Anti-racism protesters form Sandy STAND UP Movement
As protests in Portland continue, the Sandy area contingents of the Black Lives Matter movement also push forward.
The first week of June, Sandy saw two different demonstrations representing solidarity with the protests happening around the country. Participants called for police reform and justice for black Minnesota man George Floyd, who was killed by a white police officer May 25, as well as numerous other people of color who've experienced police brutality and systemic racism for decades.
A group in Welches has also joined the chorus calling for change with several small rallies taking place on the corner of Highway 26 and Welches Road in Welches. They gathered again this Saturday, despite a downpour and continued health risks from COVID-19.
The largest contingent of the local movement has taken up the name as the Sandy STAND UP Movement. Led by Sandy women Tracy George, Allison Cloo and Lindsay Jo Polk, Sandy STAND UP met again to peacefully protest on Sunday, June 14, in Centennial Plaza, and march down Sandy's main streets.
George noted that Sunday's event saw fewer people than the initial 140 or so who attended the June 5 march, but was overall still successful.
"This time, it was more focused on what we can do and not just spreading awareness (of racism in our community)," George said. "I think it's important to protest even now because when COVID goes away, this problem of racism isn't going to go away. If we miss this opportunity to speak out while others are speaking out, people aren't going to listen later. We are OK with putting ourselves at risk of this virus to speak for what we think is right and stand up for people who haven't had their voices heard."
George noted that the organizers are taking precautions, such as encouraging the wearing of masks and social distancing when possible. They also have been providing masks, gloves and hand sanitizer as much as possible.
George also reiterated that the Sandy STAND UP Movement is not an "anti-police" effort but has some suggestions on how to reform policing.
"I think when most people hear the word 'protest,' they think 'anti-police,'" George said. "At least us in Sandy, that's not what we're here for. We are not in support of getting rid of any police. We think things should be changed with how officers are being trained and protocols. (We heard suggestions at the march) of requiring apprenticeships before joining the police. There should be therapy or psych evaluations before (new officers) go through."
She also suggested that officers should have to go through training in deescalating situations involving people experiencing mental health episodes and that there should be methods of tracking and reviewing every time an officer uses their firearm.
In an interview preceding this weekend's march, Police Chief Ernie Roberts said: "I don't feel this is an anti-police protest."
"That's not the message we've been getting," he explained. Roberts was not available for further comment on the suggested changes to policing before publication of this article.
"In Sandy, you have honest, hard-working officers who are part of the community," Roberts added. "I've had very little anti-police contact. Two people from outside the area emailed about policies on use of force, but that's it."
Officers have been present in a peace officer capacity at both marches organized by the Sandy STAND UP Movement.
"For the most part, the folks in our community are appreciative," Roberts said. "Our policies and protocol are something we constantly work on. We'll always be proactive here. We train our people well over the minimum number of hours (in things like) bias training. We're not Minneapolis Police Department or Seattle Police Department. They are much larger, (and) we're not this large police department that has all of those problems. We realize here we're always learning as well."
With forward movement in mind, George and the Sandy STAND UP group took Sunday as an opportunity to "call out" other local community leaders for perceived inaction.
"We really called out the mayor and the school board because they have not reached out to ask what they can do to make sure minorities' voices are heard," George said. "Our goal is to have a meeting with them or get them to show up. The mayor posted on Facebook and we feel that just wasn't good enough. We feel like it's just for show."
In response to these comments, Mayor Stan Pulliam said: "It's great to call out leaders, but I think it's maybe more important to actually call your leaders," adding that he hasn't received any direct contact from local organizers.
"We on the Council are open and excited to have conversations with the community," Pulliam added. "Yes, we're absolutely looking to increase dialogue and action (around this issue)."
The mayor noted that he hopes anti-racism and police reform could be a topic of a City Council work session in the near future, allowing councilors to have a discussion with Chief Roberts and talk about possible improvements.
"I've not, as mayor, gotten any specific requests on reform," Pulliam explained. "But we're open to dialogue on best practices. We want to continue to have the best police department in the Portland Metro area. We need to find a local Sandy way of dealing with our Sandy issues."
Sandy STAND UP organizers are outlining potential future events, including additional COVID-conscious virtual town halls. Organizers have also started a fundraiser to gather money to help pay for future events, covering costs of water, venue rentals (like Centennial Plaza) and other expenses of hosting virtual forums, and they've also begun an unofficial petition to call for Confederate flags to be banned from all Oregon Trail School District campuses.
"When I went to Sandy High, I experienced that people really use (the Confederate flag) as a tool to invoke fear in people, and that shouldn't be allowed," George noted.
As someone who also attended Sandy High and grew up in the area, Pulliam added that "I've absolutely witnessed things I consider racist."
"My personal experiences growing up here are very different, for obvious reasons, than someone like Tracy's," he said. "I think it's important to acknowledge that the Confederate rebellion is a dark stain on our country's history and is not something that should be celebrated. We need to have a conversation about this as a community. I think it's important for all of us to engage in conversations with open ears and hearts about things we might otherwise not know about (from personal experience)."
For more information about the Sandy STAND UP Movement, visit the group's Facebook page.
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.