The recent Op Ed by Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts regarding the conflict between the Olympia Solidarity Network and certain downtown businesses is deeply alarming. It is true that some of Oly Sol’s tactics have made people uncomfortable, and it’s my personal opinion that for these particular actions, their decision to mask up was an isolating, self-indulgent affectation. But characterizing their actions as terror, and explicitly equating an organization that has engaged solely in peaceful agitation, however provocative, with the Klan, is wildly irresponsible. It’s especially horrifying to hear this equivalence from the top representative of local law enforcement. The Klan conducted numerous campaigns of actual terror and murdered thousands of innocents. We don’t condemn them because they wore white sheets: we condemn them because torched people’s homes and burned children in their beds. As often as not, we should remember, with the active complicity or participation of local police.
After drawing this spurious, senseless connection, the police chief promises to “enforc[e] all applicable laws that are violated by groups like Olympia Solidarity..” Throughout all the tumult surrounding Oly Sol and the safety team, I’m aware of no allegations of actual law breaking. But when the police chief deliberately engages in this sort of slanderous mis-characterization, it’s hard not to read the promise as anything but an extra-legal threat.