Aberdeen council takes stance against racism

A resolution supporting “an end to racial injustice and systemic racism and in support of equal treatment for all under the law” was passed by the Aberdeen City Council Wednesday.

While the council was in general supportive of the resolution drafted by council president Dee Anne Shaw, some portions drew debate, particularly one stating the council finds “the open display of firearms at public gatherings to be alarming to the citizenry and counter-productive to the cause of equality.” Two weeks ago, citizens who were gathered in downtown Aberdeen to support police officers faced off with others there to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Some of the police supporters carried holstered pistols and or long-barreled guns, which is legal in Washington under “open carry” laws.

The catalyst of George Floyd’s death while in police custody in Minneapolis has heightened awareness around the issues of race and policing all over the country.

Mayor Pete Schave said when the resolution was introduced, “I feel that this resolution speaks to a lot of stuff that none of us ever had anything to do with,” adding, “Personally I think this should be shortened up and not sound like we’re apologizing for everything that has happened.” Schave was referencing some sections of the resolution he felt had nothing to do with the City of Aberdeen and its policies on race. The full text of the resolution is provided below.

As mayor, he did not have a vote on the resolution but could comment on it. Just prior to the vote he said he supported four of the 11 points of the resolution but felt the rest was unnecessary.

Open carry sparks debate

The section of the resolution that drew the most debate and opposition was the final of the 10 “Whereas” statements, which read: “the Aberdeen City Council supports the Bill of Rights but finds the open display of firearms at public gatherings to be alarming to the citizenry and counter-productive to the cause of equality, and asks for civil and peaceful discourse at all times.”

Ward 1 Councilwoman Tawni Andrews offered an amendment to strike that provision, saying it went against the state’s open-carry firearms law. Shaw countered that the resolution didn’t challenge anyone’s gun rights. Ward 6 Councilman Frank Gordon supported Shaw’s argument, said the language was such that it discouraged the open display of firearms during public rallies, and is “just asking (open carry individuals) to be sensitive to how some people may feel about that.”

“I understand what the intent might be,” Andrews said, “but I don’t feel it’s our place to make that statement.” Ward 3 Councilman Tim Alstrom agreed, saying he supported her amendment to remove that paragraph, in that the resolution’s oveerall purpose was to acknowledge the city’s stance against systemic racism, but the open carry paragraph “takes away from the message we’re trying to send.”

The Andrews amendment to remove the paragraph failed on a vote of 6-5. Voting yes on the amendment were Alstrom, Andrews, Ward 1 Councilman Dave Haviland, Ward 3 Councilwoman Kati Kachman, and Ward 4 Councilman John Maki.

Those voting to keep the open carry reference were Ward 5’s Joshua Francey and Alan Richrod, Gordon, Ward 2 Councilman Nathan Kennedy, Ward 4 Councilwoman Deborah Ross, and Shaw.

When the resolution came up for its final vote, Kennedy said to Schave, “I don’t know where you’ve been, I grew up in an area where one side saw a lot of freedom and on the other side I saw people being forced into squalor because of the color of their skin. I have seen that and I am younger than you, and for you to come into council and you’re going to say this … ” which brought a point of order from the council cutting him off for what was seen as a personal attack on Schave.

Ross thanked Shaw for her work on the resolution and pledged her support for it as written. Andrews said, “I support the entire rest of the document but (because of the open carry provision) I can’t support it. It takes away the entire message.”

Schave again voiced his overall support for the message of the resolution but couldn’t support it as it was written “because of all of the stuff I have to apologize for in it,” and the fact that the death of George Floyd is mentioned in the first paragraph of the resolution but there is not even a nod to the police officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Richrod countered that the police deaths were “outside the scope” of the resolution, and the resolution “at least is acknowledging the systemic racism that has existed here for how many hundreds of years. The police officers who were killed in the line of duty is a separate issue” that could be acknowledged in “some other way,” he said.

Kachman said she supported the message of the resolution but was “still uncomfortable with the same section (Andrews) was talking about. As an elected official I have the obligation and privilege to uphold the Constitution,” and the open carry provision of the resolution contradictory to that obligation.

The city’s attorney, Patrice Kent told the council she reviewed the resolution for legal consideration, and in her analysis “this does not cross the line into restricting the Second Amendment rights of any person” and in her mind is written to acknowledge only the effect open display of firearms can have on individuals assembled in any form of demonstration.

In the final vote, the resolution was passed 8-3, with Andrews, Kachman, and Ward 2 Councilman John Maki voting no.

The resolution

Here is the full text of the resolution as passed by the Aberdeen City Council June 24:


WHEREAS the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, while in police custody galvanized the movement to end racial injustice and systemic racism in our country, and

WHEREAS the Aberdeen City Council has a duty to ensure that all people within our city limits, whether visitor or resident, are assured they will be treated respectfully and equally regardless of race, religion or ethnicity, and

WHEREAS racism, organized hate and any form of discrimination have no place in our city, our county, our state or our country, and

WHEREAS our country has a long history of failing to live up to the ideals embedded in the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the Constitution of the United States of America of 1789 where we vowed that “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America,” which was followed two years later by the first ten amendments to the Constitution known as the Bill of Rights, then by the 13thAmendment abolishing slavery in 1864, and, almost 100 years later, by the Civil Rights Act, and

WHEREAS our systemic failure to realize our noble foundation was forever immortalized by Martin Luther King Jr. in his “I Have Dream Speech” at the Lincoln Memorial at Washington, D.C., in 1963, and

WHEREAS in the 56 years since Dr. King’s famous speech in the era known as the Civil Rights Movement we have not realized the dream of treating everyone based on the content of their character and not the color of their skin, and

WHEREAS too many people of color in this country fear for their life during routine police encounters, and

WHEREAS the Aberdeen City Council supports the June 11, 2020, statement of Police Chief Steve Shumate where he stated that the Aberdeen Police Department joins the men and women of local law enforcement in denouncing the actions of the officers that led to the death of George Floyd, and

WHEREAS our police chief expressed his pride to serve as chief of the Aberdeen Police Department where there is a commitment to uphold the highest standards of professional law enforcement as they work to serve our community, and

WHEREAS the Aberdeen City Council supports the Bill of Rights but finds the open display of firearms at public gatherings to be alarming to the citizenry and counter-productive to the cause of equality, and asks for civil and peaceful discourse at all times, so

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Aberdeen City Council denounces racism in all forms, recognizes and supports the Aberdeen Police Department’s high standards and expectations, and states to all who live in or visit our city that they can expect to be treated with equality, dignity and fairness regardless of the color of their skin, their religion or their ethnicity.