SNOHOMISH, Wash. — David Clay has lived in Snohomish for 59 years, and he never thought he'd see his beloved town so divided.
Last week, armed men carrying assault-style rifles patrolled historic First Street in downtown Snohomish to, in their words, "protect people and property."
"I think it's a recipe for disaster," he said. "I am fearful for me and my family."
There was also a racist element involved: Confederate flags were displayed and people were seen flashing racist hand signs.
When asked why they were allowed to gather, Mayor John Kartak replied, "Well, why would we have the right to make them leave is the real question. We did ask them to put their guns away but we do have this thing called the Second Amendment. I saw one Confederate flag, which I think is disgusting. It was on a truck that kept driving around and around. Some people are upset that I didn't run out in the middle of the street and tell them they are not welcome in Snohomish."
Amid growing anger over the presence of those armed men, now former Police Chief Keith Rogers has been reassigned. The mayor calls that "a shame."
"Chief Rogers was the best police chief this city has ever had," said Kartak. "I'll miss him."
Folks like Clay aren't happy either.
"I think it's a distraction. I don't think the fix is reassigning the chief of police. I think the fix is new leadership in this county and in this town. Like many in Snohomish, I am calling for the resignation of Mayor Kartak."
When told some people in town don't believe he is representing their concerns, Kartak said, "My job is to make sure everybody has a voice. It's my job to listen to everybody. My community is not racist. I think it's time that elected leaders stand up, and stand up for their communities and stand up for their police chiefs."
When asked if he stands up for Black Lives Matter protesters, Kartak said, "Certainly. They're peaceful. They demonstrate against racism. They demonstrate against wrongdoing. Absolutely."
But Clay has his doubts.
"Why would he welcome vigilantes into this town? It's inexcusable that the mayor is oblivious to the racism here. How can you fix something if you deny that it exists?"