Rallies clash over Black Lives Matter Flag
Two groups of protestors squared off Wednesday evening, July 22, over the decision to fly a Black Lives Matter flag at Gresham City Hall.
There was no violence between the sides — one in opposition of the flag and the other in support — though the two groups bandied chants and held signs up at each other outside of the government building at 1333 N.W. Eastman Parkway.
Everything began with a Facebook event created by Joe Demers, a Gresham mayoral candidate. The "Keep Gresham Sound — Take the BLM flag down" rally gathered about 50 people who were opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement.
"Thanks to all our patriots who showed up — we love our country," Demers said.
That group spent the half hour calling out "All Lives Matter," saying the Pledge of Allegiance, and having a prayer circle. One clarification made by Demers was that there was never any plan to tear down the flag, the group was only gathered to voice its opposition.
"The decision to put the flag up is something that should have involved the entire community," Demers said.
In response to that rally, another group of more than 100 people came together to encircle the flag pole outside of Gresham City Hall in support of Black Lives Matter. The pro-flag side was organized by the Gresham Standup Movement, which has been the key force behind many gatherings and rallies across East Multnomah County.
"When we see stuff like (the group calling to take down the flag) it's another form of racism," said Shemar Lenox, a 21-year-old community activist and leader of Gresham Standup. "We wanted to respond and come out here and show that Black lives do matter."
The dual protests comes at a time when Gresham City Council has doubled down on its support for flying the Black Lives Matter flag. During a meeting Tuesday, July 21, the council voted 5-1 to extend displaying the flag at City Hall through the end of August. The "nay" vote came from Mayor Karylinn Echols.
The decision has also been criticized by the Multnomah County Republican Party, which called Black Lives Matter a "radical Marxist BLM" group. Lenox said the flag should remain up indefinitely in support of Black community members.
During its meeting, Gresham Council stated a desire to do more in support of the local Black community.
"We can fly a flag, but we need to do a lot more to make our citizens feel safe," said Councilor Mario Palmero.
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