Racist rant shuts down history committee meeting


COURTESY PHOTO: CAITLYN EWERS, ARCHITECTURAL RESOURCES GROUP; NOMINATION FORM – A discussion about Portland-area African-American historic sites was cut short Oct. 21 when an online meeting was hit by a racist attack. Portland’s Mt. Olivet Baptist Church was among three properties considered for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — Oregon’s State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation abruptly ended its Oct. 21 online meeting when someone watching the session began writing racist slurs.

An hour into the first day of a two-day virtual session, committee members had started a discussion about possible nomination of several Portland-area sites associated with local African-American history, when a person attending the online meeting began writing what the committee described as “racist and other hate-filled slurs.” The person also posted committee members’ home addresses online.

Chris Havel, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department spokesman, said it was the first time the committee’s virtual meetings had been interrupted by an interloper. Havel also said the person’s comments were directed at some committee members, who were disturbed by the incident.

The person who interrupted the meeting used an online alias, Havel said. The agency turned information from the meeting over to the Oregon State Police for investigation. The incident also was reported to the Oregon Department of Justice Bias Response Hotline.

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“There is zero room in the public square for this vile behavior,” said Lisa Sumption, state Parks and Recreation Department director. “I apologize to our committee members and the people bringing nominations forward for having to endure this attack.”

The nine-member State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation meets three times a year to consider nominating sites and buildings to the National Register of Historic Places. During the Oct. 21 meeting, committee members planned to discuss and possibly nominate three sites as part of a multi-property historic district associated with Portland’s African-American history. Those included the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church on Northeast First Avenue, Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop on Northeast Hancock Street and the Golden West Hotel on Northwest Everett Street.

That discussion was derailed by the racist incident, Havel said. The committee plans to reschedule the meeting, he said.

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