Rally changed to anti-gang demonstration

'Take Back Walla Walla' originally intended to show support for John Saul, but Saul asked organizers not to hold the rally.

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WALLA WALLA - Officers outnumber supporters 5-4 at Saturday's demonstration against gangs, which was originally supposed to be a show of support for New York Store owner John Saul.

On May 4, Saul shot and killed Cesar Chavira, 22, during a burglary attempt at his store.

The case, which is still being investigated by the Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office, has created controversy and caused one rally last week by friends and family of Chavira.

The event coordinator for Saturday's rally, Keith Leblanc, said earlier in the week he was expecting 120 people to show up at the New York Store for a demonstration of support for Saul.

On Thursday, Saul let organizers know through a statement to the Union-Bulletin that he and his staff would not support the "Take Back Walla Walla" rally and asked that it not be held.

Leblanc said to honor Saul's request, the emphasis of the demonstration was changed to an anti-gang message and the location moved to the Walla Walla County Courthouse.

Although the reason for the demonstration was changed, two of the four demonstrators still carried signs that showed support for Saul.

One sign read, "We have a right to protect ourselves" and the other read "Wait for the truth. Quit all the lies. Peace."

At least five officers were on the scene, including the sheriff and a deputy, who stood watch on the front lawn of the courthouse.

An officer was also stationed on the roof of the courthouse, and two more officers flanked the east and west lawns of the courthouse.

The demonstration started at 3 p.m. and ended a half-hour later without incident, according to Leblanc.

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