said by email Tuesday that the department’s criminal intelligence unit is not investigating any reports related to the flier “and we are not sure who distributed it.”
“Residents may not have reported the flier as it does not appear to contain hate type speech, only expresses a certain viewpoint,” Snell added.
A “May Day Collective” Facebook page says, “We are a group of local organizers from different communities, projects, and political tendencies who have come together to build a Festival of Resistance.”
The flier appears to be one of countless responses — peaceful Black Lives Matter gatherings to smashed store windows and looting — since last week’s death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. A now-fired white policeman, seen on video holding Floyd down with a knee to the black man’s neck, has been charged in his killing.
Over the weekend, the Snohomish For Equity group was joined by hundreds in a peaceful stand against racism. Saturday’s demonstration in the town known for antique shops has been overshadowed. On Sunday and Monday nights, citizens — many with guns — gathered with business owners along First Street in Snohomish. They came in response to what the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office said were tips about an online post of possible mayhem purportedly by an anti-fascist group.
With his two guns, state Rep. Robert Sutherland was among those who stood with the business owners. Sutherland, a Republican who raised his family in Snohomish before moving to Granite Falls, said the citizens group lining the street far outnumbered Black Lives Matter protesters.
Although he said there was one altercation, the demonstrators were overwhelmingly peaceful and “not a shot was fired.”
“I think that was by citizens standing up, protecting our city,” said Sutherland, who carried his AR-15 and a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol. He did see a man wearing a Confederate flag shirt, but Sutherland said he saw no one in overt Proud Boys garb or flashing hand signs linked to white supremacy, such as some photos showed on social media.
It seems ironic that both the flier and the armed citizens — coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum — in a way carry a similar message. If not taking the law into one’s own hands, it’s at least a message of dealing with issues without police.
“Sometimes people feel that calling the police is the only way to deal with problems.” That’s not a statement from someone protecting Snohomish — no, it’s straight from the May Day Collective flier.
“I support law enforcement 100 percent,” said Sutherland, who disagreed that those in Snohomish were taking the law into their hands. “We’re there to back them up, to make sure businesses were not destroyed.”
As for his guns, he said he carries a concealed pistol every day — in case that day comes when it’s needed for protection.
Sutherland was upfront about his views. The flier had no contact information to further explore opinions expressed there. An article by Ryan Gallagher, posted in February on the Medium blogging platform, expands on the notion that “strong communities make cops obsolete.”
As the country copes with the consequences of not only Floyd’s killing but of injustice and violence dating back centuries to slavery, the NAACP Snohomish County Branch wants real change. A statement Tuesday from the group’s Facebook page noted the display of Confederate flags and signs of white supremacy among those gathered Sunday in Snohomish.
The statement made a multifaceted plea: a demand for an accountability task force to review complaints of excessive force or misconduct by law enforcement; the installation of dash and body cams, and a requirement they be used; the release and investigation of community complaints about law enforcement; and training to recognize and manage systemic discrimination, biases and ways to de-escalate situations.
“Civil rights issues continue to plague U.S. society. This is why BLACK Lives Matter,” said the statement, adding that the NAACP is ready to assist.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.