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Young demonstrators advocating for Black lives encounter menacing pushback from passerby

PMG PHOTO: HOLLY BARTHOLOMEW - West Linn students demonstrated on the corner of 10th Street and Blankenship Road near the I-205 on-ramp Friday, July 17.Nearly two months after the youth of West Linn began staging a solidarity vigil following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, the young activists are continuing to raise their voices.

After holding vigil at the corner of 10th Street and Blankenship Road nearly every day, the protesters have shifted the time of their demonstrations to 2 to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, hoping that the consolidated times will lead to bigger crowds.

While the young activists have seen a great deal of support, including from Michael Fesser — the Black man targeted by West Linn police in a false arrest in 2017, who has joined the demonstration on multiple occasions — some responses to the demonstrators have been far from friendly.

Passersby have flipped off the students, shaken their heads in dismay, made threatening gestures and yelled "all lives matter" and "go home."

Demonstrators Reagan Glynn, Christina Snyder and Shreeya Shrestha, who are all 15, said it's really disappointing and frustrating to see that kind of response from members of the community.

"It makes me angry seeing people against human rights," Snyder said as a woman drove by flipping off the group Friday afternoon.

Maddie Selby, one of the organizers of the demonstration, said she's been in contact with some members of the Concerned Citizens of West Linn group, which formed this year to demand accountability from the West Linn Police Department.

Selby said the group of young protesters wants WLPD to be reformed in a way that "doesn't harm Black and brown lives."

Selby said that in recent weeks she has spoken with two people of color on the mostly white West Linn police force, acting Chief Peter Mahuna and Captain Oddis Rollins, but said she'd like to also speak with white officers to gauge their understanding of the issues at hand.

"I have a feeling they (white officers) don't get it, because stuff is still happening," Selby said.

PMG PHOTO: HOLLY BARTHOLOMEW - The young protesters plan to demonstrate at the I-205 10th Street on-ramp from 2-7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.Glynn said she was at the demonstration because the lack of diversity in West Linn seems to be leading to a lack of awareness of the injustices Black people face.

Shresta said she met a Black man and his kids at a previous protest in West Linn, and he expressed gratitude for the support of the demonstrators.

"You really want to see support in a community that you don't see many people of your own color. Seeing the support and speaking out against police brutality is really important," Shrestha said.

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