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Walking advocacy group honors Don’t Shoot PDX with ‘Walkstar’ award

Posted by on September 11th, 2020 at 11:49 am

Walkers for racial justice on the Burnside Bridge on June 1st.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

In the latest sign of evolution in the transportation advocacy world, Portland-based nonprofit Oregon Walks has named Don’t Shoot PDX as a winner of one of their ‘2020 Oregon Walkstar’ awards.

Don’t Shoot PDX formed in 2014 in response to the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The group has been on the frontlines of Portland’s protests against racial justice. In June they filed a lawsuit against the City of Portland over the use of tear gas against people protesting in the street*.

“We don’t just walk to get to work or to school or for health. We walk and roll for change.”
— Jess Thompson, Oregon Walks

Oregon Walks Executive Director Jess Thompson shared in an interview this morning that the award is just the latest example of how her organization is changing. “Oregon Walks is working to listen and understand what safety in the right-of-way looks like and feels like to a wider base of people,” she said. “We’ve tried to expand away from just transportation policy and really look at what the experience of walking is like for a wide variety of people.”

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The award is also an acknowledgment of the vital role foot-powered people play in social movements — and the expansion of what Thompson refers to as, “The expansion of paramilitary operations against people walking for justice.” Seeing people gassed and brutalized for being on the street has spurred a reckoning of how Oregon Walks envisions their role. “We don’t just walk to get to work or to school or for health. We walk and roll for change,” Thompson said.

And when it comes to the march for social change, Oregon Walks says Don’t Shoot PDX is leading the way.

The 2020 Oregon Walkstar Awards (formerly known as the Weston Awards) event will happen online September 18th. You can get free tickets and learn more here.

(*Interesting aside: Timur Ender, the Portland transportation bureau employee who was the subject of an OPB story this week after he and his family were tear gassed in their homes during a protest, is an Oregon Walks board member.)

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Steve Scarich
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Steve Scarich

As an avid pedestrian (I do all my local errands walking) and reacreational cyclist, pedestrian advocacy groups that transition into anti-police activists, are not my friends.

Timur Ender
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Timur Ender

No amount of sidewalks, rapid flashing beacons, or ADA ramps will make our streets safe when some pedestrians are more likely to be detained, searched, surveilled, cited, assaulted or killed due to the color of their skin.

No street is safe when a leisurely stroll could end in ICE agents separating you from your family and community.

No pedestrian is safe when state actors chase, gas, and assault the John Lewis’ of today, turning city streets into a theater to enact psycological trauma.

Our funding for transportation justice is threatened when elected officials burn precious general fund in the raging wildfire of state violence.

No one is safe when unmarked vans with unidentifiable individuals claiming to be police from another part of America misuse legal authority to round up random pedestrians in downtown Portland.

No sidewalk is safe when we become silent about things that matter.

Timur Ender, J.D.
Oregon Walks board member

Betsy Reese
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Betsy Reese

Jess Thompson made it clear that this award acknowledges that among the reasons that people walk is to demand justice, and that when they do, they are frequently brutalized by police.
  
The charge of “blocking traffic” that police make against protesters marching for justice is a pretext to deny us the right to use our streets for free speech.  Put each one of those protesters in a separate motor vehicle and you would have a traffic jam, not a justification to teargas, flashbang, shoot with rubber bullets, or abduct.

Hiking in the Rocky Mountains, a ranger told us, “The bears use the same trails you use.  If you cross paths with a bear, step off the trail and let them pass.”  When hundreds or thousands of protesters are marching in the streets, they are not “blocking traffic”.  They are traffic.  With little inconvenience, others in motor vehicles can ‘step off the path’ by detouring a block or two, so those on foot can pass.

In addition to the “blocking traffic” pretext to brutalize and prevent protesters from using our streets, motor vehicle tonnage has been weaponized by both police and civilians to intentionally terrorize, and sometimes physically harm, or even kill, soft human bodies protesting on foot.  Oregon Walks has legitimate reasons, as our state’s walking advocacy organization, to draw their circle wide and include protection of pedestrians while they are marching in protest.

Don’t Shoot PDX is a worthy recipient of this Walkstar award “for inspiring us all to take to the streets and walk for justice. (And for) protecting Oregonian’s right to walk safely, by filing a federal lawsuit against the department of homeland security for violating free speech, using excessive force, overstepping their authority and acting under the command of someone who hasn’t been formally confirmed in his role.”  https://oregonwalks.org/2020-oregonwalkstar-award-winner-dont-shoot-portland/

Whose streets?  Our streets.