Protesters take spotlight at Hudson’s Bay-Kelso basketball game

Group shows up to support Hudson’s Bay players who say they were victims of racial taunts at previous game

A protest at the Hudson’s Bay-Kelso boys basketball game Friday night came with little warning to Vancouver Public Schools (VPS) officials, and the district attempted to act swiftly in order to maintain a safe environment, a district administrator said.

Dave Bennett, the director of athletics and security for VPS, said he became aware late Thursday of a possible protest at Friday night’s game. By Friday morning, VPS made contact with Kelso administrators.

“We made sure those protests were going to be peaceful and appropriate,” Bennett said. “We worked with Kelso School District administration to make sure everyone was aware.”

The plan was to ensure the game would be played in a safe environment.

Many fans brought anti-hate signs and wore T-shirts that read “We will not be silent.” Hudson’s Bay players wore the same apparel as their warm-up shirts.

Bennett said hearsay and rumors suggested that the protest was planned for this game because there were accusations of racial taunts toward the Hudson’s Bay players and other inappropriate behavior the last time these two teams played, Jan. 7, in Kelso.

Bennett added, however, that Vancouver Public Schools did not receive an official complaint from Hudson’s Bay regarding the Jan. 7 game. And he only heard the rumors of why this game was picked for the protest just hours before the game. 

Calls to Kelso school officials were not immediately returned. 

Late Friday night, the Southwest Washington Communities United for Change (SWCUC) posted pictures on its Facebook page of the Hudson’s Bay basketball team wearing the shirts, along with members of the organization.

The group posted a message detailing the accusations, and acknowledged it had helped in the planning of the protest.

“Community called. We answered,” the message said. 

A few weeks ago, the post noted, some parents reached out to the SWCUC in regard to what they said happened in Kelso. Then, in a meeting on Thursday night, 16 adults and seven basketball players, the post noted, “decided they wanted to make a statement.”

Roughly 24 hours later, the group had made signs and T-shirts to make that statement.

The post concluded with:

“WE ARE HERE FOR YOU!

“WE SUPPORT YOU!

“EVERYONE HEAR YOUR VOICES TONIGHT!

“This is what social justice looks like.”

According to social media posts, there were tense moments on the court, which turned up the intensity with the crowd. Kelso pulled out a 56-45 win.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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