“Commissioner Eudaly and PBOT want to show support for Black Portlanders, for the Black Lives Matter movement, and for the protestors calling for justice.”
— Margaux Weeke, Communications Director for Commissioner Eudaly
In a move that was seen as a provocation to President Donald Trump, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser painted “Black Lives Matter” across several blocks of street today. The massive, 30-foot high yellow letters are just a stone’s-throw from the White House. Bowser and Trump have been in a stand-off over several issues related to widespread racial justice and police brutality protests — especially the presence of federal armed troops in her city.
Now, as Portlanders hit the streets for the eighth straight day of protests, City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly wants to do the same.
“Commissioner Eudaly and PBOT [Portland Bureau of Transportation] staff were inspired by Mayor Bowser and the District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) use of the right-of-way to create the “Black Lives Matter Plaza” and the “Black Lives Matter” street art in Washington D.C.,” Eudaly’s Communications Director Margaux Weeke shared with BikePortland this evening.
— Alexandra Bell (@atomicbell) June 5, 2020
Weeke says the Commissioner and Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) are working to determine where and how to deploy similar street art.
“Both Commissioner Eudaly and PBOT want to show support for Black Portlanders, for the Black Lives Matter movement, for the protestors calling for justice, and we want this to be a community-led approach,” Weeke continued. “PBOT is currently finalizing language and potential locations with community partners, and we hope to put paint down on the next rain-free day.”
Mayor Ted Wheeler is supportive of the move and his office will help with the installation. In addition to the street art, the plan will likely include special street sign “toppers” and other community art to further designate the blocks.
Portland has a long history of painting intersections. PBOT uses the paintings as a way to bring neighbors together. Large-scale street paintings are a common method of tactical urbanism.
In D.C., the move has been heralded by many, but local Black Lives Matter leaders said on Twitter, “This is a performative distraction from real policy changes.”
Eudaly has been outspoken in her support for Black Lives Matter protestors. This week she condemned the use of tear gas on protestors, saying it’s “sadistic” and should be banned. In a statement released today, Eudaly listed a range of actions she will be working on including: disbanding the transit police and declaring racism a public health and safety emergency.
UPDATE, 6/15: What we expected to happen the week of June 8th, is now on pause. Asked for an update, PBOT Communications Director John Brady said,
“We are currently having conversations with Black Portland community leaders about the creation of community-led art in partnership with Black Portland artists. We will follow the lead of our Black community partners and will share more information when plans have been finalized with the community.”
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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Wherever it is, our plaza needs to be car-free. It’d be disgraceful to allow cars to drive over a message like this.
What should the rules be about the mural?
Can children play on it?
Can people walk on it?
Can homeless people camp on it?
Can chop shop operators set of their tents and pile parts on it?
Can other artists draw on it or tag it?
Do we allow local restaurants to put tables on it?
Are Uber and car share drivers allowed to stop on it to pick up passengers?
Can TriMet drive on it?
Are emergency vehicles allowed on it?
Are block parties allowed on it?
Yes to all of that. Copy DC one for one. As a piece of art I think it’s genius. Whether it changes anything = homework.
Yes to all of those except Uber and other artists defacing it (and well, probably homeless people camping on it)! Plazas as for people, not cars 🙂
Please note that the one on 16th is in front of several popular hotels, at the drop-off driveways. Lots of cars will be driving on it.
Lots of people will therefore see it. ‘The mayor tagged the street. That’s never happened before. Did something change?’
Alberta or Mississippi plazas!
Considering black people have been forced out of those areas would it be appropriate?
How about 3rd Ave between Madison and Main?
Burnside bridge. It’s the geographic center of Portland. The ordinate and abscissa of our quadrants. On a satellite image, it will read left to right, unobstructed. Many protests (critical mass to BLM) have crossed this bridge in defiance uniting our brothers and sisters on both sides of the Willamette River.
The geographic center of Portland is quite away east, in the Hollywood/Irvington area.
To have greatest impact, I’d put it at the heart of Portland culture, on Belmont between 32nd and 34th, or maybe on Hawthorne near 39th/CC.
OK, guess maybe they meant, it’s the point of origin for address numbers. The place where the quadrants meet, not the center of area or population.
Yes, that makes sense. The river and N Williams are the east-west dividers and Burnside for north-south. (There’s another along SW Naito to match N Williams, but that’s far more complicated.)
The DC move has been criticized by some as mere symbolism. I think symbolism is helpful as long as it doesn’t reduce our resolve for real change. In Minneapolis we are probably going to rename Chicago Avenue to George Floyd Avenue, for example. If that’s all we did such a move might be counterproductive; but as long as we also keep pushing for systemic criminal justice reform I don’t think these are mere token gestures.
It’s all cut-and-paste activism and it accomplishes nothing.
Just possibly, in the future, some kid will say, what is MLK, and they’ll find out it’s a person and what they stood for. César Chávez. Rosa Parks. Harvey Milk.
Maybe we should call Sandy Boulevard, ‘Say Their Names Boulevard’? Because there’s not just the one.
At least Sandy is named for a place, like Waverly or St. Johns.
General Powell, General Burnside (of civil war fame, though he wasn’t very good), shipowners Ankeny and Lovejoy, Ne(d) Flanders, vice-president George Clinton, various 19th century developers including Rufus King (SW King in Portland and King County Washington) and lots of other rich dead white men. And all those numbers.
There was a movement in East Portland to rename 122nd after David Douglas, another dead white man, but alas he was foreign, a Scottish biologist who explored the Pacific Northwest, but died alongside Captain Cook in Hawaii when they were killed by natives. The City of Portland no longer allows streets to be named after foreigners such as Captain George Vancouver of the Royal Navy, Admiral Samuel Hood, Dr. McLaughlin, etc.
Was Portland named after William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, who as every US child doesn’t know, was the prime minister who negotiated and signed the treaty that officially recognized US independence in 1783 (our real birth)? Portland Maine was probably named in his honor, as was Portland Canal (channel) in Alaska.
If you want real impact, why not rename the city?
“Hooverville” has a nice ring to it.
Please don’t cut and paste this comment.
The President already initiated Criminal Justice Reform. A Bad actor cop in a tense situation could have happened to anyone, whether black or white. Plenty of people who commit crimes and resist arrest have been injured or killed. The best solution is to not resist arrest.
Shhh. We can’t mention that here. Windows must be smashed and fires must be started.
Amen sister! Finally the real narrative.
My 8th grade math teacher (’68/’69) proposed that crime was wildly out of control and overrunning civilization, and the only way to fix it was to crack down hard. He wanted a cop on every corner. All crimes, from the smallest infraction on up, would be subject to immediate arrest and trial on the spot by the first three citizens that came by. The majority verdict would be final, and the penalty for all convictions was immediate death by firearm. The cop was police, prosecutor, judge, and executioner.
The class (~90% white in a privileged community), as a whole and as individuals, shot his proposal down from many angles.
And yet here we are, 51 years later… 🙁
Amen sister! Finally the correct narrative.
It’s ironic she’ll be running against a Black man.
Pass the mic!
A black man who has the backing and money of Portland’s police union, by way of a $15,000 donation to his campaign.
TBH I don’t see what’s ironic about doing something like this and running against Mingus Mapps, who happens to be black (Inconcievable!).
OTOH, you could echo the sentiments of BLM leaders cited in the article: “This is a performative distraction from real policy changes.” and put the pressure on Eudaly to be a bit more innovative and meaningful in supporting Black Portlanders (and evaluate the merits of the proposals she published–which, with few exceptions, seem to be decent).
As someone who deeply believes that race should not be a job qualification, I see no contradiction at all for a white person of good conscience, who believes in justice and peace and empowering the marginalized, to run against a black person. We need the best commissioners we can find running our city, and a vigorous election campaign helps us decide who that is.
But it is just a tad ironic that Eudaly so embraces the rhetoric of a rather radical variant of social justice, proclaiming it “essential” to “elevate black voices” (a concept I personally find condescending) while simultaneously working her hardest to keep a black man out of power. She says that it’s only fair for white people to “do the work”. Maybe she means “do the work of a city commissioner”?
Understood. Representation is extremely important, but having a good candidate that hears you concerns and is willing to help, trumps all of it.
I was simply pointing out that it’s not ironic to be running against a black man and supporting changes to help the Black community. It’s a slippery slope and a misleading argument there. I do have my opinions, but I think it’s important to be fair.
The fact that she is up against Mingus probably led to her putting out a more substantial policy proposal, knowing she has an inherent disadvantage there, and to simply echoing the current zeitgeist wouldn’t be enough.
The BLM Plaza is pandering for the reasons the BLM movement cited, IMO.
Welcome to Portland! 🙂
(I say it in jest…but it’s kinda true!)
Don’t tell us Black lives matter. Show us.
We need more than virtue signaling at a municipal scale. And having this come from (what is perceived as) the same organization (the city, government) that is violently repressing protests and has a history of discriminatory police violence without reforming that part of the organization can most charitably be described as inconsistent and confusing.
The commissioner saw her neighbor put up a BLM yard sign and get lots of attention and now she wants one, too. Who is this message for? Black people cant walk down a street in neighborhoods that used to be theirs without seeing one of these signs. The presence of these signs hasn’t changed their reality much.
Get to work. We know our lives matter to us. We need to be shown they matter to you.
Seriously. I’ll take police accountability over a BLM Plaza any day.
Yeah this seems like a game of one upping whoever made the last token political move, gross.
Hey Maus! Didn’t you say you don’t see color when you got knocked for being racist?
Did you see that white guy on a bike who went after teenagers? Bet you won’t cover that.
The retired cop in Maryland? This is a Portland-focused blog.
The Monday roundup is seldom all Portland-focused.
Not a cop; Brennan was a marketing consultant (https://twitter.com/MadeToOrderInc/status/1269082196691709954?s=20).
Also, Jonathan answered the exact same question by Itgoesbothways a few days ago – https://bikeportland.org/2020/05/28/thoughts-on-racism-public-space-and-transportation-advocacy-315523#comment-7346390.
If he’d been driving, would Car and Driver cover it?
For those shouting out suggestions, I know you’re well meaning, but let’s hope PBOT is consulting with black Portlanders to understand the location that would be the most meaningful to them (and make sure it’s something black community leaders want and support–which it probably is, but still good to be sure!)
Acts of courage from women, individuals confronting a bullying spouse or a national government that controls the purse strings of a federal district, are valuable.
Just as I can appreciate Melania defying the message coming from the West Wing, and Muriel Bowser sending the National Guard packing, I’m happy to hear that Portland city government is not in monolithic support of destroying the first amendment. Eudaly may not have done enough, who has? However she may be signalling which way her votes will go.
It takes bravery to go against the grain, and very many men in our government have swallowed their conscience, kept their reservations off mic and played along.
Desperate political move from a very inept commissioner.
Step up, Bob.
How can I volunteer to help paint once the location is decided? I’d love to help make this a reality.
I’ll make the only cycling related comment in this thread. What happens when street paint gets wet? Does it become a hazard to cyclists, or does anyone care?
One layer of spray paint over asphalt or concrete is a non-issue. Thermoplastic without the proper grit mix can cause a crash if you try to turn on it or hit the edge at a bad angle. I sometimes choose to ride on an 8 inch stripe because it’s away from car doors, smoother, and has less standing water.
In the picture that I saw, they were layering on really thick with rollers.
A single thick coat on an unprepared surface will weather away pretty quickly.
What’s striking about the street painting is the unprecedented event (DC Mayor defies the budgetary whip hand of the Feds), the scale (big enough for the willfully myopic) and the brevity (terse enough for the inattentive).
Bowser to Trump: “can you hear me NOW?”
I’d assume an expert cyclist like Chloe already has that figured out.
Even more derivative than “Keep Portland Weird”. Put it on the Vista Bridge.
This is a performative distraction from real policy changes
The BLM comment is spot on. Too many Portland protesters make things about themselves rather than what the protest is supposed to be about. This not only doesn’t help, but it outright prevents progress.
Performance art aside, we shouldn’t be thinking of cyclists or the role of cycling in protests. That also takes the focus away from real injustice and the people suffering them.
Ultimately, protests accomplish nothing — the whole premise is that people yell and someone else is supposed to fix things. The George Floyd situation is special in that it’s way more than a normal protest, but anyone who thinks that marching around with signs and painting some streets change anything is kidding themselves.
Real change comes from hard, thankless, and mostly invisible work. Be an expert in something and do everything in the background to bring justice there. Help others do the same. Vote. And don’t waste too much time on symbolic gestures that may be visible, but ultimately don’t do anything.
I know you just said it, but it bears repeating. Vote. That’s how you get a voice about who is at the table when the important decisions are being made. It’s slow and it’s indirect, but that’s where the real power lies. (Sorry, conspiracy theorists!)
Minneapolis is now set to disband their current police force and start anew. Do you still think protesting accomplishes nothing?
I’ll reserve my judgement until I see more than promises from politicians.
By defunding its police, Minneapolis will simply be transferring its policing to the county level, who will raise the tax revenue necessary to pay for extra duties, quite likely at Minneapolis’ expense. Does Hennepin County have a better reputation for its policing? When the county hires additional police, how will local residents prevent the same racist cops from being rehired? Essentially, the protesters have simply succeeded in passing the buck, but in not solving the underlying issues of police brutality and racism.
This is the type of pointless, cynical “nothing ever changes” attitude that I can’t stand. You have no idea how Minneapolis will implement their vision of defunding their police department, or what the outcome of it will be, but of course you assume the worst.
I will choose to fight for a better world. You keep telling yourself whatever it takes to ease your conscience about doing nothing.
If you are protesting something specific…then yes I believe protesting works (or at least leads to a higher chance of the desired outcome). For example, HK protestors were protesting the Fugitive Amendment Bill, i.e. the protest was very specific. It was clear to the government what was going to put an end to the non-stop protesting.
I much prefer protesting over some trite social media gesture…it’s nice to see sweat equity on a issue that matters to people and is a great sign of solidarity.
The limitations of protesting are when you are targeting a broad, non-specific, systemic issue without actionable items. It’s still ok to protest (and I think it’s important to get the conversation started, to make the outrage known) but during those early phases it’s more important to develop the specific ideas, and notions you think will fix the issue and vote accordingly (or force the current slate of local and federal politicians to implement them).
When you put pressure on politicians (who just want the protests to go away) without clear and specific changes, they’ll embrace any populistic measure to do so, even if they are implement half-baked ones that shift the problem, not solve it.
MPD may be dissolved, but it doesn’t mean there won’t be police, which is changing the name of the organization that polices, but does not inherently fix policing. The devil is in the details…it might be better (hopefully) but it could be worse.
(Edit: David Hampsten discussed my last paragraph more eloquently than I did!)
Why not spend that money on something like repaving streets and adding more street trees? From 1994 to about 2015, Portland gave $55,000,000 to the Regional Arts & Culture Council. Just check the Oregonlive article.
I assume that everyone realizes that the only ones who actually ‘view’ these graffiti are photographers and those who see their images. You cannot view it from ground level, and you cannot view it from a car. It is all about getting the media to take pictures and upload them. It is essentially a glorified form of clickbait.