The second Call for Justice protest of the week, organized by the Kitsap Equity Race And Community Engagement Coalition (ERACE), took place Tuesday afternoon at the intersection of Highway 305 and Liberty Road in Poulsbo where community members filled the sidewalks on both sides of the road.
The protests follow the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed in police custody after a white Minneapolis police officer — later identified as Derek Chauvin — was caught on video with his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck. Protesters at the event Tuesday were wearing masks and, though crowded, appeared to be doing their best to adhere to social distancing guidelines amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Those in the audience chanted, “No justice, no peace,” and “black lives matter.”
“People are super engaged, they’re excited to be out there, excited to speak out for justice,” said Kitsap ERACE member Airen Lydick. “We’re always happy when people are showing up for racial justice. It’s great to see our neighbors out here.”
According to Lydick, the Kitsap ERACE Coalition is comprised of multiple local grassroots groups and organizations devoted to racial equity. The coalition started over a year ago after Kitsap ERACE leader and social justice activist Karen Vargas witnessed swastika graffitti on businesses and churches, as well as white supremacist leaflets scattered throughout the north end of the county and in Bremerton.
“We wanted to make sure we were addressing all these inequities,” Vargas said. “We decided we wanted to put together a coalition throughout Kitsap County with organizations that have within their mission statement, the issues about anti-racist work, social justice work, diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Shortly after, Kitsap ERACE was formed and the group began actively working on lettering campaigns and incorporating equity task forces for each city in the county as well as local school districts. The City of Bainbridge Island has already incorporated an equity task force.
“We’re working diligently and we’re continually moving equity forward,” Vargas said. “It’s sad that it took someone’s life being lost before the community would come out in solidarity like this. Because they have, we want to take this opportunity to educate on what we need to do to come together in a peaceful way. We’re not here to cause violence, we want to unify our community in a collective way to address these issues.”
Lydick talked about what the coalition wanted protesters to take away from the event.
“What people gain will probably be different for different folks in terms of how much familiarity they have with being part of a racial justice movement,” she said. “I hope that people can experience this solidarity with others who really want to come together against systemic racism and against police brutality and understand that we have power together.”
Here are a few photos and video from the demonstration: