Memorial for COVID-19 victims found vandalized after stay-home rally, organizer says

PC: Stronger Together Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash. — A display of crosses mourning locals who have lost their lives to COVID-19 was found vandalized at the end of a stay-home protest in Spokane on Friday. 

The memorial’s organizer, Tom Robinson, believes a group of protesters is to blame. 

The rally was one of multiple in recent months that has pushed for a faster reopening of businesses. It came a day after Governor Jay Inslee denied a request from local leaders to open Spokane County at a faster rate. 

READ: Protesters hit Spokane streets, upset with Gov. Inslee’s denial of a faster reopening

Robinson is a founder of the group Stronger Together Spokane. While he isn’t opposed to parts of Spokane opening sooner, he says the group wants political leaders to base their decisions on “common sense and science.”  

Robinson says the memorial was set up before the rally as a reminder of the lives at stake if Spokane opens too soon. 

Video footage recorded by Robinson during the rally shows a group of individuals taunting him, calling him a communist and telling him to remove his mask. 

Robinson, who is 73 years old, is heard asking them to step back and respect social distancing guidelines.  

In the video, a man wearing a vest representing the far-right group “Proud Boys” continuously walks toward Robinson, despite his requests for personal space. 

“These are our friends the Proud Boys,” says Robinson. “This is what Proud Boys do.” 

At one point, the man, who later identifies himself as Milkshake, says, “Do you think that mask is going to protect you from a virus? Are you delusional? Because that mask is not going to protect you from a virus.” 

When someone kicks a cross over, Milkshake does stand it back up, saying, “don’t disrespect.”

4 News Now reached out to Robinson, who says he eventually left and hid in his car for the remainer of the rally, until he felt it was safe to return. 

He was escorted by Spokane Police back to the memorial, and that’s when he saw it had been vandalized. 

It was a painful sight to Robinson, who says he’d personally handmade each cross in the safety of his home. 

READ: Crosses placed at Spokane City Hall memorialize those lost to COVID-19

“I’m not a carpenter by any means,” said Robinson. “But I thought, there must be something I can do to remind people that these aren’t just numbers. Every cross, every one of them, was a person.”  

Robinson says he didn’t let the vandalism stop his mission; he’s already constructed new crosses in place of the ruined ones.