Students continue to lead protests in Ellensburg


Casey Rothgeb

Students protest peacefully against police brutality and racism in honor of those who have died.

Mitchell Roland, Editor-in-Chief

In the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minnesota in May, race relations have once again dominated headlines as protests take place across the country, including in Ellensburg. Two current CWU students and one alumnus are hoping to not let the Black Lives Matter protests fade away.

For over 100 days, Tre Gardner, Mireya Sonora and Sara Omrani have protested in downtown Ellensburg. And while they’re working towards the same cause, all three have different life experiences that led them to this movement.

Tre Gardner

During a drive from Tacoma to Ellensburg several years ago, Tre Gardner thought an interaction with a police officer could cost him his life.

“I thought that it could be the end,” Gardner said.

A CWU student at the time, Gardner was pulled over for speeding. A black male, Gardner’s father told him growing up to always comply with the police and make interactions as brief as possible.

While the officer approached, he began to pull his insurance information up on his phone. In the process, his phone fell between his seat and the center console in his car. As Gardner looked down at the phone and began to reach, the officer drew their firearm and instructed Gardner to step out of the car.

After Gardner got out of the car the officer patted him down, searched his vehicle for a weapon, found his phone that had his insurance and continued with the traffic stop.

Gardner said while police officers have a difficult job, there needs to be reform.

“At the end of the day, I respect them. I respect their duty,” Gardner said.

One of the goals of the protests, Gardner said, is to not put officers in a position where they’re unprepared.

“We put a lot of police officers in a position where they’re not trained to handle that specific situation,” Gardner said.

While Gardner was grateful for a June 2 rally in Ellensburg led by two Ellensburg High School students, he felt it was important for “someone who’s truly lived that experience” to lead the charge in Ellensburg which is why he got involved.

Since Gardner was little, he has been interested in both the civil rights movement and the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X.

“It would be stupid of me to not get out there and spread knowledge,” Gardner said.

One of the most important things people can do, Gardner said, is be open to new information.

“It’s getting out there and doing the research on your own,” Gardner said. “Keep an open mind.”

Mireya Sonora

Mireya Sonora, a junior psychology major, started out organizing candlelight vigils in Ellensburg and began protesting.

“This town needed a wakeup call. They’ve been too comfortable here,” Sonora said.

After reading news stories about police brutality and people of color losing their lives, Sonora felt she had to get involved.

“Not only are we fighting justice for everybody and equality, these are lives that are being taken from us,” Sonora said. “I want everyone to realize we’re not out here causing a ruckus for no reason.”

Sonora said one of her concerns she is speaking out about is her fear that she can’t go to the police in an emergency.

“I don’t see cops as someone I can go to because they’re not there to help me,” Sonora said. “When you’re a person of color, we get treated differently.”

Sonora said she is proud that the demonstrations in Ellensburg have remained peaceful, and she wants it to remain that way.

“We are 100 days strong right now of nonviolent protests, like at all. We do not encourage that,” Sonora said. “I want people to understand that the Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t equal violence. It equals peace.”

Sara Omrani

Sara Omrani, a freshman majoring in law and justice, said she was so young when she first experienced racism she didn’t know what the word meant.

“I didn’t have the vocabulary for it. But people didn’t like me, and I didn’t know why,” Omrani said. “I thought we were just bad kids.”

Omrani said she is majoring in law in justice because she wants to know more about the American justice system in hopes of reforming it.

“You can’t fix a problem you don’t understand,” Omrani said. “What’s happening to our black community members is despicable.”

While some protests in the country have turned violent, Omrani said she was glad no businesses have been harmed and no car windshields have been broken in Ellensburg.

“It feels good to prove a point,” Omrani said.

Omrani said the protests will continue, and she doesn’t see them going away.

“I feel like the community has been receptive here, ” Omrani said. “The premise of a protest is ‘where there is no justice, there will be no peace.’”