Snohomish Graduates Document “What Happened on First Street”


This article includes details that may be distressing for some.

SNOHOMISH – “Too bad he didn’t kill the guy.”

Clips of people hurling insults at those protesting for George Floyd in downtown Snohomish flash one by one.

“Justice for George, really?” ”

The clips, recorded at the end of May 2020, are part of “What happened on First Street, A documentary created by two former students of the Snohomish School District who are recent college graduates.

May 31, 2020.

Glacier Peak High School alumnus Carolyn Yip and Snohomish High School alumnus Drake Wilson began directing the documentary in June 2020.

“We kind of took it as a way to just have a historical record of the events that had happened in Snohomish,” Wilson said. “And also to provide the opportunity to highlight the experiences of Black and Brown residents of Snohomish through May 31. Because many of us weren’t too surprised when we saw Proud Boys and Confederate flags waving on First Street. . ”

About a third of the film documents the events of May 2020 on First Street, Wilson said. The rest focuses on the experiences of people of color living in the community, as well as educators’ perspectives on how to tackle ignorance in school.

While it confronts tough truths about the community, it’s a hopeful, forward-looking film, said Tabitha Baty, president of Snohomish for Equity.

“It’s not necessarily to shame people,” she said, “but it’s just to say… how can we do better? How to do it differently? How do we come together? “

The documentary mentions the lack of condemnation of the events of May 31 by Snohomish’s top leader, but it is not meant to be political, Wilson said.

Mayor John Kartak told the Daily Herald he had two statements about the documentary.

“First, I’ve never heard of it. Second, I support my community which just happens to be the friendliest community in the world, ”he said.

Last year, Kartak told two local conservative talk radio hosts that everyone on First Street – including those who gave an “unpleasant and unpleasant” speech – had a right to be there.

Wilson said some city leaders mentioned in the film did not respond to requests for comment.

The documentary is intended to spark a thoughtful conversation about how to improve the quality of life for everyone who lives in Snohomish, Wilson said.

“I think it is important that we can learn from this,” he said. “This project is definitely irrelevant to my community. I just want it to be an inclusive place for everyone and I want people to have the best experience possible. ”

A Snohomish mother started the project.

Carol Robinson, a longtime Snohomish resident, said her two daughters were the reason she got involved in the protests for George Floyd in downtown Snohomish.

“Once I was there I was like – it’s really powerful. Really, really powerful, ”she said.

Robinson said she reached out to Wilson, a local protest organizer, and Yip, whom she knew as a talented local filmmaker, to create something that would help the community learn from the events of May 31.

“It really hit me and I thought, we have to record this,” she said. “These are stories we don’t hear. These are stories that are missing from some of our history teachings. And we need those voices to be heard.

Wilson, Yip, and Robinson met once a week for over a year to conceptually develop the nearly hour-long film, in addition to hundreds of hours of interviews and editing. Yip, who studied design at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, was behind the camera and production. Wilson, who studied journalism at Northwestern University in Illinois, conducted the interviews.

The documentary was a passionate project. He had no investor to back him up, just emotional support from community organizations.

Baty said several of the children of Snohomish for Equity members and their friends were involved in the 2020 protests, and through the protests and the creation of the documentary, “we’ve kind of been a support system for them.”

Snohomish for Equity helped organize the May 30 rally in Snohomish.

The next day, armed residents came to the city center, allegedly to defend businesses against leftist looters – an apparent social media hoax that may have been started by a white supremacist group. In the days that followed, students marched through the city center every evening, often passing armed individuals standing guard outside store doors.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed a law prohibiting the carrying of open weapons during demonstrations in public places and on the grounds of the state capital.

The law applies to people who knowingly open a weapon within 250 feet of an authorized demonstration. It includes an exception for people who are on private property that they own or lease. The felony is a serious misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of $ 5,000.

People might have thought twice before coming to Snohomish with guns if the law had been in effect in 2020, Representative April Berg, D-Mill Creek told the Herald earlier this year.

The documentary detailing the events of May 2020 and the experiences of people of color in Snohomish will debut October 16 in person and online. The screening is free and tickets are available online through Eventbrite.

The Snohomish Education Association is a co-sponsor of the screening and has supported screenings of other Snohomish for Equity films, including “13th”, a documentary on racial injustice following the abolition of slavery.

“The conversation about how to create a more just and equitable society is very much in line with what we are doing,” said Justin Fox-Bailey, president of the Snohomish Education Association.

For Wilson, the issues discussed in the documentary are personal.

“When I see people along my first street openly carrying assault rifles, blatantly drinking alcohol, brandishing vests… and Confederate flags – it’s a very egregious threat to identities like mine “, did he declare. “It doesn’t matter who you are when you’re dark skinned. And you can immediately be seen as different in a community like Snohomish where there just isn’t much diversity.

Those involved in the making of the film hope the documentary can be both informative and inspiring.

“I feel like it’s harder for people to deny there’s a problem if you see the actual footage,” Baty said. “And then at this point, I guess if you keep denying it really becomes a matter of not wanting to face reality. … You would hope people would take a second look and say, “Wow, that’s not how I want my city to represent me. ”

Journalist Katie Hayes also contributed to this report.

Isabelle Breda: 425-339-3192; [email protected] Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

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