PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A group of people dedicated to defending democratic ideals gathered Wednesday evening outside Portland City Hall amid nationwide political unrest and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
About 30 people with the Defend Democracy Coalition brought rain shelters and posters to the rally in Southwest Portland as the most diverse City Council in Portland’s history convened for the first time.
The group condemned the raucous, out-of-control scene that unfolded Wednesday in Washington, D.C. as Congress convened to vote and affirm Joe Biden’s presidential win, accusing violent protesters of trying to undermine legitimate election results and trigger a coup.
Speakers at the event in Portland encouraged bystanders that “it’s not all bad news,” referring to the results of the special election in Georgia where Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffler to become the first Black senator in Georgia history. Defend Democracy Coalition spokesperson Destiny Houston called on elected officials in every state to denounce white supremacy.
“They wanted to hold up certification of our new president. If that isn’t a coup, I don’t know what is,” she said. “Every person that is considered a leader in public office needs to condemn white supremacy.”
City councilors on Wednesday approved a $67 million increase in financing for an urban renewal project in North/Northeast Portland and creating more LGBTQ-inclusive family planning and fertility health coverage for city employees.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler spoke before the meeting, saying the city was ready for any potential unrest Wednesday night in response to the events at the U.S. Capitol.
“The actions in Washington, D.C., were calculated to block the peaceful transition of power,” he said. “An attack on the U.S. Capitol is an attack on American democracy.”
But Black Lives Matter supporters are calling on public leaders to do more: suggesting they host a larger press conference — perhaps outside City Hall — in a show of support for Black lives and democracy.
“Our mayor and our city council, our governor, and our reps should be the ones out here speaking and mobilizing to help people feel less afraid,” said Alyssa Pariah with the Democratic Socialists of America.
“Everybody should show up — our entire democracy was just threatened,” echoed Houston.
Also on Wednesday, President Trump supporters gathered at the Oregon State Capitol. Oregon State Police declared an unlawful assembly and arrested at least two people.
“The stuff in Salem is a metastasized version of the same cancer that we’re seeing in D.C.,” said Pariah. “In fact, the reason that these people feel so emboldened to do something so unprecedented in D.C. because they are able to mobilize and take over at the State Capitol.”