OPINION: June Cheers & Jeers

As far as local coverage goes, the month of June started out on a pretty positive note with front page stories in the June 4, 2020 Camas-Washougal Post-Record dedicated to those helping other community members survive the COVID-19 crisis.

In that spirit, this month’s “Cheers & Jeers” column also starts with a nod to the positives.

Our first of several CHEERS goes to those same helpers: from Washougal’s AJ Bogue, who admitted to struggling with bouts of depression and self-pity during the COVID-19 quarantine, but still found it in himself to organize a grassroot effort to feed locals in need of a hearty meal.

In that same vein, CHEERS go out this month to the folks leading the Camas-Washougal Community Chest, as well as the group’s grant recipients who gave up their grant money after COVID-19 canceled in-person events. The Community Chest was able to — through those returned grants and additional donations — give $30,000 worth of emergency grants to local nonprofits that saw an increased need for services during the pandemic.

Another CHEERS is for Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s recent mask-wearing mandate. Although there will, undoubtedly, be many folks here in Camas-Washougal who resist wearing a mask in public, the science behind face coverings and their ability to slow the spread of the deadly, highly contagious COVID-19 coronavirus is clear. In fact, a study released June 16 in the peer-reviewed journal Health Affairs shows masks prevented as many as 450,000 COVID-19 cases between April 8 and May 15 in 15 states that adopted early mask-wearing mandates. Wearing a mask is an easy way to protect yourself, your family and your community.

Our final CHEERS goes out to the Camas-Washougal youth who have helped organize local marches protesting police violence against people of color. The Post-Record is working on a story about the individual Camas youth who have dedicated their time and efforts over the past few weeks in support of the international Black Lives Matter human rights movement, but wanted to say “cheers” to stepping up for an issue that doesn’t always get attention in majority-white, suburban areas like Camas-Washougal.

That, of course, brings us to our one JEERS of the month. This one goes out to the official response to community members’ concerns over armed gunmen standing around and on top of the Limitless America gun shop in Washougal during a recent Black Lives Matter march. In our June 18, 2020 issue, we wrote about a Washougal resident who told Washougal City Council members there was no doubt from many of the individuals and families marching through town that day that “the mere presence of an armed rooftop sniper –wearing ear and eye protection, clad in all black and brandishing an assault-style weapon toward the peaceful marchers –constituted a true public threat.”

The new chief of police in Washougal, Wendi Steinbronn, later wrote a statement saying the armed people surrounding Limitless did not break any laws. Asked by the Post-Record about a Washington state law states that states it is unlawful for any person to “carry, exhibit, display or draw any firearm … or any other weapon apparently capable of producing bodily harm, in a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons,” Steinbronn argued there was a very high burden of proof — and should be — to prove someone had an “intent to intimidate.”

Steinbronn said the gun shop owner told her the heavily armed people on his roof and surrounding his shop on a Sunday afternoon were reacting to a perceived “Antifa” threat local law enforcement had already deemed a non-threat and which stemmed from a fake social media post created by a white supremacist group (see our editorial in the June 11, 2020 Post-Record for more information).

It is incredible to think that anyone could look at a group of men brandishing semi-automatic weapons, many wearing military or hunting garb, posed on top of a building along a major road and think this display was meant as anything other than a complete show of intimidation toward peaceful protesters marching by with their young children.

If, as the gun shop owner now contends, these armed vigilantes were just trying to help “protect his business from looters,” we would suggest they are better off leaving their guns and military gear at home so no one gets hurt and, instead, bringing binoculars — to better spot the looters — and a working cell phone to report a crime in progress to the proper authorities.

Please review our community guidelines