A three-part plan to begin healing our community
Editor's note: Portions of this editorial first appeared online last weekend, before Tuesday's emergence of a new coalition of Black leaders, Reimagine Oregon (Find their agenda at reimagineoregon.org) and Wednesday's announced withdrawal of federal officers from downtown Portland.
Wednesday's announcement that federal police officers will be leaving downtown Portland, starting tomorrow, is good news. There are huge risks — political and otherwise — in relying on state and local law enforcement agencies to "provide protection for free speech" and to thwart efforts to damage the federal courthouse.
But the departure of what had become an intense source of conflict offers hope for an end to weeks of senseless confrontation that distracted from the important conversation sparked by the death of George Floyd.
Over the weekend, the Tribune editorial board said dramatic action was needed to save Portland from immense reputational damage and from the very real possibility that someone — or many someones — will be more seriously injured or killed in the nightly clashes between a small but riotous faction of protesters and federal officers.
Step 1 was to immediately end that standoff and Gov. Kate Brown's deal, announced Wednesday morning, seems to have done that. At least for now.
Step 2 was to revert the conversation to Black Lives Matter and institutional racism, rather than rubber bullets and tear gas. We hope the departure of federal officers will do that, but there's no guarantee.
Those protesting for overdue systematic change need to step up their message:
Combatting racism — not destroying federal property — is the goal. Every protester should turn to the Black community and ask: Is my form of protest helping? If the consensus is "no," then stop.
Step 3 was is to find a new rebalance of trust between the police and the community they serve.
This will require our community to listen carefully to African American leadership. As of Tuesday, July 28, that means Reimagine Oregon (reimagineoregon.org). This coalition has the plan. It's far more comprehensive than just policing. If we listen and act, this group can help lead our city and our state out of the situation we're in.
Reimagine Oregon has the playbook for creating a better state. Already the movement has gained the support of community leaders from our U.S. senators to Gov. Brown, from Mayor Ted Wheeler to Metro leadership, from the Legislature to Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas county officials.
Reimagine Oregon has laid out policy demands in the areas of education, police divestment, housing, health, transportation, economic development, the legislative process and community safety.
The list is comprehensive. Some tasks will come easily (and are already in the works). Some will be a slog. Elected bodies, the business community, the faith and nonprofit communities, and the media should get behind this list, shoulders to the wheel. Not everything will get done. A great deal of it should.
In our original editorial, posted over the weekend, we said the issue of systemic racism isn't just about policing. It involves education, health care, land use policy, financial institutions and the media, to name a few. Reimagine Oregon was well on its way to address all of those issues.
We called for leadership. It was already here. Now it's time for us to listen and find ways to support it.
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