Twice a small band of protesters attempted to light an American flag on fire during demonstrations against police brutality on Sunday in downtown Spokane.
And twice fellow demonstrators stamped out the flames.
The protest against police brutality had started to thin out Sunday evening, leaving a group of a couple of hundred protesters standing in the entrance of Riverfront Park, when a white man walked out from the crowd and started burning an American flag.
That’s when Lysa Cole, a young Black woman in a hoodie and sweatpants, walked up, stomped out the fire, and took away the flag.
As three men set fire to an American flag during a Black Lives Matter protest in Spokane on Sunday, June 7, 2020, a Black woman emerges from the crowd to stamp out the flames and recover the flag.
“I was just hurt because people worked hard for that flag,” said Cole, 20.
Cole’s father served in the military and her brother is currently in the service, so she said she has a special appreciation for their sacrifice.
“With us protesting for Black Lives Matter, we’re not standing up against America, we’re standing up for what America can be,” Cole said.
The men didn’t seem happy when Cole took away the flag. They swore at her and said she was taking their property.
“If it was your property, you wouldn’t be destroying it,” Cole responded.
After the incident, Cole didn’t feel like continuing to protest and decided to head home.
Just a few minutes later, it was the same scene. This time, the same men were burning a piece of fabric with multiple American flags printed on it.
Simone Richardson walked out and stopped them.
Richardson had been chatting with her friend Cole when she initially intervened. Her friend had left before the second flag burning.
“I got the second flag. and told them ‘Don’t burn it!’,” Richardson said. “That’s not what this protest is about.”
A few minutes later, the man who burned the flag walked up to Richardson and apologized.
“We got each other’s different perspectives,” Richardson said.
The pair respectfully talked it out.
“We shook hands and just went the opposite way,” Richardson said.
Richardson, 19, recently graduated from high school and plans to attend Spokane Falls Community College next year. She wants to become a lawyer to help people who are wrongfully convicted through the appeals process.
Richardson said she and the flag burner just have different perspectives on the importance of the flag.
“He understands where I’m coming from, and he just doesn’t think we should be respectful of the flag because it’s just a symbol,” Richardson said.
But Richardson said she feels like there are so many people who died for that symbol.
“I think that we should at least respect it, because it’s our way of giving back,” Richardson said.
Cole hadn’t heard about the man’s apology to Richardson, until asked about it by The Spokesman-Review late Sunday night.
“That’s so good,” Cole said.
The apology affirmed that Cole stood up for what was right, she said.
“It just really confirms that standing up in the face of injustice really makes an impact,” Cole said.”This positive thing was reinforced.”
Cole attended Whitworth University last year and planned to study psychology and pre-law before having to take a year off to save money. She now works as a special needs caregiver, but hopes to go back to school and become a lawyer.
Her ultimate goal is to help change laws to protect victims of human trafficking.
“There’s not a lot of laws that benefit them,” Cole said.
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