Rallies between two groups in Sherwood raucous but peaceful
(This story corrects an earlier photo caption regarding Cherie Greene's grandfather and great-great grandfather as well as adding an article regarding what prompted the protest.)
What initially was planned as a rally in support of all kids' lives, sponsored by a group supporting President Trump, ended up with a counter rally as the two groups squared off on separate sides of Sherwood's Main Street Friday afternoon, each holding signs and engaging in impassioned -- and oftentimes loud -- support for their respective causes.
Earlier in the week, an Oregonians for Trump Facebook page announced an "All Kids Matter" rally planned for 2 to 4 p.m. in front of the Sherwood School District headquarters in response to a document the district had released entitled "Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice." The document contained links that included encouraging voters to vote for Democratic candidates and ways to disrupt "white space" among other issues, according to the Facebook post.
"THIS WILL BE a peaceful rally, so if you come to cause trouble – please stay away," read a portion of the post, which added that those supporting racism or white supremacy weren't welcome.
But a few days later, another group said it would host a Black Kids Matter Unity Event, posting that they believed the Trump-support rally "has nothing to do with our children and is a direct reaction to the Black lives matter movement."
As the rally began, a man who members of the crowd identified as David, rallied the All Kids Matter side of the crowd, walking along the side of the street in front of the Sherwood School District, loudly talking through a megaphone for almost the entire two hours of their planned event. At one point, he said that all Sherwood School Board members should step down.
Holding an American flag and wearing a Trump shirt, a man who identified himself as Grant, said he came to the rally based on what he felt was a push by School Board members to indoctrinate students.
He said he believes some teachers express their own views to students, adding that "teachers just need to keep politics out of school until a certain age."
Grant, a Newberg resident, said his best friend in school was Black, and objected to those on the other side of the street who he said wanted to show his kids there's a racial divide, noting he believes his children up to this point "were colorblind and now they're not."
Jeff Lee, a Sherwood resident, said he didn't initially know what side of the street to stand on but ended up standing on the All Kids Matter side. He too was there to protest what he said was the school district's push of a particular ideology, objecting to what he said were documents that supported candidates who were Democrats.
"I would be opposed to any ideology that's specifically recommended by the school district," said Lee. "So that's why I came down here. I'm actually an Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard fan."
On Tuesday, the Sherwood School District posted an online statement saying while they stood by their commitment to act as anti-racist leaders, they apologized for including a "resource that we did not thoroughly vet, which made suggestions about how to vote in the upcoming election."
One vocal rally member standing on the Trump-supporter side of the street was wearing a Proud Boys T-shirt, considered by many as a far-right group that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as a hate group. One observer said some Trump rally members tried to get the man to leave.
Meanwhile, on the Black Kids Matter Unity Event side of the street (in front of the Sherwood Community Friends Church), Lindsay Boisvert said she disagreed with the Trump supporters' take on several issues.
"I don't think this is about 'all kids matter' to them because if they looked at it, the school had already made an apology and realized (the district) were in the wrong," said Boisvert, who will be a Sherwood High School junior next year. While she understands that it's anyone's First Amendment right to express themselves, she felt that the pro-Trump group were using their rally to attack those "who care about schools and (turn) it into something mocking the Black Lives Matter movement with 'All Kids Matter.'"
Another student, Hannah Ettelstein, who will be a SHS senior next year, said "if all lives matter than people protesting (in support of) Black lives, shouldn't irritate them."
Patrick Briggs, a member of the progressive group Our Indivisible Revolution Sherwood, said he believes that the majority of Sherwood residents are in support of the Black Lives Matter movement based on a previous rally held several weeks ago where he said more than 500 people showed up for an event he called "super positive."
"These people, I don't believe they understand the situation," Briggs said of the members of the All Lives Matter group. "You can't have all lives matter until you actually deal with Black lives."
At one point the two groups exchanged alternating chants of "Black Lives Matter" to a response of "Protect All Kids."
"I am incredibly heartened by the showing of support from not only our local community but people in Portland that … believe that all our communities deserve respect, protection and love," said Cyncyrie Cruz, one of the organizers of the Black Kids Matter Unity Event. (A head count conducted not long after 2:30 p.m. showed more than 50 people on the All Kids Matter rally side of the street and more than 100 on the Black Kids Matter Unity Event side.)
Several times during the event, Cruz, a Tigard resident, crossed the street to talk with the Trump supporters, engaging them in conversations, later offering the group a chest filled with cold drinks that were rebuffed by one individual but accepted by a mother who thanked her. Cruz said her discussions with the group didn't seem to resolve any divides between the two sides.
Still, Cruz said she was pleasantly surprised with the turnout on her side of the street.
"I'm honestly pleased with how it's gone so far," she said. "I really hope our side can temper their reactions to what's being said because some of what's being said is really upsetting and it's hard for me to control that emotion as a mother."
She said she knows what her group is doing is important and it's not something that will end next month or next year.
Ty Hanlon, a spokesman for the Sherwood Police Department, said although there were nine officers at the event, "all went well and ended well" by the time the two groups dispersed.
Online link prompts protest
The reported impetus for an Oregonians for Trump "All Kids Matter" rally in front of the Sherwood School District on July 10 was a response an article linked to an online statement issued June 4 by the Sherwood School Board.
In general, the board addressed issues of racism and the recent deaths of African Americans at the hands of police. It also spoke about creating "safe, affirming and equitable learning environments for all students and staff" as well as advocating to "engage in active antiracism as a means to challenge long-standing systematic oppression in order to create sustainable and lasting change."
However, one of the links the district included was to an article entitled "Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice: Moving from Actor (to) Ally (to) Accomplice," which included a section on electoral politics that read: "Vote for Democrats. Exception could be voting for candidates of color in elections where a White person and a person of Color are running for the same position form the same political party." That same section also urged readers to donate to progressive politicians "who are trying to unseat incumbent Republicans/conservatives."
Another issue of contention for some was part of the same article that advocated disrupting "White spaces."
"I resent my tax dollars being spent on this," Adrian Toader, the father of four children in the Sherwood School District wrote in a letter to the editor.
The district apologized for the posting on its website on July 7.
"We learned about it from an individual who we believe is a Sherwood parent – we then then removed the resource from the list," Superintendent Heather Cordie wrote in an email Monday. "We regret very much that error, and if/when we provide resources in the future, nothing will be provided without complete and thorough vetting by me and my team."
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