RAISING JUSTICE STATEMENT ON PDX PROTESTS

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Nico Emmanuel-Henderson

media@raisingjustice.org

(503) 662-8800

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Raising Justice stands with all protests for racial equality

SEPTEMBER 11, 2020

PORTLAND, O.R. —  The fight against police brutality in the United States should not be a partisan battle. It is a human rights issue that affects us all. An issue that we all must come together to champion. Raising Justice only works when we rise for Black Lives. We must continue to question the rampant tone of policing that has come about following the recent civil unrest in the Portland metropolitan area. In order to truly have peace in our communities, it is imperative that we get to the root of why protests are happening, and the trauma that is being felt by so many communities of color across the country following the deaths of countless unarmed Black folxs. 

 

In reference to Mayor Wheeler’s remarks last week, he states, “A police officer was filmed repeatedly striking an individual at a protest. Even the building where I live, along with dozens of other families, was violently attacked. These acts range from stupid, to dangerous, to criminal. The violence must stop. None of this should sit well with any thinking Portlander.” And he goes on to say, "If you are participating in violence, I want to be clear: I denounce your actions. State and local law enforcement is working together to hold you accountable. Your actions demonstrate a level of hate and destruction that we WILL NOT condone or tolerate.”

 

We can not sit here as young people, just really getting into the trenches of politics and read such a contradicting sentiment from the Mayor. Our stance on the topic is beautifully summarized by a Reporter from the Portland Mercury, Alex Zielinksi who said, "An assault by a member of the public against a building ends in a felony charge. An assault by a police officer against a member of the public ends in a stern talking to.” 

 

As recently as a couple weeks ago on the KATU Race Relations Town Hall, there was an uncomfortably large amount of focus on violent protest and their existence rather than actionable steps towards institutional changes in our racist system. It does seem relevant to point out that because of the protests — of various trajectories — there have been some serious notable changes, some I didn’t think I would see in my lifetime. Most notably, the removal of armed PSU officers, prosecution of the murderers of George Floyd and at least one of the murders of Breonna Taylor. 

 

This is why Raising Justice stands with the community and will not go as far as to denounce violence. As a city, we have gotten multiple calls from the Mayor saying he will gladly, "work with [us] to use every tool to move toward the systemic changes needed at every level of government. Either you are centering the heavy work of dismantling institutional racism or you are not. These acts of violence distract us. And they must stop.” 

 

But his statement is upside down— how can we denounce violent protest if protests, violent, peaceful, or somewhere in between, are receiving even worse violent reactions— at a disproportionate rate— from the Portland Police? The incident a few Saturdays ago is another example of tensions rising as action remains unclear. We are not saying violence is a good thing, we are saying it is the reality. A reality that, may we remind you, sprouted from an act of violence when a police officer stood on the neck of a George Floyd for eight minutes and 46 seconds. It has always been about violence— the spike in violence, in our opinion and perspective, is due to the lack of changes the community has been demanding. They asked for 50 million — they received 15 million. They asked for community voice at police union contract discussions — it got pushed back a year with increased salaries. This is not out of nowhere; and I can’t begin to imagine how politics and our country will ever begin to heal if we don’t recognize that trying to do this “heavy work” must be more than just the changes that occurred three months ago. 

 

In light of the NAACP’s involvement in Saturday’s March on Portland, there are several points that must be brought into light about the organization itself and its influence in our community. Members of the NAACP took over a space that was made for and by young people and continued the narratives of incremental reform and condemnation that is inherently damaging to the Black Lives Matter Movement. We want to emphasize that the NAACP of Portland is not and can not be the voice for the entire black community — especially considering their history (as a National Organization) rooted in classism and not representing the the rich tapestry of the black diaspora— some who lived through the Civil Rights Movement and expressed how it was not a purely non-violent fight for justice — it was a fight that took efforts in variety of settings to get past the finishing line. The NAACP is not the only organization fighting for justice on the behalf of the Black community, and certainly should not be treated as such. Leaders across 

 

To close, the leaders of Raising Justice would like to emphasize our commitment to improving public safety for young people of color who have been denied that right for so long. Raising Justice stands with Fridays4Freedom, the Portland Black Student Movement, Reimagining Oregon, and so many other organizations that are fighting for equitable public safety now and in the future. We renew our pledge to fight for justice in any way possible, and to support other social justice organizations that are doing the same. 

 

All Power to All the People. 

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