PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portlanders are saying enough is enough and are calling on city leaders to take greater action to address gun violence.
Advocates with the No Hate Zone met at the Dawson Park gazebo Wednesday afternoon to demand city leaders address Portland’s overwhelming gun violence against people of color. Beginning shortly after 2 p.m., the press conference welcomed a variety of community members along with No Hate Zone, including representatives with Lift Every Voice Oregon.
The demand for action comes on the anniversary of a deadly shooting in Dawson Park and just days after two others nearby. Three black Portlanders have been killed near the park in less than a year and a half — not to mention the numerous drive-bys and shootings that continue to leave people seriously injured.
At Wednesday’s press conference, the No Hate Zone called on Mayor Ted Wheeler to enact a state of emergency and implement a task force for the gun violence against Portlanders of color. Along with this, advocates say they want the city to invest $10 million in grass-root organizations in the Black community.
Watch the full press conference at the bottom of this article
These community advocates demanded local leaders add urgency to solving this problem — and cut through the bureaucracy to do it — much like Wheeler has recently done to tackle the homeless crisis.
“How do we come together to create a plan? We’re all on the same page to address this gun violence immediately and long term,” No Hate Zone Founder Sam Sachs stated at Wednesday’s press conference.
Portland Public Schools Board Member Herman Green was also in attendance, saying it’s time for city leaders to walk the talk.
“This is about you caring enough about Black lives that you put your money where your mouth is and invest in the people that know how to do the work instead of just talking about it,” Greene said.
One Portlander named Joseph Lear lives by Dawson Park and he describes the drug dealing along with Northeast Stanton and North Williams as a dangerous situation.
He says local residents know to not go to Dawson and that’s why he says the park is typically empty. If people are there, he says they either have their back to a wall or car to keep safe.
Lear says he and his neighbors have been trying to get city leaders’ attention for the last three years.
“If the city truly cares about the notion of Black Lives Matter then they need to take action to prove that — because all of the victims at Dawson in the last 15 months have been Black Portlanders,” Lear said. “They know we live under an occupation of men with guns and they will not do anything about it.”
In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Commissioner Mingus Mapps says he’s willing to discuss any of the approaches presented by these community members.
“I will continue to support and advocate for prevention programs and our Portland Police Bureau in helping us bring an end to this violence,” he said. “I see hope in the progress of our Focused Intervention Team in partnership with Federal law enforcement agencies.”
Wheeler also released a statement in response to the press conference, saying this type of community engagement is what Portland needs more of.
“I appreciate the focus and passion from the community advocates with the No Hate Zone and their partners and I look forward to meeting with them to fully understand how we can work together,” Wheeler’s statement read. “This conversation comes at a good time, as my administration continues to refine our public safety strategy for the inevitably busier, warmer months ahead. I extend my hand in encouraging more community members to join our efforts in making our city safer for everyone.”
Commissioner Carmen Rubio chimed in as well, recognizing the urgency needed to address the ongoing crisis. In a statement on Wednesday, she cited her work with Portland’s Office of Violence Prevention to invest over $3.5 million in the community since May 2021.
“Those investments fund work in the community for both immediate intervention and long-term prevention efforts,” she explained. “And as announced just last week, I am very interested in replicating the collaborative effort among Park Rangers, our transportation bureau, police and the Mt. Scott community to other areas of our city.
“We need to be responding in all the ways that we can to reduce this violence.”
A year ago today, 42-year-old Titus McNack was shot and killed near Dawson Park. Since then, there have been three more homicides in the area.
Most recently, 55-year-old Mark Johnson was shot to death in broad daylight at the park. The suspect who shot Johnson was reportedly arrested for two other nearby shootings just one day before, police say.
Back in December 2020, Kelley Marie Smith was completing an Uber Eats delivery in the neighborhood when she was struck and killed in crossfire.
Despite all this death and violence over the years, residents in the area continue to watch the unchecked criminal activity devastate the park.
“I’ve gotten really good at telling what’s a gunshot and what’s a firework,” one neighbor told KOIN 6 News.