Protester hit by car at Hilltop rally; Tacoma police response being questioned

TACOMA, Wash. — A rally in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood took a scary turn when a protester was hit by a driver. Now organizers are accusing Tacoma police of not properly responding to the situation.

The gathering aimed to highlight the gentrification happening in the neighborhood and also focused on bringing the community together again.

Signs read, “Bring back $900 apartments!”

“There has been a lot of gentrification (and) displacement happening in the Hilltop. It’s been happening for years,” said Jamika Scott, an organizer with the Tacoma Action Collective, which put together the event. Scott says she and her mom used to live in the neighborhood but now can no longer afford to.

“(Our goal is to) reclaim space and demand that our voices be heard and that our hopes and dreams and struggles are considered when development is progressed,” Scott said.

Part of the event included a demonstration at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and South 19th Street, near longtime businesses like Speed-E-Mart and The Fish House Café. It’s also where light rail construction now bisects MLK and where home prices are skyrocketing.

“Just to see what has happened — a lot of the area was devalued. A lot of the African Americans had to move out. And once that happened, you start bringing stuff in, reinvesting,” said Joseph Lawyer, a Tacoma resident.

That displacement and gentrification is what protestors were highlighting, and some took to the street.

“Essentially, you’re causing them some inconvenience, and so ... usually we leave room for people to pass,” Scott said.

However, Scott says one car didn’t go around the group but instead started driving through them.

“They kind of moved in front to the car to redirect them. The car stopped, and for whatever reason, they went forward and hit the organizer,” Scott said.

She says when the group was trying to speak with the driver about what happened, the situation escalated.

“That’s when the driver grabbed the organizer’s arm and then proceeded to drive off, pulling the driver along with them,” she said.

A photo shows the driver holding on to the organizer’s hand through the driver’s side window.

They got free, and Scott says the driver left the scene. (The organizer identifies with they/them pronouns.)

“They are in pain. They have a sprained wrist and a sprained shoulder, I believe,” she said. “(This incident is) the thing that changed this from a joyous moment to one where somebody could’ve been even more gravely injured or killed,” she said.

The Tacoma Action Collective says another major concern is that a Tacoma police officer was on scene but didn’t take a report.

“The officer is there. The officer turned on his lights and pulled on to oncoming traffic, so it’s apparent the officer saw something,” Scott said.

Tacoma police say the officer did call to report protestors in the street, and they’re currently looking for surveillance video to aid their investigation. They also want to know what the police officer on scene witnessed.

“It’s just very frustrating for the community,” Scott said. “When you get to the truth of the matter, people can heal from it,” she said.

TPD says they did not receive any 911 calls from either party on the day of the incident and are still waiting to speak with the organizer who was hit by the car.