George Floyd protesters march in Portland area suburbs
Holding a megaphone before a crowd assembled Tuesday, June 2, in memory of George Floyd, Markayla Ballard said she had no idea that so many people would show up for the weekday afternoon demonstration in Tualatin.
When she originally came up with the idea of a protest and march, the 2017 Tualatin High School alumna thought she would simply walk through downtown Tualatin and see how many people would join her in calling attention to Floyd's death on May 25, when a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes even after he stopped breathing.
But a Facebook post showed a lot of people were interested in joining her.
Still, she said she was surprised when Tualatin police knocked on her door Monday asking about her plans for the march. What surprised her event more was that they were "compassionate and really on our side and just wanting safety and peace," she remarked.
And that's exactly what Ballard wanted as well, she said. She wanted to highlight the way that black people, like her and like Floyd, have been mistreated by police in cities across the United States, and she said the officers who came to her door were sympathetic to her cause.
As Ballard looked at all those gathered at the Lake of the Commons before the march started, she said she was impressed with the sheer numbers who had joined her — more than 1,000, by one observer's count.
"I think that growing up here, I've always been met with some sort of backlash from speaking out about the racism I faced here," said Ballard, who was socially active even as a teenager. She was profiled in The Times more than four years ago, when she organized a screening of the documentary "Black Girl in Suburbia" at her school.
She added, "Seeing these people here and in person that are here to support obviously not only me but the bigger picture is amazing."
Speaking as a black woman who grew up in Tualatin, Ballard said, "There's a lot of racism that goes on that a lot of people aren't necessarily aware of. ... It's so nice to see people here that are actually here to speak out against that."
With their backs against the wall of an outbuilding, Emma Burton, Lilly French and Ella Hillier used black markers to create signs reading "Black Lives Matter" and "No Justice, No Peace."
Burton, a Tualatin High School graduate, said that going to protest in Portland during the pandemic seemed like too much of a risk for her but she believed that the Tualatin march would be a good way to get out and march for change.
Her friend agreed.
"I think people are really angry and people are upset at the way that racism is so clearly systemic and clearly affecting the lives of our neighbors and I think this march is a good way to tell our communities what's going on and that we want to do something about it," said French, who graduated from Canby High School and now who also attends Goshen College in Indiana.
At 3:30 p.m., Ballard spoke to the crowd, joined minutes later by others including Abdirahim Mohamoud, president of the Black Student Union at Tigard High School. An incoming senior, Mohamoud mentioned the names of black Americans killed in recent years by police.
"Who's next?" he asked rhetorically.
Pastor Adam Ericksen of the Clackamas United Church of Christ in Milwaukie, also addressed the crowd, stressing that "black lives matter" and admonishing his "white brothers and sisters" to not forget about this moment.
"From the beginning of this nation, it has been based on race and looting of Africa and of our indigenous siblings, and we got to make it stop, and it's going to stop now with us," said Ericksen."
Moments later, Ballard led the crowd forward with the words "let's march," and the group followed her on a route that traveled from the Commons to Southwest Martinazzi Avenue, Warm Springs Street to Southwest Boones Ferry Road, and back down Martinazzi Avenue before ending back at the Commons.
Among those walking alongside the marchers was Sgt. Nate Cooper, a spokesperson for the Tualatin Police Department, who later said no incidents were reported during the protest.
"I think the event went great," Cooper said, who had the opportunity to address marchers: "I did tell the crowd that we didn't agree with what happened in Minnesota, and that we fully supported them."
Tualatin's demonstration was one of several that have been organized in Washington County in recent days. Rallies have also been held in Forest Grove and Beaverton, including a Sunday afternoon march along Southwest Scholls Ferry Road. Those demonstrations were also held peacefully and without police intervention.
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