Protesters continue to rally in Ellensburg, despite fears of violence

Hundreds of protesters filled the streets of Ellensburg on Friday to continue protesting national systematic racism and police violence. Almost 300 protestors marched from Barge Hall down Main Street while Ellensburg police directed traffic, before assembling in front of the Kittitas County Courthouse to tell personal testimonies. That evening, the protesters held a candlelight vigil for George Floyd. 

From threats on Facebook to counter protesters showing up with guns, organizer Tre Gardner hasn’t felt safe in Ellensburg over the last week.

A senior political science major, Gardner has taken part in protests over the past week against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis at the hands of four police officers.

“Fear is an understatement. Terrified is an understatement,” Gardner said. “It’s a scary moment to walk outside in Ellensburg.

However, while he’s felt threatened, those threats won’t stop him from marching for his cause.

Gardner has organized multiple protests over the last week with CWU lecturer Marissa Barrientos who said, while Monday’s protest was nice, it was important to have continued protests due to racial issues both in Ellensburg and on campus.

“Now’s kind of the time for action,” Barrientos said. “What it’s really about is calling out the systemic racism that’s in our backyard at Central Washington University.”

Barrientos said students and faculty of color have a very different experience than their white counterparts at CWU, and that it was important to call out these differences.

Gardner attended the rallies on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Gardner said he’s experienced racism both on campus and in Ellensburg and he joined both protests to help ensure the messages continued.

“With everything that’s going on, with all the protests and stuff like that, we felt like it was necessary for Ellensburg to have a movement of its own,” Gardner said.

Gardner said it was important to attend because these demonstrations are an extension of his classwork.

“Literally what I study is what is being fought for in these streets,” Gardner said.

With protests in all 50 states and international protests taking place in countries such as England and Canada, Gardner doesn’t want the message of Black Lives Matter to fade out of view over time.

“It’s easy to start something, but it’s hard to continue it,” Gardner said. “We have a voice and we’re going to be heard.”

Gardner said as an African American, he has to constantly worry about interactions with the police. Even if he knows he hasn’t broken the law, when he sees a police officer while driving Gardner worries about what would happen if he was pulled over.

“We’re scared, we’re truly scared,” Gardner said. “We’re sick of being scared every day of our lives.”

While Gardner said these protests haven’t been directed towards Ellensburg Police or the CWU Police Department, he wished officers on the scene would have joined in.

On Monday, protesters motioned for a group of police officers standing near the back of the crowd to take a knee, however, the officers declined. On Tuesday, a group of protesters asked Ellensburg Police Chief Ken Wade to take a knee however Wade told the crowd the only person he kneels before is God.

In video from Tuesday’s protest, Gardner is heard telling an Ellensburg police officer that if the officers won’t take a knee, then the protesters did not want to have photos taken with the police.

“We’re not going to have y’all posting on social media that y’all were here with the protests, that y’all were supporting the protests,” Gardner says in the video.

Gardner said he wished the officers at the protests would have joined in.

“We just want the officers to take a knee with us,” Gardner said. “At this point, your religion has nothing to do with this cause.”