A Portland Community College board member is calling on Hillsboro City Councilor Beach Pace to resign following an interaction the two elected officials had at a recent protest for racial justice in downtown Hillsboro.
Alex Diaz Rios represents Zone 7, an area that covers western Washington County, including Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Banks and Gaston on PCC's board of directors. The 25-year-old ran unopposed for the seat last year.
During a protest at the Hillsboro Civic Center on Friday, June 5, Diaz Rios spoke to a crowd of about 400, demanding elected officials act to end police brutality and systemic racism. Like many speakers at the protest, Diaz Rios said he is afraid to interact with local police and said he has experienced racial bias from officers in the past.
In his comments, Diaz Rios pointed out that, previously in the protest, Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway and City Councilor Beach Pace didn't respond to a protester who pressured them to ban tear gas and long-range acoustic devices (LRDs), which use high-frequency noise to cause pain or discomfort in people's ears.
City Councilor Olivia Alcaire was the only city official to state she opposes such crowd control tactics.
The day after the protest, Diaz Rios circulated a letter on PCC letterhead describing his comments at the protest and calling on Pace to resign from the city council following a brief exchange they had.
"Upon her departure (from the protest), Beach Pace pulled me aside to say, 'Thanks for throwing me under the bus. By the way, Hillsboro Police do not use tear gas,'" read Diaz Rios' letter in part. "My frustrations towards our elected officials were not targeted at any one individual but at a systemic failure to action that has continued to hurt Black and Brown communities for years."
Hillsboro Police Department officers don't have access to tear gas or LRDs, said Sgt. Eric Bunday. The department is, however, a part of a multiagency unit, along with the Washington County Sheriff's Office and the Beaverton Police Department, that can respond to riots or other civil disturbances and deploy tear gas, he said.
Diaz Rios continued, "Her response to my call to action felt like a personal, pointed attack, as she addressed me in private while she did not refute any comments said by protestors publicly to the crowd.
"While I did not mention anything about Councilwoman Pace in my first speech, after the confrontation, with my body shaking and close to tears, I shared the encounter with the crowd because I will not be intimidated or silenced."
On Sunday, Pace addressed the interaction in a post on Facebook.
"I regret my comment, tone, and timing," Pace said in part. "I have apologized to the person to whom I made the comment. My words did not help bring people together. I will continue to serve the Hillsboro community by showing up, listening, and learning."
Pace also sent an apology directly to Diaz Rios, she said.
The same day, Diaz Rios said in a Facebook post he resubmitted the letter calling for Pace's resignation to Hillsboro officials. The letter was resubmitted without the PCC letterhead to clarify the letter didn't represent the position of the entire PCC board, he said.
Board Chair Jim Harper said Monday Diaz Rios didn't notify board members of his intent to write the letter or use the PCC letterhead.
Kate Chester, director of public relations and community engagement at PCC, said Monday she would check whether Diaz Rios' use of the PCC letterhead without consulting the board violated any board policies.
In an interview Monday, Pace reiterated her regret about the interaction with Diaz Rios and she hoped to move past it, working at the city to develop policies that improve racial justice in policing.
Pace's wife is an officer in the Hillsboro Police Department.
"It's always important to look at policies and procedures, at any organization, and assess and make sure that there's equity involved in it," Pace said, adding that equity is a top priority of the Hillsboro City Council.
She said she looked forward to an upcoming briefing about police procedures and a work session on Tuesday, June 16, to discuss how to make them more equitable.
Diaz Rios said Monday he still thinks Pace should resign. He said if she were to share more publicly her commitment to changing specific police policies and procedures, "it would mend a lot of hearts."
Diaz Rios was dissatisfied that Pace's apology focused on listening rather than taking action, he said.
"That rhetoric of 'we're going to listen' is no longer going to be accepted throughout our country," Diaz Rios said.
The protest in Hillsboro on Friday followed weeks of protests that have taken place across the region and around the world since the killing of George Floyd on May 25.
Floyd, an African American man, died after pleading repeatedly for help and telling police officers he couldn't breathe while a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed him to the ground with a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd's death was captured on video, which quickly spread across the internet to global outrage.
Chauvin has since been fired, and he and three other officers are facing charges over Floyd's death. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder.
The Minneapolis City Council declared its intention this week to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department altogether, with councilors saying that decades of trying to reform it have not had the desired result. Some activists have called for similar action in Portland, where there have been nightly protests over Floyd's death for nearly two weeks.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify the chronology of Diaz Rios and Pace's exchange at the protest.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.