A Pullman family did not want to sit at home and simply watch the demonstrations on TV.
Instead, after hearing about an organized Seattle march in response to the death of George Floyd, Stella Carman and her two younger sisters asked their dad to drive them to the Emerald City on Saturday to join the cause.
“I just felt like this movement is definitely really powerful. It’s going to be written down in history, and it felt like it was important for me to be part of that,” Stella Carman said.
The Pullman High School student said sometimes one can feel helpless living in a small community like Pullman, where it is easy to be sheltered from problems, such as police brutality, more common in big cities.
“I felt like I needed to be part of something bigger,” she said.
Stella Carman estimated about 500 people marched their way through downtown to the Westlake Center shopping mall chanting, holding signs and voicing their opposition to racial injustice. Vehicles honked their horns in support and others watched from their nearby homes.
Frankie Carman, a 12-year-old Lincoln Middle School student, said many people were there in response to Floyd’s death, but others marched in honor of other lives lost to racism and excessive police force.
While it started off peacefully, Stella Carman said the situation escalated when the march reached the police officers waiting in front of the Westlake Center. She said a small number of unruly demonstrators caused the police to retaliate by deploying tear gas and flash grenades at the crowd.
The Carman family escaped unharmed. Their father, Andrew Carman, said they anticipated the possibility of tear gas, so he and his daughters stayed near the back of the crowd. When the police took action, the Carmans found safety by moving around the other side of the block.
Stella Carman said as people affected by the tear gas ran down the street, her family offered to help by rinsing their eyes with milk and providing them water.
Andrew Carman said the most disappointing part of the experience is that the small group of people who provoked the police overshadowed the efforts of the rest of the crowd to remain peaceful. While most people there showed compassion for each other, the chaos is what made headlines.
“That was the thing that made the news,” he said. “They were not representative of the sentiment of the crowd.”
Stella said that while she is aware of police brutality around the nation, joining the Seattle march made her see first hand how much hurt it has caused people and how willing they are to fight it.
Frankie Carman said that because of white privilege she will never fully know what victims of racism and police brutality endure, but now she feels like she has a better understanding.
Andrew Carman said a handful of African-American demonstrators approached his daughters and thanked them for being part of the march.
He said he is proud of his daughters for taking initiative and turning the march into a learning experience.
The youngest daughter, Franklin Elementary student Alta Carman, also did not regret the experience.
“It was really scary, but I thought what we were doing was nice,” she said.
Anthony Kuipers can be reached at email@example.com.