West Linn students join Black Lives Matter movement
Solidarity vigils for black people killed by police and protests against police violence that spread throughout the nation over the weekend have spilled into the usually quiet suburbs south of Portland.
Students from West Linn High School spent Sunday, May 31 and Monday, June 1 next to a small shrine for George Floyd — a black man killed by Minneapolis police one week ago — at the 10th Street on-ramp to I-205, bearing "Black Lives Matter" signs.
Matilda Milner, a junior at WLHS, along with her friend Maddie Selby, organized the protests, which saw around 50 people join on Sunday.
"We know that West Linn is a town with a history of a very racist police department. Oregon is a state that was founded on white supremacy. It was founded to be a whites-only state," Milner said. "We think that any kind of activism or organization advocating for people of color in Oregon is especially important."
WLPD has come under intense scrutiny over the past several months for the unlawful and racially-motivated arrest of a black man from Portland in 2017.
Earlier that year, Tom Newberry, a West Linn officer, was fired for encouraging violence against Black Lives Matter activists and other racist social media posts.
Milner said she hopes this week's protest ensures people stay focused on this issue, noting the fast pace of today's newscycle.
"We're hoping that people who pass us by remember that police brutality is a real and prevalent issue in America and right here in West Linn, Oregon," Milner said.
Amanda Whittington, a WLHS junior, was at the protest all Sunday and again Monday.
"We need to keep coming out here to do what's right," Whittington said. "We can't have just one day where we're fighting for this and then all the other days we just forget about it. We need to keep making change. We can't just wait around for people to die."
Sydney Robertson, a graduating senior, joined the group Monday in support of friends who were unable to come because of COVID-19.
"I want people to know that they're not alone if they feel like they're in West Linn and they're alone, (that) they don't have other people fighting for them— there are," Whittington said.
Kenna Gubler, another student protester, said she was there because she wants people of color to be able to live their lives without fear.
Milner said, for the most part, passersby were supportive, waving or honking in solidarity, though a few have been less pleased with their protest.
"There has been a little bit of heckling, a little bit of 'Go home,' or 'All lives matter,' or people flipping us off," Milner said.
Milner said, so far, the students protesting have had no interactions with police.
Whittington said that it's important for her to be a part of this movement in a peaceful way, though she understands where all the anger is coming from.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.