Chalking Olympia Shitty Hall to End poLice Use of Force
On Monday, August 15, 2016, members of the community of Olympia, WA responded to POOR Magazine's National Call for a State Of Emergency/Moratorium on all Use of Force by PoLice.
We showed up as POOR Magazine Pacific NW at Olympia Shitty Hall and the adjoined downtown Olympia Kkkop shop from 1-3pm to chalk the sidewalks with the national demands of POOR Magazine, to bring love for those lost to police terror with focus on Pacific Northwest Loved Ones and to amplify the demands of Justice for André Thompson and Bryson Chaplin.
[image description: olympia city (shitty) hall is on the corner of 4th Avenue E and Cherry Street. We see a mostly blank canvas of sidewalk, and the first chalk of the day that says “Justice for Andre & Bryson” with a heart around it. Colorful chalk also says “drop the charges” and “fire officer ryan donald.” There’s a white van with a satellite dish on top of it parked out front. The sky is clear and blue.]
André and Bryson are two young Black men, who are brothers, who survived a murder attempt by white Olympia police officer Ryan Donald on May 21, 2015. There were no charges and no accountability for the excessive and violent Use of Force by racist police officer Donald; his actions were found “justified,” while André and Bryson face bogus assault charges and possible prison time. André and Bryson’s trial is set to begin at the Thurston County kkkourthouse on October 3, 2016, and is expected to run four weeks.
At 1pm at Shitty Hall, there was an unusual kkkorporate press presence. Most of the local liars were there, with vans sporting expensive satellite dishes, and “reporters” filing into the building for some event that we were all unaware of. The “media affiliates” ignored those of us who had gathered outside with boxes of chalk.
A small group of us, grounded in love, gathered at the corner of 4th and Cherry to chalk the sidewalks, to demand an end to poLice Use of Force, and to mourn the dead and fight for the living. Young Black activist Lucas Ayenew arrived early and began chalking the names of Indigenous Loved Ones who were killed by police, from a long list that he acknowledges is not complete.
“It feels important to do this today because I am leaving to the Dakota Access Pipeline Opposition at Standing Rock in North Dakota tomorrow,” said Lucas. He continued, “I needed to feel the full weight and entanglement of our struggles, of all that Black and Native and other exploited Lives stand to gain together."
He chalked the name of Puyallup Tribal Member Jackie Salyers who was killed by Tacoma police January 28, 2016. Other names of Indigenous and First Nations Loved Ones chalked include Christina Tahhahwah, Misty Upham, Rexdale W. Henry, Loreal Tsingine, Amilcar Perez Lopez and John T. Williams.
The day was hot and sunny, and Crystal Chaplin, André and Bryson’s mother, brought snacks and water to share. Crystal is the leader of the the community group Justice for André and Bryson, which recently held their first monthly community meeting in order to get more people involved. (The next one will be held October 20, location TBD.) Crystal started in with chalking, writing “Read A Mother’s Cry for Justice in the Bayview National Black Press.”
[image description: Out front of olympia city hall, Lucas Ayenew and Crystal Chaplin, both with brown skin, are down on the ground chalking the sidewalk in bright colors. Lucas is chalking Jackie Salyers’ name in pink chalk. Crystal is wearing an In Loving Memory of Jackie Salyers t-shirt. Near to Crystal is the hashtag #POORmagazine and #fireryandonald. Near to Lucas is a box of chalk and hearts with the names of Daniel Covarrubias, Ché Taylor and Danny Spencer, all Loved Ones lost to police violence.]
Among us were members of Olympia Copwatch, encouraging folks to attend weekly meetings on Thursdays from 4-5 at Traditions Café to report incidents of poLice misconduct. Another chalker was Ballentine, an activist with strong social justice roots in the Las Vegas area. Ballentine is an anti police-terror chalk artist with a lot of knowledge of Nevada and Pacific NW victims and cases of police terror. She herself is a survivor of police terror.
“I came out to chalk because I disagree with the policies of the State of Washington and the City of Olympia regarding use of deadly force by law enforcement. I disagree with the decision to charge André and Bryson and I want to make it known,” said Ballentine.
Crystal Chaplin had a lot to say about the officer who shot her boys. “Ryan Donald has shown nothing but reckless behavior and is a threat to the community,” she said. “I am so afraid for my sons and my family. What if we cross this officer’s path? What would happen? Would he again say he feared for his life and say we came after him and open fire on us? This officer needs to be fired and held accountable for his actions.”
Inspired by her words, I dropped to the sidewalk with a piece of purple chalk and wrote the words “drop the charges! Justice for André & Bryson!” Because it is never too late to drop those charges!
“It’s never too late to drop the charges. Just drop them,” I say. Meanwhile, Ballentine chalked a number of names of Loved Ones lost to police violence, with a heart around each one. She chalked the name of Joel Nelson who was killed by a Thurston County sheriff deputy on January 5, 2016 near the Olympia airport. Joel was lost to poLice violence just four days after I moved to Olympia from San Francisco.
[image description: the blue and gray olympia poLice department building has chalk in front of it’s entrance on 4th avenue. It says DROP THE CHARGES. There is a pink heart with the words Justice for André and Bryson inside the heart. The chalk also says FIRE OFFICER RYAN DONALD. There are at least 3 surveillance cameras visible on the kkkop shop building in this photo.]
While Ballentine chalked, she shared about her life’s work of making activism more accessible, describing her plans of “a radical movie night, where documentary films are shown at no cost to people in the community.” She also shared about her work in Las Vegas, suggesting we continue this work in Olympia, coordinating a “Second Saturday chalk” at the same location every month, as a way of growing The Movement and consistently getting the anti police-terror message out, along with a zine for the purpose of outreach. We agreed to do a second Saturday chalk-ins in October.
While folks were chalking, Crystal started introducing herself and engaging the community as they passed by, sharing why we were there, demanding an end to poLice Use of Force and informing folks about her family’s Justice struggle. Raven Redbone of Make No Bones About It radio show on KAOS 89.3 stopped by the action and greeted Crystal with a huge hug. He shared about the local efforts being done to get Indigenous Elder Leonard Peltier freed from prison, stressing the urgency of Leonard needing a compassionate pardon. He makes it clear that if Leonard Peltier is not released from prison during the Obama administration, that he will die in prison. Raven invited Crystal to speak at the Peltier March for Clemency organized September 17, 2016, and Crystal accepted the invitation.
[image description: Lindy, Raven Redbone and Crystal Chaplin are talking in front of olympia city hall. Lindy was passing by and joined in the conversation, she has light brown skin, has her hair up, and she is wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt. Raven has fair skin and is talking, he is wearing a t-shirt that says “they were here first” with a bunch of animals on top of the earth pictured on it. All three agree that there should be Justice for André and Bryson.]
By this time, the sidewalk in front of the building was covered in chalk, with many colorful hearts and the names of Pacific NW Loved Ones who have been murdered by poLice. These names included Jeffrey McGaugh (Olympia, WA), Kendra James (Portland, OR), Danny Spencer (Olympia, WA), Tyrone Thomas (Spokane, WA), Bodhi Phelps (Gresham, OR), and Otto Zehm (Spokane, WA). Also local Indigenous tribes were written in hearts - Squaxin, Nisqually and Puyallup - acknowledging the history of state violence on Native peoples. The words “Loved One” were written to acknowledge those not named here.
Among the chalked hearts is a big green one, with the name of 19-year-old Christopher Kalonji. Christopher was killed by kkkops of the Clackamas County sheriff’s office, sergeant Tony Killinger and deputy Lon Steinhauer, in Oak Grove, OR (near Portland) on January 28, 2016. Christopher was in mental health crisis and needed help. Instead of helping, police escalated the situation, and a SWAT team was called in to the Kalonji family home where they killed Christopher. Crystal and I recently met Irene Kalonji in Portland at a monthly vigil for Keaton Otis. Irene is the mother of Christopher, and our new friend, she’s an immigrant to the US from Ukraine via Israel. Irene and her family are devastated by the loss of her son.
Irene told me, “My big desire is to look in the eyes of my son’s killers and ask them - how can they leave now? How can they go to work, back to their family and eat dinner, laugh, teach children to do right things, and at the same time be bearing my son’s blood on their hands?”
I learned from Irene that Christopher was a sweet kid who was targeted by police terror more than once because he is a Person of Color (he wore his hair in a natural afro) and because he knew his rights. The Clackamas county coroner’s report, in support of the police narrative (because they are co-workers who work together), says both that Christopher’s death was caused by gunshots of police, and that his death was a “suicide.’’ Christopher did NOT kill himself. He was MURDERED by poLice.
[image description: a wide angle photo taken out front of Olympia Shitty Hall and the sidewalk is beautifully covered in colorful chalk. Among the many hearts with Loved Ones names lost to police terror are identities of those targeted by poLice Use of Force, each with a heart drawn around it. The identities and People include Black, Houseless, First Nations People, Children, Trans, Poor, People of Color, Disabled, Elders, Migrants... Next to André and Bryson’s name (who SURVIVED) are the names of Loved Ones Jay Anderson and Phil Quinn, chalked at the request of Phil Quinn’s family. Standing amidst the sea of chalk are an unnamed copwatcher and activist documenting the activities, who remains anonymous and livestreams almost 24/7 in protest of the police state. To that person’s left is Crystal Chaplin.] photo credit: Ricky Osbourne Photo, Olympia
From out of the Olympia Shitty Hall building emerged Rhiannon Berg, a writer for the local kkkorporate press “The Olympian.” Rhiannon directed a question to Crystal, who was chalking. “Were you a part of what happened last night?” asked Rhiannon. Crystal looked to me, both of us confused.
“What are you talking about? What happened last night?” I asked.
“The vandalism,” said Rhiannon.
No, Rhiannon Berg, we weren’t a part of “the vandalism” last night.
What Crystal and I gathered from Rhiannon was that there was an action the night before, and it was being referred to as “vandalism.” When I did some research later that evening, I learned that the action was called by a group of local Anarchists, who took to the streets of Olympia “in solidarity with rioters and rebels in Milwaukee” with outrage for the poLice lynching of Sylville Smith. I learned this from the article OLYMPIA, WA: MARCH IN SOLIDARITY WITH MILWAUKEE UPRISING which is a first hand account about that action from a writer who was there.
By talking with Rhiannon and other members of “the press” coming out of the building, we found out that the Olympia poLice department had just held a press conference held inside while we were chalking. The “press conference” was a propaganda spreading opportunity for the Olympia poLice to respond to, and put their spin on, that very action that took place the night before. That’s why Rhiannon and all the kkkorporate press had come to Shitty Hall.
The poLice press release and press conference referred to that action as being a “Black Lives Matter” action, which is not true. The only thing true about that sentence, is that, yes, Black Lives indeed DO MATTER. Say it like you mean it, City of Olympia. Keep saying it. Keep saying it until the poLice stop profiling and targeting Black folks. BLACK LIVES MATTER!
However, it was local Anarchists that organized and participated in the August 14th action, not an identified Black Lives Matter group. The police narrative of that action made no mention of Loved One Sylville Smith or police terror against Black folks, which is what that action was about.
“You are reporting about the wrong stuff,” I told Rhiannon Berg, while we were surrounded by chalked names of Loved Ones lost to police violence. Rhiannon asked me if we put out a press release for this this chalk action in support of the moratorium. “No we didn’t,” I say. “Good point.”
[image description: a blue heart with the name of Disabled Loved One Jeffrey McGaugh inside it, with the words “mysterious in custody death Olympia 2016” written beneath the heart in light blue. Officer Ryan Donald was one of the officers involved in the death of Jeffrey McGaugh, Loved One lost to police violence on February 29th, 2016, just a couple blocks from olympia city hall where this chalk is. Ryan Donald is a police terror repeat offender.]
On August 16 2016, the very next day, the mainstream press put out the police narrative, the propaganda about “Black Lives Matter vandalizing Olympia.”
Later that night, a white supremacist named Daniel Rowe attacked an inter-racial couple in downtown Olympia, stabbing a Black man (who thankfully survived). Daniel Rowe told police he was “lashing out at the Black Lives Matter protestors.” He was arrested and is reportedly being held on a $500,000 bail at Thurston County Jail.
Two days after our chalk, Black Loved One, Omer Ismail Ali was violently killed by police in Kelso, WA.
Please contact the white house to ask for the compassionate release, for clemency, to free Leonard Peltier, so he does not die in prison. (202) 456-1111
Lisa Ganser is a white genderqueer artist living in Olympia, WA on colonized Squaxin and Nisqually land. They are a copwatcher, a sidewalk chalker, and the daughter of a momma named Sam.