The conversation about race, racism and the role of law enforcement in the community continued Sunday in Lacey.
This time, the Hispanic Roundtable of South Sound, an organization with a 14-year history in Thurston County, wanted to lend its voice to the conversation. It organized Sunday’s gathering as a potluck and attracted about 40 people to the city of Lacey’s Jacob Smith House.
Those in attendance included elected officials, such as Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder; city of Olympia staff; law enforcement from Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and Thurston County; and those running for office.
Several similar gatherings have been held since the officer-involved shootings of two black men in west Olympia in May 2015.
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Hispanic Roundtable President Bill Fishburn also cited the fatal shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota — one of several officer-involved shootings throughout the country that have been captured on video — as another important example of why the community conversation needs to continue.
Dick and Marcia Smith of Olympia attended because they have concerns about the use of lethal force and gun violence.
Marcia said police had gone “way overboard” in responding to the May 2015 incident in west Olympia.
After Fishburn welcomed those to the meeting, he turned it over to meeting facilitator Paul Horton of the Athena Group, who led the group through various interactions, such as those in attendance asking questions of each other. For example: What led you to want to be part of the conversation on Sunday? And then those responses were shared with everyone as part of a larger discussion.
Some of those responses: a sense of urgency, a desire to be involved and that racism is real.
Regon Unsoeld, a former Tumwater School District educator, reported concerns about Sunday’s gathering itself — that not enough of the community was represented at the meeting and that it was “whites talking to whites.”
Hispanic Roundtable Vice President Olivia Salazar De Breaux made the same observation Sunday. She said there still is fear among some in the community about talking to the police.
“There’s a lot more to be done,” she said. “This is a baby step.”