The City of Springfield held a virtual public forum Thursday evening for community members to share their experience at a Black Lives Matter protest in late July. Most participants spoke against the Springfield Police Department's actions.
As part of external investigator Rick Braziel’s research, he listened to 33 community members provide three-minute statements in response to SPD officers hitting, tasing, and dragging Black Unity protesters on July 29 in the Thurston neighborhood. And about one-third of the responders said SPD handled the situation correctly.
Thurston resident Steve Molnar said Black Unity’s actions were disruptive.
“If it was clear, based on their social media posts, [their plan] was to invade our quiet residential neighborhood and cause as much disruption, and chaos and anarchy as possible,” said Molnar, “what did they expect to happen when they showed up?”
But others think SPD’s response was out of line.
Thurston resident Shaay Gallagher-Starr attended the Black Unity protest with their 14-year-old son. Starr said SPD should have worked to diffuse tension and prevent the event from escalating.
“SPD could have contacted the now clearly identified march leaders and discussed their concerns and plans for barricades," said Gallagher-Starr. "Police could have moved known white nationalists away from the barricades. Especially members of The American Patriots Society, or TAPS. SPD knows who these individuals are. Many of them have been arrested multiple times."
During the public form, Braziel said he has received and found over 294 videos in relation to the altercation that night. He said he uses an improvement approach to see what could be done next time, and will look at events before and after the protest.
“The request of the city so far has been through all of the reports involving the incident," said Braziel. "All the videos, the emails, and the audio. And not just the incident itself, but events leading up to this incident, which includes some of the other demonstrations and marches before. Because I look at things, events that have occurred prior to, during the 29 incident, and then after.”
Community members can continue to share their perspectives through the end of the month by sending comments in writing or through audio or video recordings in an email to Braziel at email@example.com. Or community members can send a letter to the Springfield City Manager’s Office: 225 Fifth Street, Springfield, OR 97477.
This story will be updated.