New city councilor sworn in amid opposition
A handful of citizens expected to gather with American flags and pro-police signs in Newberg on Monday, marching in opposition to the city's newest council member. But the protest never materialized and the group failed to follow through on days of vitriolic Facebook posts and comments admonishing the new councilor's political views.
Jules Martinez-Plancarte – the first Latina to serve on the council – takes office amid plenty of controversy and tumult at the city of Newberg, but her appointment has brought its own backlash from a sect of Facebook users. Martinez-Plancarte's past Facebook posts about police mistreatment of minorities were perceived by some as anti-police and she has expressed support for the activists of Black Lives Matter – a national movement that formed in 2013 to (according to its website) "advocate for freedom, liberation and justice" on behalf of black Americans in the wake of various police shootings.
While the short history of BLM is complicated by the tactics of a small minority of its activists – including some who have turned to violence at a few demonstrations – protests have largely been peaceful and only at times provocative. That hasn't stopped the forming of opposition movements such as "All Lives Matter" and the pro-police "Blue Lives Matter," which often push back against claims that black Americans are oppressed or are killed disproportionately by police.
Local resident Stauros Gibson had planned a "flag waving" in Newberg in opposition to Martinez-Plancarte's appointment. Gibson – whose profile picture is a "Blue Lives Matter" flag and who constantly posts pro-police content on social media – called Martinez-Plancarte a "radical BLM activist" in various Facebook comments in local citizens' groups and claimed that the planned protest was in support of local police officers, along with victims of sexual harassment at the city of Newberg.
Other seemingly angry commenters joined in the small chorus of opposition to Martinez-Plancarte's appointment, with one woman comparing Black Lives Matter to the Ku Klux Klan. Others didn't go so far, but they followed along the same lines of vociferous political disagreement with Martinez-Plancarte.
That sparked comments defending Martinez-Plancarte and asking protestors to consider the consequences of their words and actions. User Beth McDonough Woolsey pointed out the insensitivity such a protest might portray when the city swears in its first Latina council member.
"I'm not asking you not to protest — I believe wholeheartedly in free, public speech and your right to believe very different things than Jules does," she wrote. "I just feel like you may not be meaning to send the message on Monday that the Newberg Latinx community will likely hear if you wave American flags and carry NDPD and anti-sexual harassment signs, which is that you feel Jules is either anti-American or not an American, that the Newberg-Dundee Police Department is pitted against the Latinx community, and that Jules is pro-sexual harassment."
Opponents to Martinez-Plancarte's appointment argue that race isn't the issue and saw no issue with white protestors taking to the streets to wave American flags in protest of the city's first Latina councilor. Still, nobody showed up on Monday when it came time to voice their concerns. Supporters of the councilor, however, filled the council chambers when she was sworn in Monday.
Police department, councilor respond
This situation hasn't just been a cacophony of Facebook comments from people who can't agree on whose lives matter more. The actual parties involved – Martinez-Plancarte and the Newberg-Dundee Police Department – released statements through the city on Sunday in response to the online discourse.
Martinez-Plancarte said she is a proud Newberg High School graduate with deep roots in the community and she hopes to fight for "affordable housing, transportation and health services for all residents" in her time on the council. Her goal, she said, is to make the city more inclusive for all people – especially those in the Latinx community.
"It is my duty as the new appointed Newberg City Councilor to engage and build trust with a variety of organizations, non-profits and community leaders in order to better serve our residents," she said. "This includes the Newberg-Dundee Police Department. I support the work of the Newberg-Dundee Police Department in their role of protecting the rights and safety of all Newberg residents. I look forward to engaging with NDPD to better understand their role and impact in our community."
In its statement, NDPD expressed a desire to work with all appointed and elected officials in the community. That includes those with a variety of political views and backgrounds.
"A fortunate thing to develop in 21st century policing is the encouragement to consider other people's perspectives and backgrounds while working toward solutions," the statement read. "It has not always been that way. Our police department strives to form these connections and believes we are all more alike than we differ.
"We encourage partnerships with our city leadership and will always support respectful dialogue. At the end of the day, the perspective of the community we serve is what matters."
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