Citizens in Portland, Oregon have demonstrated peaceful protests against systemic racism and police brutality for 60 consecutive days since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police ignited widespread action on May 25, 2020.
Though these demonstrations are calling for justice for victims of police violence, for the acknowledgment of racism in policing, and for police accountability, police officers around the country have responded with the very action that protestors are marching against–violence; which includes these officers launching tear gas, pepper spray, projectiles, pepper balls, crowd-control munitions, and rubber bullets at protestors causing them to have serious and/or fatal injuries.
A spotlight is shining on Portland, as federal agents (which include Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Border Patrol Tactical Unit) have begun showing up dressed in tactical gear without identification badges, patrolling the city in discreet unmarked vans, and detaining demonstrators without probable cause.
Oregon officials say these agents are illegally taking on the role of riot police, and exacerbating already tense circumstances. These agents’ jobs were intended to protect federal property, and The New York Times additionally found that the units deployed are not specialized in nor have they been trained in riot control or mass demonstrations.
Mayor Ted Wheeler called the federal police in his city “President Trump’s personal army” and has called for Trump to “take [your] troops out of Portland.” Mayor Wheeler showed up to a protest on July 22nd in support of demonstrators’ concerns, and was met with tear gas by federal agents, and then heckled off the streets.
“I stand with you no matter what. We’re demanding [the federal officers] leave…it is an unconstitutional occupation. The tactics that are being used by the federal officers are abhorrent. They do not act with probable cause. People are not being told who they are being arrested by, and they’re being denied basic constitutional rights,” Wheeler told the crowd. “The reason this is important is this is just not happening in Portland. The president has made it clear it’s going to happen in cities that are controlled by Democratic leaders. That is a use of police force, a federal police force, for political ends.”
Oregon’s Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service, the United States Customs and Border Protection, and the Federal Protective Service.
“We have an already heightened situation. It’s already tense,” Wheeler said in an interview with NPR over the weekend. “But after nearly five weeks of demonstrations, we are starting to see that small handful of people who were engaged in criminal activity—it was dissipating. It was calming down. We believed a week ago it would be over by this weekend. But what happened instead is the feds stepped in with a very heavy-handed approach, and it blew the lid off the whole thing.”
How Can We Help?
There are things all of us can do to show support and stand in solidarity with Portland. Below are some ways to get involved.
For those who can afford to donate, there are organizations that have been doing great work for protestors in Portland. A donation is one way you can show your commitment to sustainable collective/community care.
- When you support Portland General Defense Committee, your dollar will go toward protestors directly by helping them with bail, legal fees and fines, lawyers, discovery, investigations, personal material support and any other financial needs that arise during the legal process. You can see where funds have been going to on the GoFundMe Transparency section on their website. DONATE HERE
- Defense Fund PDX is a jail support group whose work involves prioritizing the release of BIPOC and queer people from jail, as well as supporting those without homes. You can Venmo donations to @defensefundpdx.
- Portland Action Medics is a group of volunteer medics who provide first aid to those injured at direct actions or protests. You can Venmo donations to @Rosehip-medics. They have been running through the tear gas and flashbangs, rescuing people out of danger, and treating the wounded in Portland for over 60 days.
- Don’t Shoot PDX is a Black-led, community-driven nonprofit organization that advocates for accountability to create social change. DONATE HERE
- The Portland-based Black Youth Movement aims to amplify Black voices in the city. Its current focus is on defunding the police and redistributing resources. DONATE HERE
- National Lawyers Guild consists of volunteer lawyers, law students, legal workers, and jailhouse lawyer members of the first racially integrated U.S. bar association. They help support protestors who have been arrested. DONATE HERE
- Portland Respirator Fund prioritizes BIPOC, youth, people with disabilities, frontliners, mothers, and medics. You can Cash app donations to $GasMeTeddy.
- Equitable Giving Circle is a nonprofit organization that works to build economic equity among Portland’s BIPOC communities. DONATE HERE
- Snack Bloc PDX supports community rallies, events, vigils, and more. DONATE HERE
- Care Not Cops is an organization working to end policing in Portland and redistribute resources according to community needs. SUPPORT THEM HERE
Attend a Protest
Richard Norman of Open Democracy says, “one way in which the establishment maintains its power is by creating a dominant discourse from which dissidents’ views are excluded. If people think differently, they may feel isolated, marginalised and powerless. Public demonstrations and marches empower people by showing them that there are thousands of people who think the same things.”
If you want to participate, plug into your local organizations to find direct actions near you. Please remember to take measures to keep yourself and those around you safe.
Can’t make it out to the streets? Take it online. Organizations are launching virtual protests to bring together campaigners to combat social injustices.
Call and Email Portland Officials
Call, email, and tag Portland officials to demand they listen to the people of Portland and that the police are held accountable for their violent actions.
Commissioner Amanda Fritz
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly
Keep the Conversation Going
It can be tempting to detach from the news and ignore the issues that are happening, but as history has demonstrated, confronting issues of race and violence is necessary for change. We all collectively contribute to the bigger picture and every effort counts toward the future we want to see. Be vocal and show up for what you care about. Reach out to your local officials condemning the federal occupation of Portland. Continue to learn, unlearn, have important conversations, and share what is going on in Portland and in the world with the people in your life.
Share the below resources from Who Can I Call: