Portland mayor on Saturday gathering of far-right: 'They are not welcome'
Portland, along with the rest of the nation, is grappling with the hard and necessary work to bring racial justice to our communities. The tragic and unnecessary deaths of unarmed Black Americans, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and far too many others, launched a racial justice reckoning that is long overdue. The Black Lives Matter movement is important and inspiring and is challenging us to push for changes our city and our nation need.
There is much work to do, and city leaders are acting. In February of 2019, (Portland City) Council passed a resolution condemning white supremacy and alt-right hate groups, acknowledging Oregon's history of racism, and committing to training about the history and impact of white supremacy and how to identify and fight it.
On Sept. 29, council and city bureau directors will convene for the first session of the two-part training. Next, we will bring this training to all city employees. We are a proud sanctuary city. We invest in organizations focused on racial justice, have named Juneteenth as a city holiday, have declared the city of Portland an anti-racist organization, and are working quickly to bring new, non-police first responder options to our community safety system.
On Saturday, Sept. 26, a group of far-right extremists and white nationalist groups will be coming to our city. They have announced plans to together at Delta Park, the location of the historic Vanport City, which has important historical context. Vanport was created as a temporary housing project to keep Black residents out of Portland. It was also the site of a devastating flood in 1948. Intentional or not, these groups choosing Delta Park for this event is an insult.
While espousing patriotism and a commitment to peaceful protest, some in these groups and many who associate with them have a record of racism, intolerance and hate. Those are not Portland values, and they are not welcome. Hate has no home in Portland. Violence has no home in Portland. Anyone intending to intimidate, create fear, commit violence, or spread hate is not welcome here.
Meanwhile, Oregon's first responders are stretched to the limit fighting a pandemic since spring and the recent wildfires that raged across our state. For weeks, fire, police and other public safety agencies have crossed county lines, jurisdictional boundaries, and city limits to keep Oregonians safe from fires that have destroyed entire towns. We have lost hundreds of lives to COVID-19. We don't yet know how many more Oregonians were killed by the fires. And, we are fighting every day to keep community members employed, housed and safe from the pandemic. The arrival of these groups in our city, along with their organized effort to re-traumatize and inflict fear, particularly on communities of color, puts even more strain on our first responders.
We are a city of action. Portland has a proud tradition of protest. Progressive Portlanders are eager to go beyond hoping for change to make change. Local leaders embrace and support this value, and we are collectively responsible for ensuring the right to assemble and the right to free speech are protected.
We will always support the ability to gather, share ideas and protest — peacefully. But we have no tolerance for intimidation, racism, hate or violence. We are working with a wide variety of partners from around the region and the state to keep our community safe this weekend.
And finally, because the president is attempting to use Portland to stir up partisanship and divide our country, we must continue to stand firm in our shared values: progress, reform, justice. We must reject white supremacy and white nationalists. And, we must remain focused on the work that is leading our community to a better place.
This weekend, I ask every Portlander to take an action that puts good in the world and moves our community forward. Volunteer your time with organizations that are fighting for racial justice; advocate for change by writing to your city, county, state and federal representatives; learn about the history of Vanport and Delta Park. As we continue to push forward, let's prevent out-of-town bullies from gaining the satisfaction of slowing us down.
Ted Wheeler is mayor of Portland. He faces a reelection challenge in the November general election.
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