City Council condemns armed militia groups

SPOKANE, Wash.— The Spokane City Council passed a resolution Monday condemning the organization and assembly of armed private militia groups.

It was put forward by councilmembers Karen Stratton and Kate Burke.

The Council listened to testimony regarding the resolution. Downtown business owner Emily Peters said the armed groups that showed up to demonstrations this spring and summer were unnecessary and that they are not protecting property, and if they were, it is not worth more than a human life.

“As a business owner, I’m not concerned for my business’ safety, I have not seen issues. We saw one store looted one time,” Peters said.

Mark Richard, President and CEO of the Downtown Spokane Partnership also testified in support of the resolution, saying that militia members with rifles intimidated people.

The Council passed the resolution 6-1, with councilmember Michael Cathcart casting the lone opposition vote. Cathcart said he could not support the resolution as it would be hard to enforce and could infringe on the rights of individual armed citizens. However, Cathcart agreed armed militias do come across as threatening.

“If you want to go hang out downtown and open carry during a riot, during a protest, intimidate and create an environment that is very unwelcoming, we don’t need that, either,” Cathcart said.

Council President Breean Beggs argued the law is clear.

“You don’t have to prove that someone is a member of an organization. You just have to prove that they are marching with other people with firearms downtown in an organized manner and in such it implies that it’s intimidating:”

In a Facebook post Sunday, Spokane County prosecutor Larry Haskell argued the law does not apply to “recognized” militias.

Armed citizens downtown may be unorganized, however, Haskell said they are still recognized as a militia under state and federal law.

“Simply put, if the organization in question is not “unrecognized”, the statute does not apply at all and no prosecution can follow,” Haskell said.

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