Members of the Puyallup Tribe gathered with non-profit group Washington for Good Policing on Oct. 20 on the steps of the State Capitol to support I-873, a bill that will change restrictive language in Washington State law regarding police use of deadly force.
Currently, Washington State law provides a defense against prosecution when a police officer acts “without malice and with a good faith belief that such act is justifiable.” Washington for good policing believes that since malice is a state of mind, it’s impossible to prove, and I-873 looks to remove that clause from the law.
On Sept. 26 the Seattle Times, in its “Shielded by the Law” feature, referred to Washington’s law as “the nation’s most restrictive law on holding officers accountable for the unjustified use of deadly force.”
The bill hits close to home for the Puyallup Tribe. Last January, tribal member Jacqueline Salyers and her unborn baby were killed in a police shooting. Since then, the Tribe has stood united in demanding “Justice for Jackie” and the story was no different at the rally. Members of the Tribe stood on the steps of the capitol in support of the good policing initiative as part of the Justice for Jackie campaign.
“We need to come together – not just the Tribe, we need everyone to come together to make a difference to really make change. We have to do it together,” said Puyallup Tribal Council Member Tim Reynon. One person can have an impact but when you have hundreds of thousands of people coming together, you can do anything. Seeing all these people supporting the families and wanting to see the laws change, that’s what it takes – it takes us coming together like this. We’re all in this together and for us obviously it’s very personal because police brutality affected one of our own and when it happens to one of our own it happens to all of us, so that’s why we’re wanting people to come out and get the word out.”
Justice for Jackie has galvanized the Tribe in the last year, although police killings have been rampant far longer. At the rally, many wore shirts and signs that bore a familiar saying: “Native Lives Matter.”
“I can safely say the reason the Puyallup Tribe supports this is because we as leaders are sworn in to protect our people, and preserve our lands,” Puyallup Tribal Council Member Sylvia Miller said. “This has been has an injustice that has been going on for so long, it’s our job to protect our people and that’s what we’re doing is protecting by supporting this here and showing these people here, the lawmakers, that these laws aren’t meant for (police) to break, it’s for them to follow just like us, and that’s what we want.”
The rally was not an anti-police affair, as many speakers spoke of the importance of officers in communities. Many are simply looking for an answer to a problem.
“I think it’s important for us to come together and make a stand, especially to our Washington State legislators and the government, that we are demanding good policing laws,” said Puyallup Tribal Council Member Annette Bryan. “We are not against the police, we are very grateful to them for all that they do. However, they need to be held accountable in the jobs that they do.”
Just days after the rally, a single mother was fatally shot by officers on the Muckleshoot Reservation. Officers were called to the home for a wellness check where say they discovered the mother with a handgun along with two small children in the house.
“The importance of this gathering is to come together and bring awareness and a call to action for people to support this good policing initiative so it doesn’t happen to other children in our community. We lost a daughter, a niece, an auntie and we want to prevent other communities from losing mothers daughters aunties, nieces,” Puyallup Tribal Council Member David Bean said.
Altogether, more than 100 people stood on the steps of the capitol in solidarity, holding signs and chanting for change.
“We are a force to be reckoned with and we will make the changes,” said Salyers’ cousin Chester Earl.