Handout depicting city council members, activists found in Ellensburg

Mitchell Roland, Editor-in-Chief

A flyer featuring caricatures and nicknames mocking several Ellensburg activists and elected officials, as well as a letter, was found throughout the Ellensburg area and on social media over the past several weeks.

Among those on the flyer, which labels the group as “K-Valley Most Wanted” are Ellensburg Mayor Bruce Tabb and every Ellensburg City Council member. A CWU alumnus as well as a current student are also on the flyer which refers to them as “useful idiots aka minions.”

The anonymous letter, dated Oct. 18 and signed by an individual or group calling themselves SHIELD, is riddled with grammatical errors and is directed at the Ellensburg City Council in response to the council’s Equity, Diversity and Arts subcommittee.

Specifically, the letter objects to agenda item 11.D from the Oct. 5 Ellensburg City Council meeting, which was a report from the Equity, Diversity and Arts subcommittee on a “call for art” in the community.

According to the proposal, the project is a “two-dimensional painting on exterior windows on a city-owned structure” and recommends the City of Ellensburg Visitor Center building.

The subcommittee is also considering creating an “Equity and Diversity” themed arts program, which would “recognize the value and contributions of historically marginalized people of color as a reflection of our community values.”

The proposal states the subcommittee will look for “additional direction from the City Council, Arts Commission, and public” before the project is formally recommended.

The SHIELD letter says the program would do “much of what the divisive Black Lives Matter Street Mural would have done, if approved by the council.” The letter claims this is also the “Ellensburg Councils’ (sic) way of ‘taking on’ the citizens who objected to and testified against the Black Lives Matters street mural.”

The letter calls Black Lives Matter (BLM) a “Self-identified Marxist Organization,” and claims BLM wants to “get control of the schools” and “use student riots to format public protest” while also infiltrating the press.

While the crude drawings depict elected officials and community activists, several of the people whose drawings were on the flyer said their first reaction was dismissive.

Ellensburg Mayor Bruce Tabb’s first response to the flyer and letter was to chuckle when he saw it on Facebook. While Tabb said people have the right to express themselves, they do not have the right to threaten people, though the flyer “in and of itself was not threatening.”

The way the flyer was distributed could potentially be illegal, Tabb said. The flyer was found on car windshields and in other places throughout town, though Tabb did not know the status of the investigation into the flyer.

“What we’re seeing is a reflection of where we are, not just in this community, but in the country,” Tabb said. “People are shouting from their own corner rather than being willing to engage in that dialogue. And I feel like that’s part of what we’re seeing here.”

Sara Omrani, who is also depicted on the flyer and is a current CWU student, called the flyer “irresponsible” and said she first heard about it through a group chat. Omrani said she has two responses to the flyer, one humorous and one more serious.

“The use of comic sans is so offensive to me,” Omrani said. “And I don’t understand why they drew me like skeletor because I have never been that thin in my entire life. Like, they made me look emaciated.”

On a serious note, Omrani said as the daughter of political refugees, she understands there are “risks in activism.” Omrani also thinks this is SHIELD’s effort to cause a problem in the community.

“People were like ‘oh, but there’s no actual threats of violence in there,’” Omrani said. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, but they’re putting us … on what’s called a most wanted poster. Like, they called it that. It’s not me calling it that, or anyone else.”

Omrani said she has been targeted since moving to Ellensburg, though not to this extent, and called herself “a lightning rod” and said, “these people want a face for this faceless antifa and Black Lives Matter, they want someone to blame.”

“Because I have been so visible, that person is me,” Omrani said.

Tre Gardner, who also saw the flyer on Facebook, said his initial reaction to the poster was to laugh.

“I thought it was absolutely hilarious,” Gardner said.

With plaid and sunglasses on, Gardner said he is portrayed as a “thug” on the poster, who was “coming straight out of NWA.”

“Nobody’s really seen me in shades,” Gardner said. “I’m not a shades type of guy.”

Gardner said the people who know him know that “I’m not a thug like that, I’m a very well articulated, educated and well-mannered individual.”

Gardner thinks he was included on the poster because at the beginning of the BLM protests in Ellensburg he was “the face of the movement” and because they object to the “BIPOC Board of Diversity that focuses on like diversity, equity, inclusivity of people of color in the community.”

Gardner said some community members have not been responsive to this because they believe the city council is going forward with the proposal as a “punishment for not going through with the mural.”

That’s not the case, Gardner said.

“They’re really upset because there won’t be any European Americans on that board,” Gardner said. “Primarily for the fact that the city council is completely European American.”

Gardner said this board was created to allow Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) members of the community to speak with the city council directly.

“A lot of people don’t realize that when you’re a minority, you want to see somebody and talk to somebody that looks familiar,” Gardner said. “In a way, you feel that they can understand and be more empathetic to your situation because they’ve kind of been through the situation before.”