'Wonderbread' West Linn protests racism
Dirty looks from strangers at the grocery store, being tailed by police officers every day, women clutching their purses in fear, being repeatedly pulled over without reason, being called the n-word, being arrested or tased by police after calm, polite conversations with officers.
These are just a few examples of the racism people of color said they have endured in West Linn.
Protestors shared these encounters and more thoughts on racism with a crowd of around 200 people at a peaceful protest at Willamette Park in West Linn Thursday, June 18.
Thursday's protest was organized by Jaydon and Amani Grant, who grew up in West Linn and whose father, former Portland Trail Blazer Brian Grant, still lives in West Linn.
Leading up to Thursday's protest, the Grant brothers worked with Michael Fesser, the Portland man wrongfully arrested by West Linn police in 2017 following a racist investigation.
"This is the place that brought pain and hurt to my family, friends and loved ones," Fesser said Thursday."I understand that we're in a better place today. I could not say this a few weeks ago because this community and some of the higher ups have been telling nothing but lies."
Fesser noted that two officers from WLPD, Captain Oddis Rollins and Acting Chief Peter Mahuna (who attended the protest), have recently begun conversations with him about how the department and the community can do better. Since new revelations of Fesser's arrest plunged the city into scandal in February, he has said he wanted to have ongoing conversations with West Linn leaders about racism in the community and how to move forward. He'd like to build a bridge between his own community in North Portland and the predominantly white community of West Linn, he said.
Several who spoke at Thursday's protest expressed a sense of urgency to move forward and put a stop to racism in the community.
Jaydon Grant said that for the people of Minneapolis, the death of George Floyd hit differently than other instances of police brutality, sparking the mass movement and sweeping police reform seen in that city.
"Seeing a police officer kill a man with his knee on his neck as he's gasping for life, saying he can't breath, that hit differently for the people in that community," he said. "Let's not wait till it hits different here. Let's not wait till there's an African American in this community who becomes the next George Floyd."
Jaydon Grant also mentioned the importance of working with police officers rather than fighting them.
"We're not getting anywhere if our own community is at war with our own police department," he said. "Whatever feelings you have toward the police department, whether you like it or not, they are part of the community."
Jaydon Grant said he's also been working with police over the past few weeks. Officers and members of the community, especially people of color, need to get to know eachother better, he said.
Amani Grant said that policing and protection are necessary, but only if they work for everyone.
Ken Pryor, a black West Linn man, called out the racial homogeneity in leadership positions in the city and noted his kids call the town "Wonderbread" for its whiteness.
"One of the things that disturbed me most about West Linn was the complacency of voters," Pryor said.
He said he ran for City Council and lost but ended up working with the committee for citizen involvement, a council advisory group.
Working with the committee, he said he got a good view of the bias and lack of diversity at the city. Still, he said he was encouraged by the diversity present at the protest, and at demonstrations around the world.
One common theme mentioned by several speakers was the important role youth play in the fight for racial justice. The Grant brothers are 22 and 24. Fesser invited both of them, along with 17-year-olds Matilda Milner and Maddie Selby, who organized the protests that have taken place along 10th Street for the past two weeks, to his meeting earlier in the day with Mahuna and Rollins.
"I saw 25 white kids in West Linn at a protest or vigil about Black Lives Matter," Fesser said.
He and his kids ended up joining the student protestors for several hours.
"It's this young generation, these guys, why this thing is going to be what it is," he said. "And we're going to keep doing it, we're not going to stop."
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