Lake Oswego community experiences racially-driven vandalism
Lake Oswego resident Andrea Montag walked outside her home recently to find a handwritten note stating "All Lives Matter" taped over her yard sign supporting inclusivity and the Black Lives Matter movement.
"Whoever taped the yellow piece of paper with the words they wrote probably had done it while it was dark outside," Montag said. "At first I was confused and then at different parts of the day it was just a mix of emotions … I felt very violated, especially as a person of color."
Unfortunately, Montag isn't the only one in the community who has experienced racially-driven vandalism or other racist incidents recently.
One resident told the Review she'd had three different signs vandalized and another woman on the Lake Oswego Moms Facebook page posted a photo of the word "Black" cut from her Black Lives Matter sign.
In the midst of nationwide protests supporting Black Lives Matter and pushing for a more equitable society, racially-charged incidents have continued to be brought to the forefront.
"Ultimately what this really comes down to is people being kind to each other," said Lake Oswego Police Department Sgt. Tom Hamann. "It's OK to have different opinions and we don't have to destroy each other because we have different opinions. The more we can show grace and be kind to each other, the more we can accomplish and the more problems we can solve."
Over the last couple months, community members have reported a slew of racist comments on social media sites like Nextdoor, including vandalism to yard signs, construction equipment and school property.
In early August, someone graffitied "Black Lives Matter" on a piece of construction equipment.
"Somebody else came by and graffitied, crossing that out and writing the N-word on it," Hamann said.
On Thursday, Aug. 27, Lake Oswego resident Alana Kent and her daughter were at River Grove Elementary tending to the garden when they noticed the school's readerboard — which read "We in LOSD stand in solidarity that Black Lives Matter" — had been vandalized.
"I noticed there had been intentional — either spray paint or adhesive — that had been put on the sign to cover the word 'Black,'" said Kent, adding that the community came together and replaced the plexiglass covering the reader board that evening. But someone again vandalized the plexiglass over the word "Black."
"That, however, came off a bit easier. Not all of it came off, but some of it did," Kent said. "We chalked the side of the sidewalk and brought hearts. All of the kiddos just wrote love stuff on the hearts."
Ana Ryan, head secretary at River Grove Elementary said the sign has been vandalized in various ways roughly six times since the end of June.
Hamann said it's important to report these types of incidents to the police. Even though the culprit might not have been caught on video or seen, Hamann said it's important for documentation purposes.
"There's a hotline they (victims of bias crimes) can call but also there's a website if somebody just basically Googles 'Oregon report bias crime' or they go to the Department of Justice website, there's a whole tab for bias crimes," Hamann said.
He added that by labeling the reports as bias incidents, it provides a vehicle for tracking such crimes at the state level.
When an incident does occur, Hamann said the LOPD also tries to provide extra patrols in the area as time allows.
"We ask our patrol officers to try to spend a little extra time in those neighborhoods when they're not handling other calls or things like that," Hamann said.
Though Montag said she filed a police report, it doesn't take away the unwelcome feelings she's experienced.
According to Montag, to be a person of color "who feels violated by another community member is a whole new level and something I never thought I'd feel."
Respond to Racism co-founder Willie Poinsette said she's noticed people going on rants on Nextdoor recently.
"The Black Lives Matter has raised a lot of comments where people are coming back with 'All Lives Matter' because they don't understand what Black Lives Matter means or they don't want to hear it," said Poinsette, adding that destruction and vandalism has been prevalent throughout the city. "It's all over the place, that there are folks not wanting to see us with Black lives (signage) and of course, the mayor's statement didn't help."
Poinsette was referring to Mayor Kent Studebaker's interview with KOIN 6 News on the AM Extra Monday, Aug. 24, when he referred to a recent racist incident that occurred in the city as a "one-off" situation. He was discussing the letter neighbors sent to a Lake Oswego resident that requested the removal of their window signage highlighting police violence and showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
In the letter, the neighbors said the signage was driving down property values.
Also during the interview, Studebaker addressed Black Lives Matter protests in Portland and elsewhere.
"I am sorry to see people using that issue as a way to loot and destroy property," he said during the interview. "It's not just Black lives that matter, I think all lives matter — whether it's Black, Asian, white, whatever."
"People do a lot of talking on Nextdoor but if I'm not seeing them at Respond to Racism or trying to do anything else other than just talk, that talk is cheap. It means nothing," Poinsette said.
The non-emergency hotline number for bias incidents is 1-844-924-2427. To report an incident to the LOPD, call 503-635-0238.
"That kind of thing is totally unacceptable … we should document that and if we're able to identify who did it, that's ideal and those people should be held to account for that. If not, then it should be documented so we can more accurately record the amount that (it) is happening," Hamann said. "This is a difficult time for everyone. We should be kind to each other and we all have to do our part to keep our community safe. We are doing our best to do that and people should report if they see behavior that is suspicious and report things when they happen so we document and address them."
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