PORT ANGELES — A City Council member has denounced hate in response to a constituent’s purported run-in with a racist group in downtown Port Angeles.
Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin told his fellow council members on Tuesday that he was contacted by a woman who encountered a group of eight to 10 people wearing T-shirts and jackets with “Firm 22” insignia.
Firm 22 refers to supporters and associates of Vinlanders Social Club, a racist skinhead gang, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Port Angeles police received no reports of residents having encounters with racist groups over last weekend.
“While we should be a community that is open and inclusive, that also means that we need to be a community that speaks out against hate speech and other actions that are based on exclusion and domination of other people,” Schromen-Wawrin said during his report to the council Tuesday.
“So when a group of people walk through our town opening displaying white supremacist or neo-Nazi insignia, we need to speak up and say that is not OK.”
April Bellerud, Port Angeles Downtown Association president and Odyssey Bookshop owner, said she encountered the same group near her business on Front Street.
“It’s very hard to confront a large group of very intimidating people and do anything about it,” Bellerud said during the second public comment period in Tuesday’s council meeting.
“And the thing is, they did not do anything. They went just to the edge of where you could call the police and say this is a problem. But they were very intimidating.”
Bellerud said members of the group required pedestrians to “walk through them on the street” and loitered in front of businesses.
“They were being very obnoxious,” Bellerud said.
“They did come in and buy from me, but they were obnoxious in my store, too.”
Port Angeles Deputy Chief of Police Jason Viada said there were no reports of racist groups or other groups harassing people in the downtown area over the weekend.
“I’ve checked with Red Squad that worked Saturday, and Blue Squad that worked Sunday, and we did not receive any reports, nor did any of our officers see that,” Viada said.
“We hear about things that have happened around town, but nobody’s reported it to the police. That’s the other dynamic that happens.
“I’m not saying they weren’t here, but it wasn’t reported to the police,” Viada said.
Firm 22 and Vinlanders Social Club each were on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2018 list of racist skinhead hate groups. Both operate in Washington and in several other states.
Firm 22 refers to non-member supporters and associates of the Vinlander Social Club, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
“It’s not OK to come here and declare yourself better than other people, and to support violence in the name of an ignorant understanding of who people are and what has happened in our history,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
“We need to openly identify our community as a community that respects and values all people. When we don’t do that, we make our community a space where people that promote hate and xenophobia feel that they can openly promote their nasty view of the world.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].