Faith community members speak out at Spokane Valley rally
Report and photos by Kaye Hult
Several faith leaders were among a coalition of concerned citizens who met in front of Spokane Valley City Hall the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 14, to ask the Spokane Valley City Council to adopt "A Resolution Against White Nationalism."
The document was created as a way for the council to build on the Diverse City Resolution it adopted in March 2017, saying the city does not tolerate discrimination and is an inclusive city.
The new resolution said the council members stand against racism, particularly white nationalism.
The issue stemmed from a meeting in July of Northwest Grassroots, which invited a known white nationalist to speak. Both Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins and Spokane County treasurer Rob Chase attended. Some Spokane Valley citizens feared this signaled their approval of the white nationalist racist agenda.
The rally was co-led by Leilani DeLong and Joan Braune of Families Against Bigotry (FAB). Leilani also participates in Valley Indivisible Progressives and Spokane Community Against Racism (SCAR).
She opened the rally by introducing the Rev. Jim CastroLang, pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Colville. He also is a member of the local Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience (FLLC), which formed to support the Poor People's Campaign and "moments like this."
Jim reminded those gathered that the land on which they gathered is the sacred land of the Spokane Tribe.
"What we do today in combating hate is not only to remember Charlottesville but also to connect to with so much more going way back," he said.
Remembering the eruption of hate in Charlottesville last year, when Heather Heyer was killed by a car driven by a neo-Nazi, Jim invited those gathered to join in a moment of silence.
"We are in a troubling time stoking the fear, waving the flames of hate," he continued. "So we are here to pray for and call on the Spokane Valley City Council to do the right thing—to denounce hate and clearly commit to working for equality for all.
"We are here to affirm the dignity, respect and wonderfulness of all people—no matter the color of their skin, their faith or no faith, their sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity," Jim said.
He concluded with a call-and-response prayer to remember, repent and repair, adapted from a gathering of faith leaders the previous Sunday in Charlottesville.
Rabbi Tamar Malino, another member of FLLC, then spoke.
She responded to the chant last year in Charlottesville, "Jews will not replace us" and to any in the Spokane area who identified with it.
"We are not here to replace you. We are here to live with you, and with every person of every color, and every faith in this nation. We don't want to replace you, but we do want to replace your hatred with our love, your fear with our hope, your bigotry with impartiality and fair-mindedness," she said.
"We want to replace racism and anti-Semitism with the great creed of our country that every person is equal to every other person, and every human being deserves dignity and respect," Tamar said.
After sharing a prayer, she asked the Spokane Valley City Council to "articulate their ideals, to be an instrument for justice and peace in this community, and for us all to continue together to fight hatred, bigotry, racism and anti-Semitism, wherever we see it: in Spokane County, in Washington state, in the United States and, if we can be so bold, in the whole world."
The Rev. Rick Matters, an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Spokane, then expressed concern that leaders of white supremacist groups instructed followers not to attend a march in front of the White House the previous weekend. That would make them look like weirdos.
What they are to do is to "blend in, look hip, make friends and infiltrate the political system." This way, they can "distort the American Dream."
Rick called for articulating the true American Dream "of liberty and justice for all, respect and dignity for all, inclusion and compassion for all. Democrat, Republican, Progressive and those who choose not to vote at all need to make clear our American values.
"Silence is the enemy that allows white supremacists to succeed in their agenda of hate and exclusion," he said.
He asked for politicians to repudiate hate groups and to raise their voices against hate speech.
"We call on politicians of all stripes to take actions that protect and welcome all members of society. Indeed, we call on all members of society to speak out, as we are speaking up, for an inclusive, friendly and just society," he said.
Rick concluded by thanking Spokane Valley City officials for choosing to place two statues of Native Americans in front of the city hall, honoring them for their care of this land "for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. We ask them to continue in this tradition."
Leilani then said, "Bold action is needed to correct the perception of Spokane Valley as a center of ignorance and racial discrimination and bigotry."
She asked the mayor and council to sign the resolution.
Joan, who organized the event with Leilani, led a chant, "Justice now!"
The rally dispersed. More than 50 attended, and many spoke at the council meeting, including people from Northwest Grassroots.
Many urged the mayor and council to sign the anti-white supremacy resolution.
Gary Vandusen of Liberty Lake said people are judged by the company they keep. Citizens and businesses and potential businesses need to know that Spokane Valley is an inclusive community.
For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The meeting is online at http://spokanevalley.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=612.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, September, 2018