In 2020, while walking through the intersection at Carman Drive and Kruse Way, Sarah Al Qirem was told by a classmate that she was unwelcome in Lake Oswego because of her race.
Over a year later, Al Qirem stood at the same intersection to say that bigotry has no place in Oregon — especially in government.
On Sunday, Nov. 21, about 15 people gathered at the busy intersection in Lake Oswego to rally against Clackamas County Commissioner Mark Shull. The protest was organized by Al Qirem, a freshman at Lake Oswego High School. She said she wants "bullies" like Shull out of office.
Although Shull has removed some of his more controversial posts from Facebook, in 2020 he was actively posting about his distaste towards the Black Lives Matter movement, and this year he compared the mask requirements to Jewish people wearing yellow stars during the Holocaust. Many posts were unearthed after Shull was elected in November 2020, and he faced widespread calls to resign shortly after he took office in January. The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to censure him, but he did not resign.
"When Mark Shull was first elected, we couldn't do anything because we were in the midst of a pandemic, but now that everything is starting to restore, I feel like this is an appropriate time to be here. I've devoted a lot of my time to making sure that bullies like Mark Shull are not in office," Al Qirem said.
The group full of students and other supportive community members stood on corners of the intersection for two hours, the flow of traffic increasing as nearby churches concluded their services. Some passing cars honked while giving encouraging thumbs-up, while others yelled out their window in distaste. But the group stood their ground.
Among them was Cris Waller, a blogger who originally discovered Shull's bigoted social media posts and brought them to the public eye.
"I was absolutely shocked that anybody who published this type of material had been elected to office. I was profoundly sad that this had not been discovered while he was still campaigning," said Waller.
LOHS freshman Mason Kline held a poster that highlighted some of Shull's resurfaced social media posts. He said rallies are important to the process of removing biased people out of a position of power.
Community member Bruce Poinsette held another poster that read "White Supremacy has NO place in power." He told the Review that people deserve leadership that represents and supports them — especially marginalized communities.
Poisette said that Shull's bigotry is often classified as "the normal." But initiatives like the Nov. 21 rally are pushbacks against compliance and can spark change, he said.
"We say students are the future, and we say we must protect the kids, but if you have unjust leaders what kind of message does that send to our students?" Poinsette said. "It's important for people to say we're going to fight for students. My hope is that people will see the students start to organize against Shull, and it will light a fire under more adults."
Al Qirem said that she was pleased with the turnout, and even if no one else showed up she would have stood on the corner alone.
"I want people to know that young people have a lot of willpower and when given the opportunity, they can change something," Al Qirem said.
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