Some heated moments as group supporting law enforcement is met by protesters supporting Black Lives Matter
CAMAS — There was a plan for a Rally for the Blue.
In response, there was a Black Lives Matter protest.
Same city. Roughly the same time, too.
From this reporter’s perspective, words were exchanged, obscene gestures were made, weapons were observed, and there was some pushing and shoving here and there.
Still, downtown Camas did not turn into Portland or Seattle, and both sides were clearly heard.
“I made a little flyer to invite my friends, and here we are,” said Helen Sudbeck of Camas, who put together the notice for the Rally for the Blue. She was surrounded by hundreds of people wearing red, white, and blue and showing support for police.
“I have friends across the country in law enforcement, and I have heard stories from all of them how difficult life is right now,’’ Sudbeck said. “I just wanted to be uplifting and show them how much our community cares. That’s it. That’s all we are here for.
“I do realize a counter protest was planned,’’ she added. “That’s a First Amendment right. They have that right. I’m just really glad it’s all peaceful.”
Nick Faught was on the other side of the street. He was one of the vocal leaders early in the Black Lives Matter protest that moved from outside the library to the corner of the Arco Station on the corner of NE 3rd Avenue and NE Dallas Street.
“We don’t have very many local protests in support of BLM,’’ Faught said. “When I found out there was one today, I felt it was important to support our local community and let everyone know that our community is in support of black people.”
Madeleine Holbrook, who is an incoming senior at Camas High School, said she knows that law enforcement is needed but she is protesting the unions associated with the police. She said the unions make it difficult for victims of abuse to get justice.
“I don’t want to stay silent,” Holbrook said as the reason for being at the protest. “I have work to do at home, but I feel this is much more important. I want to support my beliefs, physically. I want to feel I’m with people.”
Cindy Graham said she has protested for Black Lives Matter in Portland and wanted to do the same in her hometown. She has relatives and friends in law enforcement.
“I do support police, but I think it’s time now to stand up against what’s happening so things can be changed,” she said.
Some members of both groups could be seen going over to the other group, putting their signs in the faces of others. Harsh words were exchanged. Accusations of racism were thrown from Black Lives Matter protesters to Rally for the Blue people.
“I want to let Camas police know that we stand behind them. We’re not interested in defunding them,” said Tanya Stevie. “I’m not racist because I don’t believe in BLM.”
“I didn’t know there was a BLM rally at the same time,” said Keith Hacker. “I just wanted to come down here and show our support for the police and make sure they know we support them.”
At one point, many of the young protesters in the BLM section ran away from the gatherings. Some said they had seen a guy with a gun, and they did not want to be there.
There were several people in the blue group with weapons. One had his rifle pointing down toward the ground, secured by a sling.
“We’re tired of the politicians letting them destroy our cities, destroy our towns,” said Jeremy from Washougal. Jeremy did not give his last name. “I brought my AR-15 strictly for self defense. I will not raise it unless absolutely necessary. I do not want to shoot anybody. I will not look for confrontation, but I won’t be bullied either.”
Clark County Today witnessed some shoving and pushing. One person had his sunglasses taken off and slammed to the ground, breaking into pieces. One person driving his truck in between the two groups gave a thumb’s up to one side and the middle finger to the other.
Jennifer Senuscu, from the Chamber of Commerce, said it was a difficult thing to watch.
“I’m really sad. We all care about lives,” she said. “To see everybody out here fighting each other and being upset with each other is really upsetting.”
Jalena Carlisle of Camas High School and her friend Kyra Seggewiss, who is from Canada, were seen holding a big Black Lives Matter flag.
Carlisle said she does not like the term Blue Lives Matter because blue is a career choice. Being black, though, is not a choice.
“There’s obviously a corrupt system in the justice system,” Seggewiss said. “I’m not even from the United States but I know there’s a big, big problem here. I just want to see a change for many of my friends. Black lives matter, and if you can’t see that, that’s crazy to me.”
Liz Pike, former state representative, was impressed with how many showed up for the Rally for the Blue.
“I support our law enforcement,’’ Pike said. “Not just Camas and Washougal, but all of our law enforcement officers. They put their life on the line every day for us, the men and women in uniform. We owe them respect. We owe them thanks. That’s why I’m here today.”
Clark County Today reporter Jacob Granneman contributed to this report.