Black Portlanders, activists decry Wheeler’s comments on demonstrations


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Black community members, leaders and activists in Portland condemned some of Mayor Ted Wheeler’s comments regarding recent anti-police demonstrations happening downtown.

They said the mayor took some of their own words out of context when he extended the State of Emergency Friday.

Earlier this week, We Out Here Magazine published an open letter to the Portland protest community saying that while there is no excuse for police brutality in the community, they want their “allies” to stop destruction in predominately Black communities in the city. The letter was signed by dozens of Black Oregonians.

“As an array of Black writers, speakers, artists, activists, teachers, parents and professionals, we already struggle to survive in a state that makes every effort to reshuffle and erase us,” the letter sated. “We need our allies in this fight to understand and honor this fact. Understand that doing damage to us, our communities, and our resources undoes the work we do.”

At a press conference Friday, the mayor said many “BLM leaders” stepped forward to denounce self-described anarchists.

On Twitter, We Out Here Magazine criticized Wheeler for misusing the words of Black people and failing to address the failures of the Portland Police Bureau.

At city hall Saturday, Mac Smiff said it was not right to separate protesters at demonstrations and the Black community into separate groups.

“It’s frustrating, it’s not two groups that are fighting each other or are battling for control of this,” he said. “What this really is there are a lot of people generally who are upset with the way things are, and have been upset with the way things are. And Black people are a part of that. We’re not excused from that.”

Don’t Shoot PDX also released a statement on Saturday criticizing Wheeler’s call to action to have members of the community come forward with information about those participating in destruction.

“The law and order directives perpetuated by Donald Trump are making a comeback in the form of Ted Wheeler’s instructions to target ‘anarchist protestors.’ This urging to police your neighbors does not come from a place of commitment to our city, rather it is another brutal tactic of state-sanctioned violence.”

Some Black leaders in the city however have come forward to condemn all forms of destruction from direct action demonstrations. Earlier this week, City Commissioner Mingus Mapps said the violence from the protests are hurting communities of color.

“When violence becomes the norm the people who are hurt first are people of color and people who are low income, so I would ask anyone out there who’s trying to be good ally to people of color that you think about that and even if you think you know what you think about that, I hope that you’ll at least ask three people of color whether or not vandalism and violence is helpful,” he said.

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