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Youth-led Black Lives Matter march aims to 'Break the White Silence' in Southwest Portland

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - A group marches along Multnomah Boulevard in Southwest Portland Saturday, Nov. 7. The Black Lives Matter march was organized by local Black youth and allies.In what was likely the largest Black Lives Matter demonstration in Portland's Southwest neighborhood, hundreds took to Multnomah Boulevard Saturday, Nov. 7.

The youth-led and organized "Break the White Silence" event drew a large crowd to the Sears Army Reserve parking lot in Multnomah Village before the group marched west, overtaking the street. Along the way, protesters who marched held hand-painted signs and chanted. Saturday afternoon's march was the first since the United States confirmed Joe Biden was the new president-elect.

"Just because Biden won doesn't mean the work is done," marchers chanted, as heavy rain poured from the sky.

Saturday afternoon's march was planned and organized by Fridays4Freedom, a Black youth-led collective of activists and supporters.

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Keenan Gray leads group chants as a march makes its way down Multnomah Boulevard in Multnomah Village. Event organizers cautioned that a democratic president won't fix systemic racism or police brutality.

Aslan Newson, a Wilson High School student who helped organize the event, called Biden "the better of two evils," but noted, "we still have a long way to go."

"We've been planning this event for a while because our theme is 'breaking the white silence,' because Southwest is the whitest part of this city and we live in the whitest major city in the country, so we just feel like they're being a little too quiet. … We're asking them to come out for us, and they are. We just want to see their support today," Newson said Saturday, before leading marchers with a megaphone.

As the streets filled with protesters on foot, citizen traffic control helped divert cars away from the march onto side roads.

Some who dined in restaurants along the boulevard stepped out to get a glimpse of the march. Lee Spector was among those who observed from the sidewalk as the march passed. Spector said his son was among the marchers.

"My son who's 24 told me about it," he said, noting he'd marched a few blocks with the crowd before stepping out to observe. His son stayed with the crowd and marched.

Spector said he supported the action, and the movement.

"I've learned a lot from my kids over the last several months," he noted. PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - A child holds a sign during a 'Break the White Silence' youth-led event in support of Black Lives Matter Saturday, Nov. 7.

Nearly two hours later, protesters returned to the parking lot to listen to young speakers, who rallied the crowd with calls to action and urged them to join their Black neighbors and friends in the streets.

"I'm here asking you to come back and keep fighting for Black lives," Wilson High School student Molly Cogburn-Frary told the crowd.

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Demonstrators hold signs along Multnomah Boulevard in Southwest Portland shortly before a massive Black Lives Matter march overtook the street."Black Lives Matter is not just a yard sign," another speaker named Jahdi, who led marchers with chants, told those who reconvened in the armory parking lot. "Supporting Black lives is not just having a couple Black friends."

A largely white crowd listened to calls for action in the form of reparations and on-the-ground support at marches, over "performative allyship."

Saturday's event wasn't the first in Southwest Portland. The week prior, on Oct. 28, a group of Wilson High School parents teamed up with Rose City Justice to host a rally at Gabriel Park, with music, speakers and a short march. Roughly 100 people turned out for the event, which was promoted as a "family-friendly" event in support of Black Lives Matter.

Multnomah Village residents have also taken to lining the boulevard on a regular basis with Black Lives Matter signs, drawing attention from passing motorists.

This story has been updated since it first published.

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