Portland and justice and George Floyd

A participant in a protest for George Floyd on June 4th, 2020.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Guilty on all counts. Nearly a year after he George Floyd was killed, a Minneapolis jury came to the right conclusion.

Yesterday’s verdict was historic. Now the work continues and will expand beyond the protests in the street that defined America in the wake of Floyd’s death.

Our fight as transportation reform activists is really about public spaces. We fight to make them welcoming and safe, and we fight in them when we ride and protest. Our job is to make streets safer for everyone — no matter how they use them or what their social, economic, political, or racial background is.

Like many of you, I marched and took part in many protests over the past year. Being in the streets with so many people is way to feel power and hold power to account. Every time I went out, I felt a little better about the world and the people I share it with.

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I am so grateful for the people who were out there every night, and all the organizers and mutual aid groups who made #PortlandProtests possible. So many of you strapped “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice for George Floyd” signs on your bikes. Our city’s inspiring activism in the streets was — and will continue to be — a bright spot in a dark time for America.

I was really moved to see that George Floyd’s brother Rodney Floyd gave a shout-out to Portland at a press conference right after the verdicts came down. Here’s what he said:

“… I would like to thank all the advocates, the activists. I’d like to thank the people that stayed in these streets, marching night and day. People in Portland stayed on the streets, what, 83 days? I think I may be wrong, but thankful for everybody that stayed out there, making a statement with us and cared about us in our dark days, dark nights…”

See you in the streets.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Maria Lartz
Maria Lartz
1 year ago

I’m happy for the verdict. Not so happy about the continued violence and property destruction here in Portland that is being perpetrated in the false name of racial justice. It needs to end.

Adam
Adam
1 year ago
Reply to  Maria Lartz

Word.

Granpa
Granpa
1 year ago

Fighting is listed as a use of street space but general transportation is not. The guilty verdict is welcomed with a sense of relief. Still I increasingly question the editorial stance of this blog. Many like me loathe societal inequalities, ride bicycles and crave safe spaces, but also detest the wanton destruction of public spaces at the hands of Portland’s anarchists who this blog seems to give a free pass

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago

So how do you separate those who have a right to protest and address grievances from people intent on anarchy and/or property destruction? In that same vein, how do you distinguish those who are violent police and/or people who support violent suppression from those who are well-intentioned police and those who support a bit of law and order?

And where do the rest of us fit in this so-called “revolution”, the 60% of us who participated in the last election?

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago

Jonathan, I do realize it is complex, especially as the Portland protests are still getting reported nationwide, even in my local bucolic newspaper in NC. Everyone here, including Black leadership here, are asking what is up with these white people in Portland and all their continued violent protests?

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Self-policing. The other protesters need to stop the destruction, or we’ll pay police to stop it instead.

X
X
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

It’s interesting that you used the expression “self-policing”. We’re having this discussion largely because of an incident where 3 police officers watched their colleague kill a human being, by constricting their breathing, for over nine minutes. Nine minutes of watching. Nine minutes of killing. Who was “policing” that?

Portland alone has seen millions of dollars in damage to buildings. Maybe the cops should have thought about what was at stake before they killed a man in a dispute over a twenty dollar bill. We don’t know yet what that man’s life was worth.

dan
dan
1 year ago

I really feel that there is a growing consensus that is shared by my IRL friends and neighbors, talk I see in online spaces, and this letter that the roughly 100 vandals and arsonists who continue to tear down what the rest of us are working to build and preserve do not represent our values and are not working to increase justice, hold law enforcement to account, or support communities of color. As best as I can tell at this point, they’re bratty anarchists whose only goal is take enjoyment in destruction.

Christian
Christian
1 year ago

Jonathan, I read that a few times and I’m not sure I see a specific message beyond ‘things that don’t help are unhelpful.’ Am I missing something? I was hoping for a clearer perspective when I clicked through.

Jon
Jon
1 year ago

That is what is so discouraging about the continued property damage in town. Now when people think Portland and protests they think riot damage by anarchists and not racial justice. The liberal echo chamber of Portland does not realize it but that is how it is seen by everyone but them. Just ask around if know someone that is not ultra liberal and from Portland. I work in a local suburb and I can tell you everyone that I work with asks me what is wrong with Portland.

Jon
Jon
1 year ago

I was not trying to suggest that you personally don’t talk to folks outside the Portland liberal bubble but I have been surprised at how many people don’t. I am sorry if my comment came off that way. I have many Trump voting co-workers and family members and if they were the only ones that asked me continually what in the world was happening in Portland I would just blow it off as a Fox News narrative. But these days the liberal and moderate folks I know living outside Portland are also asking me what is wrong with the city. They see the anarchist property damage and that’s it. For them Portland is now a place with garbage all over the place and a downtown that nobody can visit safely.

Norman
Norman
1 year ago

It’s easier to minimalize the importance of the property damage when it’s not your home or business that’s being vandalized.

Alan 1.0
1 year ago

Yes, I’m aware the property destruction is a major point of contention for a lot of people. It’s not how I would choose to protest. I think it’s very problematic, but I’m not going to criticize it, for the same reasons that activists I’ve linked to in my above comments choose not to. (Jonathan Maus)

Actions that neither increase solidarity nor broadcast purpose while making the lives of local Black communities more difficult are not acceptable. (Open Letter: A Call-In To The Portland Protest Community)

It is an excellent letter. As I read it, it quite clearly criticizes the black-bloc type of personal and property violence, particularly in its recent actions. What am I failing to understand about what you won’t criticize, Jonathan, is the “increased solidarity” that anarchy brings, or its perpetrators’ “broadcast purpose,” the two redeeming characteristics that open letter says are missing. Help?

(I also listened to the OPB piece you linked, including Crenshaw’s agreement with Miller’s “bumpersticker version” of the letter.)

Alan 1.0
1 year ago

Thank you, that helps. I’ll think about the nuance, and Crenshaw’s offer to talk.

BikeSlobPDX
BikeSlobPDX
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon

Well if they’re watching cable news, that’s all they’re going to see. “If it bleeds, it leads.” I have friends out of state who thought the entire city was burning down last summer.

Granpa
Granpa
1 year ago

If the wilding bands of anarchists are protesting anything, it appears to be civil society. The destruction and vandalism are disavowed by leader’s in the black community. After the March of about 50,000 people protesting the build up to Iraq war black bandana anarchists were disruptive and destructive. This has long been a Portland thing. It appears to be adrenaline fueled recreation for them and even less purposeful than ANTIFA who confront fascists and white supremists with their own tactics. Yes it is messy but by not condemning purposeless destruction of public spaces you give tacit approval

Paolo F.
Paolo F.
1 year ago
Reply to  Granpa

In my opinion Portland has become a “failed state” (failed municipalitiy)

Failed State: A state whose political or economic system has become so weak that the government is no longer in control.

Portland is no longer able to meet the basic expectations of a city government nor provide basic needed services.

Elements:
*Epidemic of gun violence, with inept, ineffectual response
*Repeated violence and destruction of property with lack of ability/willingness to address
*Unable/unwilling to enforce multiple laws and regulations
*Unable/unwilling to provide adequate and timely law enforcement protection to residents
*Lack of responsiveness to the “silent majority”’of residents
*Degradation/Abandonment of basic expected services of a city to government. (Traffic enforcement, building services, business support, sanitation, livability issues)
* Corruption via funding of non governmental entities to provide political support for elected officials.

Jon
Jon
1 year ago
Reply to  Paolo F.

Our neighbor had a house fire 3 months ago and they had to move out temporarily while it can be repaired. Due to the backup in the Portland Permits department they have not yet been able to start the work to make it liveable. They currently have an estimate of 12 months until they can move back in all due to the permitting department in Portland. The contractor was ready to go a week after the fire. This is not a new build. This is just repairing the fire damage of an existing home. It is increasingly looking like we are in a failed city.

GlowBoy
GlowBoy
1 year ago
Reply to  Paolo F.

The epidemic of gun violence is happening in every medium and large city in America, not just Portland. Crime was already spiking last May, before George Floyd’s killing and the protests and rioting that followed, as states started to open up. 50 million Americans suffered a loss of income as a result of the pandemic last year, economic inequality has widened drastically, the shutdowns caused immense damage to the social fabric, and the loss of afterschool and other community programs proven to reduce crime got shut down too. Also, drug trafficking nearly shut down completely last Spring, then reopened in May and June, and the drug gangs have been fighting over reopened (and greatly expanded) turf ever since.

If there is a connection between the crime epidemic and protests, it is that police agencies appear to have engaged in a work slowdown in order to make themselves feel more needed, and thwart any potential threat to their funding. Police response times went up way more than funding and staffing went down, and way more than crime went up. It may be working, as evidenced by the backlash.

CaptainKarma
CaptainKarma
1 year ago

I increasingly appreciate the editorial stance of this blog. The issues at hand are given lip service at best in the corporatocracy. A frank and open discussion is the only way forward. When the government has become inflexible and unresponsive, citizens will become flexible and reponsive, however they can

GlowBoy
GlowBoy
1 year ago

We in Minneapolis thank the well-intentioned people of Portland who have pushed for justice for George Floyd and kept attention focused (more or less) on police violence, but we have also watched with a mixture of bemusement and disappointment as so much of the action appears to have been led with white people. If white people grabbed the megaphone and started trying to lead a protest around here, they’d get shouted down real fast. It just looks bad, folks. We white people are there to support BIPOC and stand behind them, not in front of them. Even in a city that is only 6% Black, can’t you let them do the speaking?

GlowBoy
GlowBoy
1 year ago
Reply to  GlowBoy

And to report the situation on the ground in Minneapolis: the mood has been one of calm resolve. The crowd gathered in George Floyd Square the night of the verdict was not celebratory for the most part, but thankful for this verdict and with a strong acknowledgement that the fight has just begun. Not much has been done in the last 11 months to reform police accountability, and racial inequalities that underlie all this have actually widened drastically in that time. As in many states, legislation that would actually ensure police accountability is blocked, in our case in our Republican-controlled Senate, which almost a year after George Floyd’s death refuses to even hold hearings on a solutions that have repeatedly been proposed here since 1970.

The other overwhelming feeling, though, is also one of relief. As bad as it was, the $500 million of devastation we suffered last year was limited to a couple of commercial districts. I don’t know ONE single person who didn’t fear that if Chauvin hadn’t been convicted, the resulting wave of outrage might have been even more widespread and damaging. Everyone was on edge, and no one wanted that outcome. The tension on the streets since mid-March was unlike anything I’ve ever felt. The palpable sense of dread at what could happen was reinforced by Daunte Wright’s killing during the trial by a small suburban police force: it is ever more clear that in the future EVERY questionable police killing is going to result in large-scale protests … AND that it’s not just an issue in the big bad inner city. It can happen in Brooklyn Center, or Falcon Heights (as with Philando) … or Gladstone, or Tigard. We all need to get serious about addressing the underlying problems.

The Dude
The Dude
1 year ago

Maybe those of you who are obsessed with property destruction by so-called anarchists in Portland should stop complaining for a moment and ask yourself why we have this behavior in our community in the first place. You like to portray them as mindless and wanton, but there’s more to the story.