A statement from the Olympia City Council on rising threats to our community

January 19, 2021

In the aftermath of the insurrection and sedition at the United States Capitol on January 6th, 2021, every capital city across the nation has been threatened with armed resistance to democracy. As we reflect on what we have witnessed in our own community in the past year, we must stand against the rise of domestic terrorism.

As a state capital, Olympia is a target for extremist behavior. We have witnessed a growing presence of openly carried assault weapons and other firearms, which has both intimidated and terrified the people who live here. Two people were shot during separate clashes in December. We have seen heavily armed rallies at the State Capitol Campus in opposition to the pandemic response and the results of a free and fair election. We have also seen armed opposition to public demonstrations for racial equity and police accountability, which have included groups engaging in unsanctioned paramilitary and vigilante behavior.

In a threat assessment issued by the Department of Homeland Security in October 2020, it is stated: “Among domestic violent extremists, racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists - specifically white supremacist extremists - will remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland.” The targets of this violence include: “racial and religious minorities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, politicians, and those they believe promote multi-culturalism and globalization at the expense of the white supremacist extremist identity.”

Our community is asking city government to protect them, and we see it as our role to protect our community. We acknowledge and thank the Thurston Asset Building Coalition for continuing to advocate to the Olympia City Council to respond to this situation with both diligence and urgency.

We condemn the violent acts of those who are guilty of insurrection, domestic terrorism, unsanctioned paramilitary activity, and the instigation of these behaviors. These threats and behaviors are not welcome in our community.

We affirm our commitment to transforming the city of Olympia to an institution that is equitable, just, and protective of our multi-racial democracy. We have initiated work around social justice, racial equity, and reimagining our public safety system to bring all voices to the table and ensure our community that we value the inherent worth and dignity of all persons.

We will track and support all state legislative efforts that will help our city address these threats. A review of the current state law does not reveal clear options to prevent extremist violence, only to respond after an incident has occurred. We will advocate for stronger tools for city governments to respond to these threats.

We will commission a study of our police protocol and crowd control responses that occurred in 2020 so we may understand how to avoid disparate responses to civil unrest. This review will include policy recommendations with the intent to remedy the findings of the study.

We direct the city manager to develop a public safety plan to protect the community from the rising threat of domestic terrorism and white supremacist extremism. This work should be interjurisdictional, responsive to credible threats, consider local ordinances we can enact, and be informed by those in the community most likely to be targeted by extremist violence to understand what they need to feel protected.

Mayor Cheryl Selby
Mayor Pro Tem Clark Gilman
Councilmember Yến Huýnh
Councilmember Dani Madrone
Councilmember Lisa Parshley
Councilmember Renata Rollins
Councilmember Jim Cooper

Kellie Purce Braseth, Strategic Communications Director
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