Remember back in July when a Portlander named Randy Philbrick led a “park-in” protest on Southeast Division to highlight opposition to recent changes to the street that included a bus lane, protected bike lane, center medians, and more?
Now some of the same folks who supported Philbrick’s protest are coming out for an encore, and it’s likely to be a much larger event this time around.
That’s because unlike the lone wolf advocacy of Philbrick and his tiny, almost imperceptible, online following, the latest protest is being led by Angela Todd of PDX Real. Todd is an interior decorator by day and is active in Portland political circles. In 2021 she was one of the first people to spread the false report that former Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty was guilty of a hit-and-run — an accusation made and spread by the Portland Police Bureau, which resulted in an apology letter to Hardesty issued last month from Mayor Ted Wheeler as part of a lawsuit settlement. Todd and her husband Jeff Church (who runs the PDX Real X/Twitter account), have built a legion of over 100,000 followers across TikTok and Instagram. While most of Todd’s focus has been on politics (her first posts were about encouraging people to vote out Hardesty and she was a major supporter of Commissioner Rene Gonzalez who replaced her) and social issues like crime and homelessness, Todd has now turned her attention to the Portland Bureau of Transportation and their work on SE Division.
Todd says she’s met with PBOT Director Millicent Williams and Commissioner Mingus Mapps. And for weeks now, Todd has been posting opinions about the Division project — especially about how she feels the center medians (installed by PBOT as a safety measure) make it hard to drive and limit auto access to businesses. In a recent post, Todd posted a video from someone who did a u-turn on Division (below). “I turned as hard as I could and I still have to go over the barrier,” she told her followers. As for business access, Todd likes to repeat a claim from sources who say they’ve lost 30% of their customers since the medians were installed.
Now Todd will take things up a notch with a protest planned for Thursday, September 21st — almost exactly one year since PBOT completed the Division project.
According to PBOT’s project website, they added a center raised median on Division from SE 80th to 174th (border with Gresham), “to reduce left turn crashes and improve safety for pedestrians.” Medians are a standard tool PBOT uses for what they call “access management” — a.k.a. limiting the amount of turning possibilities to make a street more calm and predictable.
In a post on Instagram today, Todd likened PBOT’s actions on the Division Project to the government of Russia during the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s.
“I had a meeting with an immigrant of Slavic descent that has a business on Division who’s been impacted by a decrease in business after the $175 million dollar remodel of Division that includes almost a continuous median for 40 blocks or so,” Todd shared in the video. “They talked about their experience during the Soviet Union’s fall in the 90s and how many similarities there are to what is happening right now in Portland… They talked about the land grab going on on Division and also downtown. How the middle working class are losing more and more and the governing is more and more powerful and how essential services aren’t being provided. And they said they experienced that already.”
In an August 22nd post on X (formerly Twitter), PDX Real posted a mock PBOT graphic that says, “Remove the Medians PBOT: Bad for Business, Bad for Commuters, Bad for First Responders.” Accompanying the graphic was another reference to eastern Europe: “Tear down the walls! Tear down the walls! Tear down the walls!”
Then, in what started as a call for volunteers to hang flyers on doors to promote the protest, Todd called on her followers to “push against these things that don’t serve us,” and added, “what the hell are we here for if we can’t fight for that? None of us get out of here alive anyway, so let’s fight.”
It’s important to understand that for Todd and her followers, what PBOT did on Division transcends just a transportation project. They see it as emblematic of Big Government taking over their lives and forcing them to do things they don’t want to do.
“We need to push against these things that don’t serve us. What the hell are we here for if we can’t fight for that? None of us get out of here alive anyway, so let’s fight.”– Angela Todd, PDX Real
After asking her followers, “What’s your life for?” Todd continued: “What’s going on in Portland, the trajectory is not good… I promise you that this is getting worse, and it’s coming for you. And so my question is, what are you made out of? Do you care about your neighbors?… Will you do it? And just assuming that the dollar is gonna’ crash and we’re gonna continue to allow the destruction of our city, we’re going to politically prosecute people that disagree with the narrative. You’re going to be eating bugs, living in a 15-minute city. Don’t you think it would be good for you to come out of your home and start meeting people in the community that might be able to assist you during said apocalypse?”
Notably, the protest event will be based at the Roman Russian Food Store on Division and SE 109th. That store is owned by Fatima Magomadova, a noted critic of the medians who’s spent at least the last year sharing her opinions during Portland City Council testimony and to the media. You might also recall that I spoke to Magomadova when she showed up and parked in the bus lane to support Philbrick’s protest in July.
“They are frustrating drivers, there is congestion and traffic, and there’s a huge chance that your car cannot make it,” Magomadova told me back then. “I have videos where trucks actually get on top of the medians, and cars flipping over medians.”
Ironically, a few minutes after that conversation, as I biked home from the protest, I saw one of Magomadova’s cars parked illegally in the bike lane outside her market.
Regardless of what you might think of Magomadova or Todd, they are very respected individuals in the community and wield influence on the current city council (they’re one big reason why Commissioner Dan Ryan has felt emboldened to complain about the medians and the Division project in general. In March of this year he described the changes as “scary” and asked PBOT if it would be possible to “re-assess” the project.)
Suffice it to say, it will be interesting to see if the protest on September 21st leads to any momentum for changes. Todd says they’ll have food, music, and “an impromptu parade that will be very fun.”
“We are asking our people to come out and support these business owners,” Todd said about the protest in her post today. Then she added a warning: “These projects like what happened on Division are planned throughout the city: 82nd 122nd are two that are right within purview right now. So come out, be supportive.”
CORRECTION, 5:01 pm: The initial version of this story said Angela Todd was the person who made the u-turn in the video. That was incorrect. The video was sent to her by a follower and posted to the PDX Real account. I regret the mistake.