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Mayor of Portland addresses why he ventured into the protests on Wednesday, July 22, and the stories he heard.

PMG PHOTO: DANA HAYNES - Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler stood on a pedestal outside the Justice Center on Wednesday and used a bullhorn provided by the group, Portland Justice, to address an angry crowd.

On the national and local news, the story played over and over: federal officials spraying tear gas at the mayor of a major American city.

I hope that coverage inspires people across the United States to resist President Trump's dangerous, ominous takeover of progressive cities. He is seizing on one of the most important moments of our lifetime — the call for restorative justice and transformative systemic change — for his own political gain. And he's jeopardizing American democracy in the process.

But the night of July 22 wasn't about the president, and it wasn't about me.

PMG PHOTO: JON HOUSE - Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was surrounded by protesters during a recent listening session near the Justice Center and federal courthouse. I joined protesters in downtown Portland to listen, so I could help center and lift up their voices as we continue the fight for racial justice. If we're going to dismantle racist systems and structures, then we need to understand how they're hurting people. And we need to rebuild our community so Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color experience the safety and well-being that others already enjoy.

People are mad, and they let me know — sometimes with very strong words. I am humbled that many of those protesters fought through their anger to share what's on their minds, and in their hearts. That's what I will forever carry with me.

A volunteer medic told their story of getting shot by federal officers while helping a bleeding protester on the corner. "Where were your officers to protect me — someone who's here to save lives?" was the medic's question.

I hear you.

A Black teenager told me about getting sent to an alternative high school after he was forced out of his neighborhood school for fighting. He wants a second chance.

I hear you.

A biracial woman is finding her place in this movement as somebody who is both White and Mexican. She says this moment is, rightfully, not about her. And she is scared.

I hear you.

A White mom wanted to know why I came to see the Wall of Moms — but didn't take action years ago, when Black moms were calling attention to racism.

I hear you.

A Black woman told me she's been fighting racism her whole life. She asked me to fight now, for the rest of my life.

I hear you.

A Black dad wanted to know how he's supposed to talk to his 9-year-old, when he can't trust the police to protect their family. "What do I tell my son when he goes to his friend's house or goes to school?" he asked.

I hear you. And I want to repeat the words I shared, from my heart.

Here's what I want that 9-year-old boy to know: "That his father was there when we began the fundamental reform of policing that we have needed in this country for a long, long time."

That dad came downtown last week to create change. Tens of thousands of people in our community have also shown up over the past two months. Young, old, Black, White, angry, scared, traumatized, energized. People who've been fighting for racial justice all their lives, and people who've just woken up to our country's ugly history of racism.

It's time to reimagine what community safety looks like in Portland. We've made significant progress, but we have a long way to go. We understand that there is still much work to do around police reform to re-imagine what public safety can be and should be, for everyone in our community. And we must see this through.

Thank you for being here to make sure Portland rises to the moment. Thank you for sharing your stories.

I am proud to be your mayor. I am here with you. And I will be the leader you deserve.

Ted Wheeler serves as mayor of Portland.


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