PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — During a press conference Friday, Portland community leaders called out the city’s response and spread of misinformation in the aftermath of a mass shooting in Normandale Park during a protest on Saturday that left one woman dead and several others injured.
Civil Rights leaders from Don’t Shoot Portland, RACE Talks, ACLU of Oregon and Oregon Justice Resource Center spoke at the event.
“Lives are continuously being lost as our city attempts to forge onward with the progressive Portland facade that has been sold and marketed for years, said Tai Carpenter, president of Don’t Shoot Portland. “But any resident of this city can see this for what this is — complicity in the highest form.”
On Tuesday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and several law enforcement agencies spoke about the weekend’s tragedies — which included three separate shootings. During that press conference, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell addressed false information shared with the public.
The false information released inaccurately portrayed the situation, said Sandy Chung, executive director of ACLU of Oregon. She alleged the misinformation shared was deliberate.
Situations like the Normandale shooting affect whole communities and are representative of what’s happening on a wider scale. In addition to that, Carpenter noted there are patterns of white supremacy violence and vigilante action in Oregon’s history.
According to court documents, 43-year-old Benjamin Smith yelled at a group of protestors in Normandale Park Saturday night, then pulled out a handgun and fired at multiple people.
Brandy “June” Knightly was killed, four other people were injured — one is now paralyzed.
Smith’s roommate told KOIN 6 he was “radicalized” and he had become more “right wing over the past few years.”
“The pain and the hurt that’s been happening in our community for far too long, there’s no time in between for us to recoup or to even grasp the tragedies that, you know the people we lose every day,” Carpenter said.
Don’t Shoot Portland, the ACLU, Race Talks and the Oregon Justice Resource Center say they want city leaders to acknowledge or act on the increase in targeted white supremacist violence.
“We would ask our state leaders and law makers to speak up and to denounce the rhetoric that is causing this type of retaliation,” Teressa Raiford, founder of Don’t Shoot Portland said.
“We need to call it what it is. It was not an unfortunate situation,” Raiford said. “It was a mass shooting by someone that had terroristic means.”
Shaina Pomerantz, executive director of RACE Talks shared similar remarks when asked what she wanted city leaders and law enforcement to do.
KOIN 6 reached out to Portland police about this and was told “Chief Lovell and the Portland Police Bureau strongly condemns all forms of racism and white supremacy. It’s not appropriate at this stage of the investigation to connect the event you ask about to either of those. The Multnomah County District Attorney ultimately decides what charges are appropriate based on the evidence.”
Smith is facing multiple charges, including second-degree murder.
Police are also still asking witnesses to come forward and believe evidence was removed from the scene.
Members from the ACLU of Oregon and the Oregon Justice Resource Center spoke at the event, despite both organizations saying earlier they wouldn’t be participating. In Twitter posts, the organizations said they didn’t want to overshadow those directly impacted by the situation.
“We never intended to seem or suggest to speak for victims and felt we had an important perspective as civil rights organizations, but it seems to be doing more harm and don’t want,” OJRC said in a Twitter post.
Story continues below after full press conference
Chung said despite the organization’s choice to withdraw from the event, members are concerned with city leaders’ handling of the shooting. In a Twitter post, she said in part, city leaders and police “continue to engage in patterns of spreading misinformation and false narratives about community-led racial justice protests.”