Statement Against Vigilantes in Forks and In Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

Disabled Hikers is based in the traditional lands of the Quileute now known as Forks, Olympic Peninsula, Washington. Our vision is an outdoors culture transformed by fair representation, accessibility, and justice for disabled and all other marginalized peoples.

On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, a multiracial family traveling in a converted school bus was accosted by a group of local residents in eight cars at the grocery store; this group accused the family of being associated with “antifa.” Photos show residents partially boarding the bus as they questioned the family. The family had to navigate around the cars to leave the parking lot, and were followed by four vehicles, two of which had people who appeared to be armed, out to a local logging road where the family intended to camp. Shortly after setting up camp, the family heard gunfire and chainsaws nearby. They decided to pack up and leave, but the road had been blocked by felled trees. A group of high schoolers assisted in clearing the barrier and local law enforcement escorted the family out of town after interviewing them.

Disabled Hikers condemns this violent, terrorizing act committed by members of the community. It is unacceptable for armed people to take it upon themselves to question, terrorize, and entrap anyone, especially a multiracial family who is in our area for recreation. It must be mentioned that this act of violence comes on the heels of another Olympic Peninsula business, a gun store, spreading false rumors about “antifa being bussed in to town” and encouraging people to show up armed to “defend our community.” This sort of rhetoric encourages violence and becomes self-fulfilling; the only violence that occurred in our communities during this week is that which was created by these vigilantes.

As a major hub of outdoor recreation in the state, the Olympic Peninsula, and Forks in particular, has a responsibility to create a welcoming community for all. While it is true that these heinous acts were committed by a few individuals, they do not occur in a vacuum, and the culture that encourages and dismisses such acts must be addressed. Disabled Hikers demands accountability from all people who were involved and from city leadership. Accountability must include actions that the city and those involved plan to take to make sure this never happens again, including the immediate removal of any city leaders who were directly involved or complicit in this violence. Everyone who lives in and visits the West End deserves to feel safe.

In light of these events, and until the above actions are taken, Disabled Hikers cannot in good conscience encourage the marginalized people that we serve to visit this area. We are currently assessing our plans for events in the area and for including local recreation opportunities in the upcoming publication of The Disabled Hiker’s Guide to Western Washington and Oregon. It is our sincere hope that meaningful change will result from these events.

Disabled Hikers continues to be in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. We understand that, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “a riot is the voice of the unheard.” The loss of personal property should not take priority over the loss of life. We call for the end of police brutality and provocation, which incites violence leading to the loss of life and property. Disabled Hikers is very aware that up to half of Black people who are murdered by police have a disability, and that half of all Black people with a disability will be arrested by the time they reach their late 20’s. We are committed to continuing to amplify disabled Black voices, addressing ableism and racism, and working towards a more just and inclusive outdoor community in which all people are free.

Signed,
Syren Nagakyrie
Founder, Disabled Hikers

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