Portland’s Black Lives Matter protests, which erupted in early mid-July, have exposed tensions between Black demonstrators and their white allies, as well as disagreements among Black residents over the meaning of progress.
“It happens so much that the things we care about are snatched up and put in the back burner. And that just goes into a big barrel with everything else,” said Neil Anderson, a Black business owner. “We all want the same thing. But so often we drown.”
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Demetria Hester, a Black woman who directs Moms Young Mothers for black life, said the removal of federal agents and the disbandment of white liberal agitators has rebuilt the protests.
“These are the mothers who really want to make … our reparations happen. Make this revolution happen,”; she said.
Seneca Cayson, who helped lead peaceful rallies in downtown Portland, believes white vandalism and law enforcement protesters are being distracted by peaceful protests.
“What white people have is something we do not do, and that is right,” Cayson said as he prepared to lead another peaceful rally with several other Black men. “We are fighting together with them to be equal.”
Although Portland has a black population of less than 6%, people of color were disproportionately detained by a gun violence reduction team, prompting many activists to call for police defamation.
An analysis published last month found that in 2019, police officers were much more likely to use force against black people – especially black youth – than other targets, despite calls to use less force.
“It’s the whole culture of the Portland Police Bureau that is fundamentally uncontrollable and needs to change,” said Jo Ann Hardesty, Black City’s first councilor and an activist who has been pushing for police reform for 30 years. “Thirty years is a long time to demand the same reforms. The difference now is that there are tens of thousands of Portlanders who want the same thing.”
In June, the City Council cut nearly $ 16 million from the Police Bureau budget, which completed programs such as the gun violence reduction unit, a youth services program, and school resource officers in three school districts.
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There were 99 shots last month – more than three times the amount from last July – and the city has extended 366 non-suicide shots this year compared to 388 throughout 2019.
About two-thirds of the victims in July were Black, police said Sgt. Derrick Foxworth.
Some Black residents believe vandalism and violence are the proper punishment during protests to raise Black grievances, as hundreds of years of oppression is appropriate, they say.
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Teressa Raiford, leader of Mos Shoot Portland and a former mayoral candidate, said people who are questioning the legitimacy of the protest through so-called “direct action” against police are on the “wrong side of history”.
“There are people who are inclined to defend the status quo and the system as it is even if the results do not serve us,” she said. “The politicization of Black people is not only evil, it is violent and we are not being heard.”
Raiford said: “The disgusting people, in my opinion, are people with guns and bowls attacking people who are showing up to protest. When we talk about anarchy … you know we stole people who were brought to the stolen lands where “They were used as slaves. And I think people are realizing that – including white people.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.