JOIN US: Community Voting Project 2020

UPDATE: All Postcards Are Claimed!!! Nearly 200 members of our community stepped up and committed to write a total of 10,000 personalized postcards to voters in the 42nd LD. We’ve just started delivering postcards

Here’s how you can still help:

  • DONATE! Postage is expensive, and we are still a ways away from having enough funds to pay for this project.
  • Still want to write postcards, and help re-elect Representative Sharon Shewmake and elect Alicia Rule to the Washington House of Representatives? Their campaigns are doing their own personalized postcard campaign! Email them to sign up.
  • Sign up below to help us sort 10,000 postcards (no easy task!) on Oct. 4 before we put them in the mail. This will be a socially distanced, masked, outdoor event. We will contact you with more details TBD.

PENS OUT! TEXTING FINGERS READY! In 2020, we’re winning in Washington’s 42nd Legislative District by reaching out voter-to-voter and WE NEED YOU! Sign up to volunteer below, and donate here.

WHO: YOU and 42nd LD voters

WHAT: DONATE (we need $10,000) AND/OR volunteer (we need 250 volunteers!) to “adopt” a batch of voters. You’ll provide information about their ballot and the voting process by writing postcards, and making phone calls and sending text messages using our online tool (training provided! you can do it!). (Email Sharon & Alicia’s campaigns to sign up for their own postcard writing project.)

WHEN: Donate now, write postcards to your voters in September, make phone calls and send text messages in October through Election Day, Nov 3!

WHY: To re-elect Representative Sharon Shewmake, elect Alicia Rule to the Washington House of Representatives, elect Christine Grant to the Whatcom Public Utility District, and increase voter turnout for many more candidates and ballot measures. Handwritten postcards WORK. Warm contacts WORK. We do what works.

Questions? See our FAQ.

Local candidate forums, AMAs and Q&As for the 2020 primary election


Indivisible Bellingham primary election candidate forum for Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Position 2

Bellingham League of Women Voters primary election candidate forum for Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Position 2

Indivisible Bellingham primary election candidate forum for Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Position 4

Bellingham League of Women Voters primary election candidate forum for Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Position 4

Bellingham and Skagit League of Women Voters primary election candidate forum for US Congressional Representative District 1

Bellingham and Skagit League of Women Voters primary election candidate forum for US Congressional Representative District 2

AMAs and Q&As

Riveters Collective candidate AMAs (Ask Me Anything) (Must be a member of the Riveters Collective Facebook group to view.)

Riveters Collective Questionnaires for Whatcom County Superior Court Judicial candidates

Endorsement Process 2020


  • Endorsements announced! 
  • The board voted to endorse the candidates.  Note: Stephanie Allen, Debbi Anderson-Frey, Michael Peñuelas, Jennifer Wright, and Amanda Zimmerman abstained from voting on endorsements in the 42nd legislative district.
  • Recommendations were submitted by the committee to the board and voted on at a June 16th meeting. 
  • Committee members scored the interviews using rubrics and discussed the candidates.
  • Candidate interviews were held the first week of June!  Interviews were recorded via Zoom, and captioned by volunteers.


  • Questionnaires were prepped for distribution to candidates.
  • Based on our questions, we made rigorous rubrics that were aligned to the platform. 
  • Questionnaires were emailed to candidates on May 20th.  Candidates must return completed questionnaires by May 29th to be considered for endorsement.
  • The committee reviewed and scored the questionnaires using the rubrics. 


  • The committee met to write, revise, and finalize questions aligned to the positions and platform.


  • Special Guests Atul Deshmane, Whatcom PUD Commissioner, and Michael Peñuelas, Legislative Assistant to Sharon Shewmake informed us about elected positions, terms, and responsibilities. 
  • We did training on question writing, mapped out what information we needed to write questions targeted to both the positions and the platform, and we did tech training. 


  • Special Guest Whatcom County Prosecutor Eric Richey opened the first meeting. He spoke about the enduring impact that going through our endorsement process had on him as a candidate and how it continues to impact him in his current work. The committee met for the first time to get to know each other, learn some background of Riveters Collective and learn why we make endorsements, discuss the races and decide which races we can cover, decide who will work on which races, discuss writing questions and using rubrics to rate answers against the Riveters Collective platform, and learn about the online collaboration tools we use to work. We began listing topics for questions and figuring out what information we would need in order to ask questions that would elicit candidates views, actions, plans, and vision around application of the values in our platform. 


  • Our endorsement committee consists of volunteers from the community. We used a Google form to recruit endorsement committee members and shared it in our Facebook group, on our Facebook page, to our mailing list, and on our other social media channels. Qualifications for committee members:
    -Live in Whatcom, Skagit, or San Juan county.
    -Work collaboratively with positive intent to identify candidates who align with the  RC platform.
    -Commit to attending meetings and communicating with the committee February-early June.
    -Commit to making time outside of meetings for question development, editing, response review and scoring, and communication with the committee.
    -Anyone who is an officer, committee member, or employee of a political party, or who is already working on a campaign for which we plan to endorse is not eligible for the endorsement committee. Committee members will refrain from involvement in campaigns until endorsements are made in early June.
  • In addition to steering committee members, 16 people applied to be on the committee prior to the date of our first meeting and we invited all of them to join.  Four people were not able to commit to the meetings and so declined to participate in the committee.  Endorsement Committee Chair: Jennifer Wright, Steering Committee Members: Stephanie Allen, Debbi Anderson-Frey, Lisa Van Doren, and Amanda Zimmerman. Committee Members: April Barker (April did not participate in the PUD endorsement process), Zenda Boss-Hall, Rita Jefferson, Paloma Edison, Monea Kerr, Elaine Morado, Emily Sharpe, Inmara (Jonna Anne) Sodt, and two more.

September – December

  • The steering committee met to finalize plans for the year and map out how to accomplish a rigorous process that would help educate the committee and community about how candidates align with the RC Platform. 


  • Based on feedback from the previous cycle, a plan for the upcoming Endorsement Committee cycle was developed and the steering committee formed.

Endorsements 2020

A square image saying "Riveters Collective proudly endorses" in white letters on a blue background across the top. Below is a cut-out photograph of Christine Grant from the shoulders up. Behind Christine is a blue pentagon frame, and behind that are gray, starburst rays emanating from behind Christine and stretching to the edges of the graphic. There is a red banner below Christine that says "Christine Grant Whatcom County PUD Commissioner Dist 1"Christine Grant for Whatcom County PUD Commissioner District 1

Candidate Christine Grant is the voice this community needs on the PUD. She is a transformative candidate with a deep knowledge about public utilities learned during her decades of work with PUDs, rural electric cooperatives–and via her years of teaching energy policy at WWU. She opened our eyes to what the PUD could be and has the skills to help the PUD be more responsive to community needs. She has a background in finance and does her homework.  She has clear plans for making broadband universally available and growing green jobs in our community, both which align with our platform. Christine Grant is smart, capable, collaborative and genuinely passionate about broadening  the services the PUD offers to our community. She is committed to incorporating social equity into how the PUD sets policy. We are excited to recommend endorsement for such a stellar candidate!

DONATE or VOLUNTEER for Christine’s campaign!


A square image saying "Riveters Collective proudly endorses" in white letters on a blue background across the top. Below is a cut-out photograph of Alicia Rule from the shoulders up. Behind Alicia is a blue pentagon frame, and behind that are gray, starburst rays emanating from behind Alicia and stretching to the edges of the graphic. There is a red banner below Alicia that says "Alicia Rule 42nd LD State Representative Pos 1"Alicia Rule for 42nd LD State Representative Position 1

Candidate Alicia Rule has gained valuable governing experience on the Blaine City Council that has prepared her to be successful in Olympia. As an experienced mental health counselor, she will be a strong advocate for expanding access to mental health services. Alicia is a good listener who will take the needs of her constituents into consideration, and she strives to find solutions to our state’s economic issues that work for the middle class. One of her goals is improving economic prospects in Whatcom County, particularly in light of the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and we look forward to sending her to Olympia so she can get to work.

DONATE to Alicia’s campaign!
VOLUNTEER for Alicia’s campaign!


A square image saying "Riveters Collective proudly endorses" in white letters on a blue background across the top. Below is a cut-out photograph of Sharon Shewmake from the shoulders up. Behind Sharon is a blue pentagon frame, and behind that are gray, starburst rays emanating from behind Sharon and stretching to the edges of the graphic. There is a red banner below Sharon that says "Sharon Shewmake 42nd LD State Representative Pos 2"Dr. Sharon Shewmake for 42nd LD State Representative Position 2

Representative Dr. Sharon Shewmake has been a reliable ally to 42nd LD progressives during her first term in Olympia. She made intentional efforts to reach out to constituents during her 2016 campaign and continued forging this connection throughout her tenure, for example, by opening a district office in Whatcom County.  She uses a data-driven approach to solving problems and has a willingness to partner with other legislators in their areas of expertise in order to make the progressive changes we need. Her support for early childhood programs, environmental justice, and education are significant to our platform goals.

DONATE to Sharon’s campaign!
VOLUNTEER for Sharon’s campaign!


A square image saying "Riveters Collective proudly endorses" in white letters on a blue background across the top. Below is a cut-out photograph of Liz Lovelett from the shoulders up. Behind Liz is a blue pentagon frame, and behind that are gray, starburst rays emanating from behind Liz and stretching to the edges of the graphic. There is a red banner below Liz that says "Liz Lovelett 40th LD State Senator"Liz Lovelett for 40th LD State Senator

During Senator Liz Lovelett’s first term she has demonstrated leadership by drafting bills on gun safety and tax reform. She is intentional in her work to learn about issues and reaches out to stakeholders to include their perspectives. Senator Lovelett shared her knowledge of educational inequities for her District and stated her commitment to fully fund education. She is on two economic recovery work groups and is also committed to supporting all efforts at the state level to expand resources for early learning and childcare. She specifically stated in her written questionnaire responses, “As a single mom, I understand that few things are more critical to a woman’s ability to achieve professional success and to provide for her family than access to childcare.”

Senator Lovelett has worked with other legislators on prioritizing the health, safety and dignity of farmworkers in her district and is working to have part of agriculture investment go into safe and dignified migrant housing. In her oral interview she was adamant about protecting social services for the state’s most vulnerable during the budget discussion post-COVID-19. Senator Lovelett presented an inspiring vision of how she’ll continue her work in Olympia and clear evidence of how she considers equity in all her decisions.

DONATE to Liz’s campaign!
VOLUNTEER for Liz’s campaign!


A square image saying "Riveters Collective proudly endorses" in white letters on a blue background across the top. Below is a cut-out photograph of Debra Lekanoff from the shoulders up. Behind Debra is a blue pentagon frame, and behind that are gray, starburst rays emanating from behind Debra and stretching to the edges of the graphic. There is a red banner below Debra that says "Debra Lekanoff 40th LD State Representative Pos 1"Debra Lekanoff for 40th LD State Representative Position 1

Representative Debra Lekanoff welcomes everyone from all walks of life, working with people of varying beliefs to achieve the best possible results for the community and state. She is passionate about her work serving the people of the 40th Legislative District and intentionally works to include those most impacted by ensuring they have a seat at the table throughout the decision-making process. During her first term as Representative of the 40th LD, she worked to build bridges and authentic relationships with her constituents, making her work relevant and effective.

Representative Lekanoff communicated clearly to the committee her support for equitable healthcare, especially in light of the pandemic. She gave examples of her work to support the health, safety, and dignity of food service workers. She is already working with Whatcom County to reform our criminal justice system and create more certified, affordable childcare opportunities. She shared her strategic work with other legislators to move critical issues forward, such as finding alternate means for sustainable and fair revenue sources. Representative Lekanoff is effective, incredibly thorough, and has done tremendous work that aligns with the RC platform. She is the whole package! Our community is fortunate to have someone with Debra’s mind and talents willing to represent us.

DONATE to Debra’s campaign!
VOLUNTEER for Debra’s campaign!


A square image saying "Riveters Collective proudly endorses" in white letters on a blue background across the top. Below is a cut-out photograph of Alex Ramel from the shoulders up. Behind Alex is a blue pentagon frame, and behind that are gray, starburst rays emanating from behind Alex and stretching to the edges of the graphic. There is a red banner below Alex that says "Alex Ramel 40th LD State Representative Pos 2"Alex Ramel for 40th LD State Representative Position 2

Representative Alex Ramel has spent his career working for environmental justice, and he brings expertise and passion to Olympia on this critically important topic. In his tenure in Olympia, he has demonstrated his commitment to sustainable, progressive tax reform. Representative Ramel promises to work with caucus leaders and budget writers to meet upcoming budgetary challenges by preventing cuts to services for those most vulnerable, especially children. His principles and values align with the RC Platform. He is a strong advocate for stopping gun violence, for access to healthcare, universal access to broadband, and incarceration reduction. Representative Ramel has had a good start in Olympia and should be returned there so he can continue to do good work on behalf of our community.

DONATE to Alex’s campaign!
VOLUNTEER for Alex’s campaign!


Voted? Download our “I VOTED” stub sign and remind your neighbors to vote, too.

Demand citizen oversight for BPD

UPDATE: Partial victory!

While Bellingham turned out to express outrage at the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, it’s disappointing that Bellingham Police still lacks a permanent citizen community-led oversight body with a lead role in police accountability.

Instead, the Bellingham Police Department displayed the “blue lives matter” insignia — both desecrating the US flag and implying an alliance with reactionary and white nationalist groups – until the morning of May 31st.

While we appreciate Chief Doll’s willingness to listen the community and find a more inclusive way to honor those who have died serving Bellingham, we still need an independent civilian review board for true accountability.

Take action and demand that Black Lives Matter in Bellingham: contact Mayor Seth Fleetwood and/or (360) 778-8100 and Police Chief David Doll at and/or (360) 778-8600 to make your voice heard.

Feel free to use or modify the draft below.


Mayor Fleetwood and Chief Doll,

Recent weeks have been filled with devastating news: on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, police continue to kill black people. 

The most recent death to receive national attention is the police killing of George Floyd as an officer knelt on his neck as he lay handcuffed in a Minneapolis street saying “I can’t breathe.” Mr. Floyd’s last words echo the words of Eric Garner in 2014 when he was killed by the NYPD and understandably provoked a community that never saw justice in the 2016 Minnesota police killing of Philando Castile witnessed and recorded by his partner.

While I am heartened by Chief Doll’s facebook post joining the chorus of law enforcement leaders across the US recognizing the excessive and unnecessary force in the death of Mr. Floyd and his swift action in removing the “Thin Blue Line” insignia from police department signage when community members raised fears about its association with white supremacist groups, we are still concerned about accountability regarding Bellingham Police Department use of force occurrences.  

We appreciate the department’s de-escalation training as well as Chief Doll’s reassurances that the Bellingham Police Department reviews officer use of force at multiple levels, all the examples of review you cite are internal.  True transparency and accountability require citizen participation, not only internal review. Body cameras and sharing statistics monthly and a start but without external oversight, these depend entirely upon the honesty and commitment of leaders. As I think we all recognize, not every leader is honest or committed to justice. This is why Bellingham must have a permanent community-led oversight body that is independent of the police department and fully empowered to investigate complaints and serious injury at the hands of police. 

Many people find it difficult to report police misconduct to the police, especially for those of us who are visible minorities or who have witnessed or experienced less than professional conduct from law enforcement in the past. I hope we all recognize that visible minority members of our community – including but not limited to Black people, First Nations people and LGTQ people – have had [our/their] safety and freedom compromised by systems of oppression that discourage them from interacting with law enforcement.   

Moreover, a permanent community-led oversight body could benefit not only an individual reporting potential misconduct, but also the larger community, the police department, and even elected officials. Potential benefits include:

  1. Complainants are given a place to voice concerns outside of the law enforcement agency.
  2. Oversight can help hold the police or sheriff’s department accountable for officer’s actions. 
  3. Oversight agencies can help improve the quality of the department’s internal investigations of alleged misconduct. 
  4. The community at large can be reassured that discipline is being imposed when appropriate, while also increasing the transparency of the disciplinary process. 
  5. When the oversight agency confirms a complainant’s allegation(s), complainants may feel validated. Similarly, when the oversight agency exonerates the officer, the officer may feel vindicated. 
  6. Oversight agencies can help improve community relations by fostering communication between the community and police agency. 
  7. Oversight agencies can help reduce public concern about high profile incidents. 
  8. Oversight agencies can help increase the public’s understanding of law enforcement policies and procedures. 
  9. Oversight agencies can improve department policies and procedures. Policy recommendations can prevent issues by identifying areas of concern and subsequently offering options to improve policing. 
  10. Oversight agencies can assist a jurisdiction in liability management and reduce the likelihood of costly litigation by identifying problems and proposing corrective measures before a lawsuit is filed.  
  11. By establishing an oversight system, public officials are provided the opportunity to demonstrate their desire for increased police accountability and the need to eliminate misconduct. i

Respectfully, I ask that you both uphold the mission of the Bellingham Police Department, “Committed to Community.”  by establishing a permanent community-led oversight body for the Bellingham Police Department with a lead role in police accountability that includes communities who are disproportionally incarcerated.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Bellingham resident





A photograph of the sign outside the downtown Bellingham Police station that says "Bellingham Police Department". To the left of the words on the sign is the BPD crest and to the right is a circle insignia with a black and white American flag with a blue stripe just below the field of stars.
Above picture taken May 24th, 2020.
A photograph of the downtown Bellingham Police Station sign, which has been removed. Only the blue frame of the sign remains.rem
Above photo taken May 31, 2020.


Editor’s note: This action was written by Lee Che Leong.  It origniated as a post in our Facebook group. Join us for more action and discussion

Let’s get to work! Jan 2020

RC Endorsements 2020 Needs You!

2020 will be a very important election year. Do you want to help shape Bellingham and Whatcom County ballots, meet candidates, and learn more about local issues? We’re accepting applications for our endorsement committee and we are looking for additional people who can help support the committee

Fill out this form to tell us how you’d like to get involved!

Childcare and food will be provided for all meetings. We can also provide transportation, if needed. Accessibility details will be posted once we have meeting locations confirmed.

Other ways to help include: donating any amount of financial support to this worthy cause, coordinating food and/or providing food for meetings and interviews, assisting with childcare, providing tech support before, during or after interviews, captioning videos, calling candidates to schedule interviews. Want to help in a way that’s not listed? Tell us about it in the form!


Empower Happy Hour

Join us for our monthly casual hang out on Wednesday the 15th at 5:30 at Elizabeth Station. Come chat with board members about how to get involved in new committees Riveters Collective is forming for 2020, events and progressive actions, or feel free to just have a drink and enjoy the company of others trying to get stuff done in this crazy political moment.


MLK Human Rights Conference

We are honored to be tabling at the 22nd annual Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr Human Rights Conference on Saturday the 18th. Find us in the Syre Center Exhibition Hall and come say “Hi!” as you enjoy the sessions.

In the words of the organizers from Whatcom Human Rights Task Force:
Now in its twenty-second year, the Conference provides a space for the community to come together and renew our commitment to the ideals that Dr. King held dear and believed deeply that this country could attain only by working together and acknowledging our shared history: ideals of equity, freedom, and self-determination. The Conference offers a rare opportunity for people of all ages and walks of life to share our stories, lift our voices to call out injustice, and take actions that will help make Dr. King’s ideals reality.”


2020 Womxn’s March

Also on Saturday the 18th (it’s a busy day!), we are co-sponsoring the 2020 Womxn’s March along with Planned Parenthood and Indivisible Bellingham. We are happy to provide support to this worthy cause. This year we are marching for a myriad of issues that affect women, femes, and non-binary people, including reproductive rights, immigration, and climate change.  Meet at the Bellingham Courthouse at 11:00 for speakers and then get marching.  Want to volunteer? Sign up here.

Focus on Climate Action – Rep Sharon Shewmake

In a recent poll completed by Riveters Collective seeking input on what areas the organization should focus on in the upcoming year, Climate Action was the top priority. Each month, Riveters Collective will highlight climate action mitigation policies and strategies that our endorsed elected officials are implementing in our communities.

Our first Focus on Climate Action is with Representative Sharon Shewmake. Representative Shewmake was elected in 2018 to serve in the 42nd Legislative District. Following are three policies related to climate that she plans to champion during the 2020 legislative session.


Natural Gas Leaks in Our Cities

Natural gas is a potent greenhouse gas. Even small leaks can add up to high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, the incentives utilities have to fix leaks encourage leaky infrastructure. Utilities are currently allowed to pass the costs of all the gas that leaks out of the pipes along to the ratepayers, unless the leak is likely to explode. We need to fix this for the environment and for rate-payers who shouldn’t be paying for gas they don’t get.

In partnership with the utilities, unions, and environmental community, Representative Shewmake is writing a bill that would change this. In short, it would mandate a cost-benefit analysis that would incorporate 1) the cost of the wasted gas, 2) the social cost of that carbon, and 3) the human safety-related costs of any leaky infrastructure. If 1+2+3 is a dollar figure larger than what the repair would cost, the utility would be required to fix the leak.

Representative Shewmake plans to introduce this bill for the first time in January. If passed, Washington would have the strongest policy in the nation to deal with fugitive emissions and she hopes other states would follow suit.


The “Sustainable Farms and Fields Act”

Farms don’t just produce food, they also have the potential to help us fight climate change by storing carbon. HB 2095 is a bi-partisan bill that Representative Shewmake helped develop that would pay farmers to sequester carbon and reduce fossil fuel use on farms. The idea is that we could have a local offset program where those looking to offset CO2, including the state government, could invest in carbon sequestration on farms. The Senate version of this bill made it pretty far through the process, but eventually got stalled. A few agricultural associations felt like they were insufficiently consulted during the bill’s development and asked that the House of Representatives step in to slow the process down. Representative Shewmakeis working on it over the rest of 2019.

This work is being funded by a “budget proviso” that Representative Shewmake wrote and got included in last year’s state budget.

She told us, “I’m really excited about this bill – I think it is a great policy both for our farmers and for our climate. My hope is that, together, the stakeholders will try to pass the new-and-improved “Sustainable Farms and Fields Act” in 2020!”


Tax Break for Electric Bikes

Representative Shewmake wrote a bill last year that would incentivize the purchase of electric bikes by setting up a tax break. It would get rid of the sales tax on the purchase of an electric bike, which can really add up! The idea is to decrease the barriers to adoption of electric bikes, which are a fantastic low-carbon alternative to cars.

Though the bill didn’t pass last year, the Governor’s office and other major stakeholders took notice and Representative Shewmake is having regular meetings with them about how we can move this innovative idea toward implementation in 2020!

You can email Representative Shewmake at
And, subscribe to her newsletter here.

Stay tuned for regular Focus on Climate Action updates from other elected leaders in our community.

Not in Our Community – Post Event Debrief

Event Goals

To respond to acts of hate in Ferndale; to give voice to the pain, struggle, and resilience of minority populations; and to show each other that we are not alone. 

To gather a like-minded Ferndale community in a safe space where experiences, concerns, and ideas can be shared openly and without criticism. 

To generate next steps to share with the larger community that will counter hate, and that will promote a stronger, more resilient, and more caring Ferndale where we take actions that show we value unity, diversity, kindness, and inclusion.


Event Reflection

We are grateful that so many neighbors came with open hearts and minds to learn from each other about how to create a more inclusive Ferndale community. People attending expressed that, in general, the above goals were met. The event was beyond capacity, and people shared openly and came up with ideas for next steps. Many attendees expressed that it felt like the beginning of something that should continue on to make countering hate an intentional, continuous process in Ferndale. 

However, we did not reach our goal around providing a safe space for everyone. A silent incident unfolded that violated the safe space and caused immediate distress to one attendee in particular, and to others at their table. As events unfolded, more and more people became aware. There are some things we would do differently before, during, and after such an incident. 


What happened? 

The event was well beyond capacity–about 100 in attendance, 25 outside listening through the open door, and another 30 or so turned away. The event began with an introduction denouncing hate, and calling on people to stand together and take positive action when incidents like the one in Ferndale occur. There were several strong speakers, representing diverse perspectives in Ferndale and Whatcom County. All spoke powerfully from their experiences. We then broke into small groups around three questions–what resonated from the speakers, when have we seen or experienced white supremacy in this county, and what next steps could people in Ferndale take to continue working towards a future that values unity and diversity. Discussion was frank and built community bonds.  

About an hour into the meeting, while people were deeply engaged in small group work, Michael, a white person wearing American flag pants and a MAGA hat, who also indicated he was deaf, and his young child entered the event—This was despite a whole group of people talking with them outside, including an ASL interpreter, and telling him that they could not go in because it was beyond capacity. 

Michael immediately sat down near the door next to Denyce, who is black and deaf.  There was a mix of deaf and hearing people at the table. There was an ASL interpreter at the table.  Michael immediately started making racist comments in ASL about black people and gun violence. At one point, he said black people were bad while he pointed to Denyce.  This was very upsetting for her and she got up and left. The whole exchange was very fast paced and the interpreter could not keep up with what was said. The hearing folks at the table were not fully aware of what was being said. One of about 10 peacekeepers at the event then came in from outside and told the aggressor that he needed to leave. It was at that point that several board members became aware of the aggressor’s presence, due to the silent nature of what occurred. The aggressor was surrounded by peacekeepers and escorted outside and away from the door, with an interpreter in the group, and they went through deescalation with him. 

Denyce came back in, eventually.  She was understandably shaken, hurt, and angry. She and others at the table spoke up and told everyone what happened during the whole group share out. Event planners and peacekeepers realized at that point that we all had only parts of the story until Denyce and others filled in all the pieces. Of course, most people were shocked and saddened by what happened in what was meant to have been a safe space. The community of people present attempted to offer comfort to Denyce and console her. 

We wish we had provided even more time for people to speak about and process what happened, and we feel we moved on in the discussion too quickly. We were all in shock.  The incident made it even more obvious to all present, that there is a real need for continued and increased efforts to counter hate with love both locally, and across the County. We apologized profusely to Denyce and others, and met with all the affected individuals at that table at length, listening to feelings and feedback, and offering our support.

Our primary concern is for Denyce. We wish we could rewind time and prevent the harm. Since that is not possible, we have reached out to Denyce at the event and after, apologizing, offering support, and asking if she would like to have a voice here. Here is a response from Denyce. 

Denyce asked us to convey that English is not her first language.

“Hello! My name is Denyce Acquah. My sign name is Denyce on my right heart area. The event is called Hate No Home Here. Umm, on Tuesday August 21st at evening in the Ferndale at library. Really what happen was last week Tuesday, ummm lady explain started group and white woman invite me to the table same where I was sit and I joined with them. The white in the group and explain to follow the question on the paper. People had turned until  me. Michael joined with us and two people. Actually one person after me then I expand what my prefer which is Ashanti Monts-Treviska, white supremacist, racism, dismantle. Michael ask the question then Michael said white supremacist, black supremacist then put his finger at to point at me then black shooting, white shooting, black bad. I decided to leave. After meeting, I went to outside. I was cried and in the begin and I was ready to leave somehow.. A person in my way, barrier and try to hug me. I push that person away then the person still continue there and tried hug me again. I push away and I told that person I am leave then that person moved. I went to outside and I was cried and I told Xio what is the fuck there. Xio said come back inside. I was not really calm then that the person  and group discussion, that person got turn then I am next turn, I said and told them where is need their help while Michael said, person watch, interpreter and them white don’t even intervention. All white and I am only one black. I don’t felt safe space. Once a person said and do the intervene and don’t wait until after.”


What did we learn from the event and the incident?

We learned that the small group discussions allowed people to get to know each other and share more freely until the event was disrupted. In the whole group share out, there were powerful personal examples shared, and strong ideas about how to move forward. 

At the same time, there were several challenges. The first was that we learned we need to work with the deaf community to plan how to better prepare for disruptions and how to deal with this person in the future. We learned that the aggressor is well known in the deaf community for causing problems. The second challenge was around having more clearly defined roles for the peacekeepers, more practice, and more training for people helping—we have come up with a detailed response and plans for modifications in the future.


What did we do prior to the event to consider physical and emotional safety?

Despite having no indication the event might be disrupted, Riveters did our best to plan ahead to prevent any incident. We were aware that, nationally, peaceful events against hate sometimes experience counter protesters and other disruptions. Our event had been featured in several news outlets including The Bellingham Herald and on King5 News, which heightened the profile of the event, and therefore, the need to plan. 

In order to prepare, we took numerous actions. We had several lengthy meetings around safety. We made a detailed safety plan which we all reviewed on the day of the event. We had yellow cards for people to hold up in the discussions if they began to feel concerned.  We recruited several trained peacekeepers as well as observers from the lawyers guild. We closed one entrance and arranged sign-in tables outside the event so that people would need to pass through that area first, before entering. 

We met with the police chief and lieutenant, before the event, and on the evening of the event we met with the officers themselves, in both instances this included asking them to be sensitive around our event to the fact that not all people feel safer when police are present.   We had law enforcement on site, but at a distance, so that people who do not always feel safer around law enforcement officers would be more comfortable, and the officers would still be nearby in case we needed them.  

We had another safety meeting just prior to the event, including board members, peacekeepers, and legal observers, and made sure we all understood the plan. 

As the event itself  began, we addressed with all those who were attending the event, briefly explaining our safety plan and a plan for what we would do if disrupted–attempt to get the person to leave, and if we could not, then disperse the event. 

And yet, our detailed plan failed to prevent a person from entering and doing emotional harm. The fact that we were unable to prevent harm is something we are all still processing. 


A final note

We believe the event met its purpose in that it helped unify many of the people of Ferndale and Whatcom County as they countered hate with love. We believe it was important that people took a stand and sent the clear message that white supremacy is unacceptable and cannot go unchallenged. We were heartened to see that so many attended and that people were planning to continue the work. 

At the same time, we take full responsibility for our part in things not going as planned. We will continue to learn and grow from what happened. We will do our best to do better the next time we have a large public event. 

We would like to offer sincere apologies to those harmed, most especially to Denyce, who was targeted.

We would like to share our appreciation of all the Ferndale and Whatcom County attendees who stood up against hate, and who will continue the work. We offer our deep gratitude for the commitment and dedication of the speakers, volunteers, library staff, peacekeepers, legal observers, police officers, and to the local businesses and community members who participated in speaking out against hate and spreading the message about the Not In Our Community event. Thank you to all who supported this event.



Riveters Collective


We are hiring paid canvassers!

Riveters! Remember the awesome Riveters Pledge To Vote campaign you all helped make happen last year?? We engaged unheard, “low-propensity” voters- the voters who are responsible for our biggest wins of 2018. This year, WE’RE DOING IT AGAIN! Because this year’s elections are too important for us to sit by.

We are hiring paid canvassers for this election season. If you or someone you know is interested, please check out the job description and apply!

View the job description and learn how to apply here.

Not in Our Community!

Earlier this summer, flyers appeared in Ferndale and Bellingham from a white nationalist group.  The Riveters Collective stands together with people in our community who believe in the value of unity and diversity. In light of this recent visible escalation in overt white supremacist activity in Whatcom County, the Riveters Collective is hosting an evening of resilience, love, and inclusion in Ferndale. We invite the community to share experiences, concerns, and ideas. Let’s discuss ways we can promote a stronger, more caring community.  We hope to share results from this meeting here.

Besides what the community brings forward, here are some good resources for fighting hate in all forms and showing that hate has no home here:

Not in Our Town
Not In Our Town is a movement to stop hate, address bullying, and build safe, inclusive communities for all.

Hollaback! is a global, people-powered movement to end harassment.

Southern Poverty Law Center
“Ten Ways to Fight Hate” community response guide.

Hate Has No Home Here
The Hate Has No Home Here Project promotes just and inclusive communities by encouraging neighbors to declare their homes, schools, businesses, and places of worship to be safe places where everyone is welcome and valued.