Around 300 people marched from Estacada High School to City Hall chanting "Black lives matter" and "peaceful protest." They held signs that stated "I love Estacada, I hate racism," "My Black friends matter," "Liberty and justice for all," and "We're not here to start violence, we're here to stop it."
As the group walked down Main Street, some people watching responded that "all lives matter," while others told them to "go home." One individual had both middle fingers raised. Multiple participants reported on social media that they were spit on.
Estacada's march against racism was the culmination of a tense week in town. The event, which took place from 6-8:30 p.m. Friday, June 26, was planned by organizers of Sandy's STAND UP Movement after Mayor Sean Drinkwine wrote on Facebook that he wouldn't condone Black Lives Matter vigils, and that he was working to stop them. Drinkwine has since apologized for the post and said his goal was to respond to concerns about violence.
Though Friday's march did not lead to destruction of property, many were worried that it would. A group of community members stood watch near the Estacada Veterans Memorial. Clackamas River Growlers posted on Facebook that they boarded up their storefront in anticipation of the event.
Deputies from the Clackamas County Sheriff's office were present at the event. They responded to one verbal argument but did not report any other incidents.
Though some of the march's participants came from neighboring communities like Sandy and Gresham, many were from Estacada. City Councilors Katy Dunsmuir, Justin Gates and Jerry Tenbush were in attendance.
When the march reached City Hall, there were chants of "say her name, Breonna Taylor," and "say his name, George Floyd," Black residents of Louisville, Kentucky, and Minneapolis who recently were killed by police.
While some drivers passing by honked and waved in support, many people in the opposing group loudly told marchers that "all lives matter." Several people near the Estacada Logger Statue held firearms.
Tensions between marchers and those opposed remained high for the entirety of the event.
When someone in the opposing group yelled, "Estacada isn't racist," one of the march's participants responded, "Estacada locals for Black Lives Matter."
A member of the opposing group also told marchers, "You are worse than COVID-19."
When event organizer Tracy George asked the march's attendees if they were from Estacada, the majority of them raised their hands.
"When they say we bused people in, they're lying, because 90% of you are from Estacada," she said.
George noted that she typically reads online comments aloud when she organizes events for the STAND UP Movement, but didn't this time.
"(They) were too foul and too hateful. I refuse to put those words out any further than they've already gotten. If you guys haven't heard them, I refuse to let you hear them," she told the crowd. "They were hateful, and they were honestly disgusting. They were threatening, but they were extremely eye-opening. They opened my eyes to the racism that is alive and well here in Estacada. … The civil rights movement here, we're not fighting with the police. We're fighting with our neighbors."
As those opposed to the gathering yelled "all lives matter" and played music, participants shared their experiences with racism. Some who spoke to the crowd were from out of town, but many were from the Estacada community.
Ayla, a current theater student at Estacada High School, talked about her younger brother's experience with racial discrimination.
"Acting has been a huge part of my life, but I can't act like this is OK anymore. I can't take any more of this," she said. "(Four or five years ago, my brother) was on the bus, and a friend of his said he couldn't be his friend anymore because he was Black. Do you know how heartbreaking it is to hear that? That your own brother can't have friends because of the color of his skin."
As she spoke, the group in opposition chanted "go home."
"She lives in Estacada, and they're telling her to go home," George said.
Ayla noted that she's dedicated to this cause.
"I'm fighting for my own brother's rights and security in this country. And I'm so happy to fight for everybody else's security," she said.
Gabriel, a recent graduate of Estacada High School, encouraged everyone to be aware of their actions.
"If a student is being picked on based upon the color of his skin, or where his family's from, or who he's friends with, you're not an ally," he said, adding that he's been called racial slurs by friends. "If you're witnessing someone struggling in life because of who they are or where they're from, and you don't help them, what you're doing is continuing the pain and the suffering. … You're part of the problem."
Ali, another recent graduate of Estacada High School, encouraged people to be open to honest self-reflection.
"The other day I asked the mayor, 'What are you doing to not be racist, what are you doing to be an ally?' And I'm asking each and every one of you, 'What are you doing to help your fellow person?'" she said. "I want you to take every opportunity for somebody to come up to you and say, 'Hey, that's not right. That's descrimintion. You're being racist.' I don't want you to stand down and say, 'No, I'm not a racist.'"
She encouraged everyone to seek out opportunities for growth.
"(We should be) grateful for them, otherwise we're never going to change. If we never talk about it, it's alway going to be there. Even if all the racists were gone tomorrow, the system of racism and systemic racism is still going to be there."
Looking to the future
Though the Sandy STAND UP Movement organized this event, George encouraged Estacada residents to take the lead moving forward.
"We are not here to take over. We're not here to tell you who to vote for. We are here to stand in solidarity, to stand beside you and to support you," she said. "We're here to encourage you to start tough conversations. It's time to talk to your mayor. It's time to talk to your City Council. It's time to start meeting with the school board and asking how they're going to address racism."
During their next scheduled meeting on Monday, July 27, Estacada City Councilors will make a proclamation condemning racism. In the meantime, a group of Estacada residents is gathering for demonstrations in support of peace, social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement from 11 a.m. to noon every Saturday at the corner of Main Street and Highway 224.
"We are at the beginning of another huge civil rights movement," George said. "This movement will make history. We will be in the history books."
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