Armed citizens stand outside Kennewick businesses to defend them from vandalism


KENNEWICK, Wash. — Armed community members stationed themselves outside multiple Kennewick businesses Monday night following rumors of possible rioting.

Lt. Aaron Clem said there was a rumor that people were going to gather at a shopping center off Canal Drive and “burn things down” at Best Buy, so extra police patrols and a number of members of the Facebook group “Defend The Tri” went to multiple business to fend off criminal activity.

The rumor followed a vandalism incident Sunday night during which people threw objects at patrol cars and businesses and set off fireworks near Canal Drive and Columbia Center Boulevard. During the incident, windows were shattered at Burlington Coat Factory, Bank of the West and Plato’s Closet, and a 19-year-old man was arrested.

RELATED: 19-year-old arrested after breaking out windows at Burlington Coat Factory

Cities across the nation have been dealing with vandalism and looting amid protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

There were no reports of rioting or vandalism associated with protests in Kennewick Monday night.

Police put out a statement Tuesday saying armed citizens outside local businesses have “caused some concerns among other community members.”

“While we did not invite [armed citizens] to the locations, understand that we need to balance everyone’s rights, whether it is the 1st amendment right to assemble and protest or the 2nd amendment right to bear arms, as long as both are exercised within the confines of the law. When people exercise their rights they have a responsibility to do so within the law and to understand there are consequences for not,” police wrote.

Police said they are in contact with Defend The Tri as well as protest groups in the Tri-Cities. They said they’ve been communicating legal limitations and expectations of each group.