Portland Occupier http://www.portlandoccupier.org News From The Occupation Wed, 19 Oct 2016 07:48:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 City Council Ignores Voices of People of Color; Rewards Police Violence with New Contract http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/10/18/city-council-ignores-voices-of-people-of-color-rewards-police-violence-with-new-contract/ http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/10/18/city-council-ignores-voices-of-people-of-color-rewards-police-violence-with-new-contract/#respond Tue, 18 Oct 2016 16:00:02 +0000 http://www.portlandoccupier.org/?p=10950  

Photo by Justin Norton-Kertson

Photo by Justin Norton-Kertson

Story by Pete Shaw

Let’s skip the formalities and conventions and get right to the point: Mayor Charlie Hales, Commissioner Nick Fish, and Commissioner Amanda Fritz are racists. They are dangerous racists whose recent support for the new police contract shows a complete disregard for the lives of people of color–particularly Black people–and an equally callous ignorance of the harassment, humiliation, intimidation, brutality, and murder the Portland police inflict upon communities of color, particularly Black communities. In supporting the pact, Hales, Fish, and Fritz have afforded even more protection to a police force with a well-documented history of racism and excessive violence.

Obviously Hales, Fish, and Fritz do not run around waving Nazi flags, shouting racist obscenities, and wearing Ku Klux Klan outfits (although Hales did reinstate Mark Kruger to the police force despite the man setting up a shrine to his fallen Nazi heroes on Rocky Butte). But they do represent this city, and they have the power of crafting and passing many of the rules and laws by which we live. One might hazard a guess that by now, after video upon video upon video of police murdering Black people, the police would be understood as an institution that wields inordinate power often at the expense of people of color.

And that is why Hales, Fish, and Fritz are dangerous. It is bad enough that the months-long negotiations between Hales and the Portland Police Association (PPA) were kept secret until a draft of the contract was released about a month ago. The lack of public input alone should have made the rest of the council members–if they cared–not just oppose the contract on the most basic of democratic principles, but as well condemn Hales for his clear contempt for those principles.

Photo by Justin Norton-Kertson

Photo by Justin Norton-Kertson

But the contract itself is, as Portland NAACP president Jo Ann Hardesty wrote in an Oregonian column “nothing short of criminal…(it) is woefully inadequate and will lock us in for another six years of the same old, same old pretend reform package that we got under the last contract talks. It reflects the narrow focus on money rather than vision and does not reflect the will or voice of the community.” Among those items valuing money over wisdom noted by Hardesty are allowing retired officers to be hired back for six years at the top of their pay grade and ensuring that the most expensive police officers are assigned to overtime first instead of an employee or officer not so high up the ladder, even if better equipped to deal with the situation. Combined with an increased starting salary and $6.8 million in raises, the contract largely rewards the PPB for its behavior. It reveals an all too typical view of the police that sees only a few rancid apples instead of whole barrel, rotten.

Pretend” and “reform” are two words that seem inexorably linked when talking about the Portland police. In June, 2011, the DoJ was approached by the Albina Ministerial Alliance which asked it to examine the Portland police interacted with people and communities of color. It was needed, but the Department of Justice punted and instead decided to focus on how the Portland police interact with people experiencing or seemingly experiencing mental crises. In its report, the DoJ wrote that the Portland police were found to have “engaged in an unconstitutional pattern or practice of excessive force against people with mental illness.”

Ensconced within the report was a small section on the Portland police’s race relations, noting “the often tense relationship between the PPB and the African American Community.” Noting that racist policing was beyond the scope of the investigation, the report stated that some members of communities of color “perceive” a pattern or practice of “bias-based policing.” A person quoted in this section of the report said, “They protect the white folk and police the black folk.” Despite not being part of the investigation, this section of the report was a stinging indictment of racism both within the PPB and between the PPB and communities of color.

Photo by Justin Norton-Kertson

Photo by Justin Norton-Kertson

With such an endorsement, one might think Hales perhaps would have considered inviting the public, particularly members of the Black community, to weigh in during the contract negotiations. And as well, one might think the City Council would have demanded at least as much.

Sure, there have been the putative accountability groups set up through the DoJ-City of Portland Settlement Agreement, seeking public input for how to reform the PPB. I attended three of those Community Oversight Advisory Board (COAB) meetings. The inaugural one featured nearly 80 minutes of the PPB dispensing propaganda and members of the business community all but presenting honorary halos to the police. To call the night a sham would be an understatement. The others I observed were exercises in futility, albeit some of it well meant. Really, what is there to say when police are part of a group that is charged with coming up with ideas to reign in the police? That’s called inviting the fox into the hen house. After all the COAB had no legal power. Its job was to recommend reforms. The City Council could consider those recommendations or throw them in the waste bin.

I finally stopped attending those dog and pony shows. It was at best a form of dark entertainment, a strange inversion of a show trial. At one of the meetings, a COAB member began talking about how nice one of the policemen on the panel was. Regardless of how true that is, one might ask Black people–who according to the PPB’s 2013 Stops Data Collection while making up only 6.3% of Portland’s population, compose 12.8% of total police driver stops–how they feel about how nice the police are. Or perhaps the Black people who make up 22.9% of police stops of pedestrians. Why not invite those who survive Kendra James, Keaton Otis, Aaron Campbell, and the other women and men murdered by the Portland police to talk about about how nice the police are? And most importantly, why not take them seriously?

This contract disrespects these people and sends a message to all people of color that their concerns are not taken seriously.  It shows that in the eyes of the Portland City Council, their lives do not matter.

One recommendation that presumably came forth from the COAB was the use of body cameras that police would have to wear and turn on prior to every encounter. Again without public input, Hales apparently negotiated this issue with the PPA, resulting in a draft of an arrangement that in her column Hardesty called “the opposite of an accountability policy.” Proposed rules regarding body cameras did not make the final cut for the contract and will be negotiated with police at a later date. But the draft of the prospective rules does not bode well.

As proposed,” Hardesty wrote, “police would be allowed to review video before writing their reports. Why would police need to see video before writing a report unless they need to make their report match what’s on the video tape–and possibly omit actions that weren’t caught on camera? This is totally unacceptable since the public has no access to the video…The body cameras become expensive tools only beneficial to police, doing nothing to contribute to transparency and accountability that is the expectation of the public in this new era of policing in America.

So a police force that has been subject to a federal investigation reaching damning conclusions–because even by our very violent cultural standards it has gone too far–is close to being granted one more tool for covering up its crimes and shaping its stories, now with its own privately available in-house video fact checker. I guess it was in the spirit of compromise that the rule giving police officers involved in a shooting 48 hours before they can be questioned has been eliminated. That is certainly important, but why are the police entitled to either?

Photo by Justin Norton-Kertson

Photo by Justin Norton-Kertson

In her Oregonian piece, Hardesty rightly takes the mayor and former Police Chief Larry O’Dea–the guy who shot someone while on vacation, but thanks to Hales, it was kept undercover for a short spell before seeing the light of day–to task for locking the public out of the negotiations surrounding how body cameras would be used. She then asked, “How can the public have any confidence in a tool that is supposed to create transparency yet is developed behind closed doors?”

The answer is clear: we cannot and we should not.

Certainly, some people involved with City governance do not.

Constantin Severe, director of the Independent Police Review–the body charged with investigation citizens complaints against the police–says the draft body camera policy, if implemented, “would set back oversight” according to Dirk Vanderhart of the Portland Mercury. Vanderhart also notes that Mary Hull Caballer, the City Auditor, “voiced similar concerns in an October 3 memo to city council members.” Furthermore, as Vanderhart notes, the draft body camera policy “falls short of the ideas advocated by national civil rights groups.”

Wednesday brought a sight that was a satirist’s dream. Hales, apparently tired of disruptions of recent council sessions over the contract, adjourned the meeting after 30 minutes and retreated to another room from which the rest of the session was livecast. Meanwhile, police locked down protesters, including some who wanted to give testimony, in another part of the building. Police, riot and otherwise, descended upon City Hall as their contract was being voted upon and City Hall was being interrupted by citizens opposed to the mayor’s secret negotiations and lies, as well as his, Fish, and Fritz’s votes to completely ignore the history of racist police violence in the city they are supposed to oversee. Institutional racism asked for a pass, and Hales, Fish, and Fritz gave it.

Photo by Kathryn Kendall

Photo by Kathryn Kendall

The police predictably exercised their power, violently ejecting peacefully assembled protesters from City Hall. They used pepper spray and batons, and left at least one person with a broken bone.

Mayor Hales is their boss, and on Wednesday, they were his goons.

In a public letter to Hales, Gregory Robert McKelvey, an organizer with Don’t Shoot Portland who was in City Hall at the time the police, had this to say to the mayor:

Yesterday, I showed up to testify. Many others showed up just do that same thing. We wanted to be in Council chambers, but within just a few minutes you moved the meeting and locked out the public. You then had armed cops force everybody into one part of City Hall. That is an occupation. We were not allowed to attend the meeting. We were not allowed to testify and we were not given a voice. The only thing we were allowed to do was be beaten.

Hales, Fish, and Fritz have now emboldened the police to do more of the same, and worse.

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A Letter From France http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/09/29/a-letter-from-france/ http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/09/29/a-letter-from-france/#respond Thu, 29 Sep 2016 16:00:24 +0000 http://www.portlandoccupier.org/?p=10911 dsc_0816aArticle and photos by Pete Shaw

September 24, 2016

Dear Mom,

Early morning at a very large table in a quite nice house in a really neat artists’ commune in the quaint Montmartre neighborhood of Paris, far enough from the madding crowd of Sacre Couer.  The tourists run wild there, which is hardly a bad thing, but it is also not my thing. In a few hours Jessica and I, who have been in France for two weeks, leave for home. I never sleep well before air travel, although I am happy say I am much better than the days when you used to plow me with drinks at the airport just so I could work myself up to conjugating the verb fly.

It has been a great trip–certainly much better than when we were here two years ago. Then, my body fell apart, rife with rheumatoid arthritis Only after returning to the US did I find out I had been running–or rather, hobbling–around with it for quite a few years. Only a few months prior had it gotten out of hand, and while I still had a great time–hell, it’s France, and I was with Jessica–after nearly collapsing in the SeaTac airport, I knew I had to figure out what was wrong. Taking a page from Denny, I decided once we found out the problem, we would find as good a remedy as possible, and then I would make sure we got back here so Jessica could enjoy it. She understandably–particularly because she thought I was dying–did not have a good time two years ago. The past two years have been challenging, but I have been lucky enough to have good doctors and a cadre of great Friends who have provided support for me, and more importantly, Jessica.

A sundial by Salvador Dali.

A sundial by Salvador Dali.

Paris is a beautiful city. You would have loved it. Perhaps you remember the advice given to people going to New York City: don’t look up (because you might make eye contact with a panhandler). That is terrible guidance if only for its striking lack of humanity and compassion. But in Paris, it would also be stupid. There is so much going on above you, on the buildings. Many of those structures, at least the more famous art nouveau ones with their seductive curves and gorgeous inlaid carvings and sculptures, are the product of the Haussmann Plan which created Paris’ wide boulevards. At the time of their creation, the impetus was not completely aesthetic. With various rebellions throughout the city, the powers that be saw it as imperative that armies be able to repress those uprisings, and Paris’ narrow streets made that difficult. But yesterday’s whiffs of grapeshot have given way to a city whose streets themselves are works of art.

I should add here that this beauty, as well as the many wonderful aspects of French society–particularly its social welfare programs–did not come from nowhere. They are the product and legacy of people fighting for those gains, and as well, of a brutal imperialism that killed, raped, and pillaged many people and their lands, providing much of the wealth that has funded those programs. In short, for all of its good, it has been built on the backs of many, the majority of whom have not reaped its benefits. There is, however, always tomorrow. I apply that optimism to both my health and the health of humans, and I think I owe a lot of that lemonade making to you.

One day Jessica and I took a train to Vernon, a small town in Normandy, and from there we rode bikes to Giverny, where Claude Monet lived. You can tour his gardens which he designed and planted. While they are not my taste–I prefer things more sauvage–they are impressive. And seeing his water lily pond in real life only a couple of hours before seeing them on giant canvasses in the Orangerie Museum made for an interesting experience. I still am not sure which was more real. I am quite sure that it does not matter. I know you would have enjoyed seeing the paintings as I remember you telling me how much you liked the photos of them in the Monet calendar I got you one Christmas. You kept it, and I took it back here with me when we moved dad out of the house.


Monet’s water lily garden at Giverny.

Our time in Paris has bookended a six day jaunt down south. First we went to Arles, a venerable city in Provence that had some prominence around the time of Julius Caesar. The dry climate has helped preserve a Roman coliseum, and in the countryside are other remains that look like they could be used with just a few upgrades. You and I will not look so good in 2,000 years. Hell, I don’t look so good now.

Arles is a small place. Its historic district takes about 15 minutes to walk across, although you would be foolish to be satisfied with just that. Like most medieval cities, it has narrow, winding streets that lead to hidden alcoves, through darkened passageways, and past a host of jutting buildings, creating angles that are a geometry junkie’s dream. At 3 AM you can wander those streets, alone in your thoughts, at peace, or perhaps convening with echoes of the past. You may even find a few fellow travelers, hoping the city will reveal some of its secrets, if not their own.

Fifty years ago in London, Ray Davies wrote one of the most beautiful works of art I have ever experienced, beginning with some lines about the Thames, “Dirty old river, must you keep rolling, flowing into the night?” The Rhone is perhaps as old and dirty, as it slowly winds past this ancient citadel at its own particular pace. It is not terribly picturesque to my eyes, but then again, at one point I stood on the spot where Vincent Van Gogh painted his Starry Night. Much like “Waterloo Sunset,” it strikes me as a gorgeous ode to loneliness–to those things of beauty that we hold deepest within to help us make it through another day, no matter how much of a dirty, old trick it might seem. Sadly, all too soon, Van Gogh one day found there was nothing and nobody he could hold on to.


Garlic at the Arles Saturday market.

The countryside of Provence is gorgeous, and from both Arles and Marseilles we explored it. Unlike in Paris, English is not widely spoken down south, and in the small villages outside of the major towns, it is often not well-understood. Fair enough, and that is why I took a couple of French classes at Portland Community College with a wonderful teacher who actually coaxed me into talking in class. Fear not, I am still poor with languages. After all these years I still cannot read music worth a damn, and perhaps you remember that I took seven years of Spanish to finish on a third year level. Nonetheless, I ruthlessly worked out my minimal skills on people, always to their appreciation and nearly as often to their amusement.

The people of France get a bad rap in the US for being snobbish, and I am sure some of them are. But with one exception, every person with whom I have interacted in our visits has been kind, and when needed, helpful. When we first got into Paris via train from the airport, a man named Emile–born in Normandy, but now living in Paris–took it upon himself to guide us to the proper train. Which I suppose he did. But between all the wending and winding through stations, plus three rides on the metro just so we could avoid dragging our luggage up the large number of stairs at Gare du Nord, getting to our rented apartment in the Bastille took about an hour instead of the ten minutes it should have taken. I am glad we took the long way if only because Emile was so happy to help and talk with us.

The stereotype, I suspect, largely emanates from US citizens coming over here like cowboys, expecting people to speak English and act like France is the United States. It is at best counterproductive, and it is rude. I am still hardly a paragon of manners, but one reason for taking those French classes was so I could show I cared to respect these people’s culture, not to mention that I would have a terribly difficult time enjoying France, particularly Provence, if I could not communicate effectively with people. At its best, language allows us to receive others’ beauty and transmit our own unto others. So why not get as good at it as I can?



One day while visiting a small town named Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie, we stopped to grab some lunch at a small restaurant with a gorgeous terrace. As usual, I let Jessica choose my meal as she enjoys food more than I do, and this allows her more things to sample and enjoy. It seemed my quietude upset the woman who owned the place. Perhaps it would have been good manners to utter some substantive French, but honestly, I was enchanted with my surroundings, and as is still my wont, I became lost in my thoughts. But after the meal I told her, in no doubt very poor French–but nonetheless, French–that I had only begun learning this pretty language and that her cooking was wonderful. She beamed at me, grinning ear to ear. Every time we talked with people, I made a point to note how beautiful I found the country, its people, and their language. Sometimes the truth does not hurt.

Marseilles, where we went after Arles, is a grittier version of Paris, feeling in many ways like New York City. We only had three days there, and we spent two of them exploring the Vaucluse department north of it. But the place where we stayed was across from the Les Calanques National Park. Calanques are these steep walled inlets along the coast that on calm, sunny days produce those azure waters so often seen in photos from the region. We, however, checked them out on a very windy day, one which saw me often losing my balance because of the gales’ strength. I really was scared I would be tossed into the battering waves.

Scattered along the rocky coast, as well as on some islands not far from shore, are many crosses, wrought iron and ancient. On days like the one we had, you can completely understand why you would thank every deity in the book–and perhaps invent a few more–for surviving your journey. Treachery lies everywhere, on land, in water, and in air. Living through the experience would be miraculous.

The one day we got into the city itself made me regret not having more time there. It is alive, bustling with activity. There is a wealth of artists, and you get the feeling that you could strike sparks anywhere, and someone would come around to spread the flame. It feels like anything is possible.

We returned a few days ago to Paris for the final leg of our journey. Since then it has been more walking, about five miles a day minimum. We probably cover in one hour all of what I was able to do two years ago. Every moment is one of wonder and beauty, but I suppose that is the story of life with Jessica. After all this time, my cup still runneth over.

The people who own this beautiful place, Zahia and Marc, are, as the fellas say, some of god’s original good people. We were lucky enough to break bread with them last night, getting to share in some stories of their lives. It was a wonderful experience. Zahia is from Morocco, and she expressed some worry about rising Islamophobia in France, helped along by Marine LePen, who leads a political party with fascist overtones that is gaining traction. It was a dark reminder of home.

Just as dark were the names we all seemed to know: Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott, whom police murdered during the time we’ve been here. They were just, sadly, the most prominent names. During our trip, police have murdered at least 38 people according to the website Killed by Police. Twelve of those victims were Black, one Indian, and one Latino. This year, police have murdered 848 people in the US. Why, at this point after all these police murders–including the ones over the past few years that now cannot be denied thanks to the wide availability of cell phone cameras and other similarly common technologies–do people not, or perhaps more accurately choose to not understand that Black Lives Matter, and only when on an institutional level that this is affirmed–as well as for the lives all people who daily bear the oppression of institutional bigotry–will all lives matter?


Standing on the edge of Calanques des Goudes.

But the Friendship we shared in the simple acts of eating and conversing–sharing food and life itself–recalled the good that also lay here and there, as well as the capacity for forging bonds of love, compassion, and humanity regardless of distance.

Earlier in the day we met up for lunch with a Friend who was a student in our French class, and her mom. Zonna is studying fashion in Paris, and I assure you that despite the seeming absurdity of us sharing a table–I still dress completely for the seemingly paradoxical reasons of keeping warm and keeping the sun off my Irish inherited skin, not caring much about the look of my garb–it really happened. Zonna’s mother, Tina, is spending a month with her in France before Zonna starts class. It was not as bad as I imagined it would be, but as ever in crowds even as small as two, I was nervous.

I still spend a lot of time worrying I am going to be a complete embarrassment when in social situations, and it did not help that I had a lot of green tea that morning. At one point I began jabbering on like an 87 year old man who had just discovered meth, my gums flapping at an incredibly high velocity. Jessica, used to this behavior that in a Parisan restaurant must have seemed highly aberrant, got her usual kick out of it, and this seemed to put Zonna and Tina at ease (although I should not discount the possibility that their brains had become paralyzed with a very bad fear, and their looks of serenity were actually their default positions as their bodies seized up in horror, allocating energy only to the most rudimentary functions necessary for survival, much as a lungfish will when it ensconces itself in its home waters’ muddy bottom in preparation for the dry season). Which is good because they are nice people who don’t deserve to be subjected to the likes of me without someone like Jessica around whose calm in the storm for nearly 20 years now is doubtlessly assuring.



At one point I suggested Zonna start a line of clothing based on my sartorial tastes. Because she is kind, she did not reply that she was studying fashion, not zoology. After lunch was said and done, nobody seemed any worse for wear, and I suspect Tina and Zonna came away largely unscarred, and hopefully, highly amused. At the least, as we walked with them to the metro, and at no point did they seem ready to find a garbage compactor and stuff themselves–or me–into it. Such things are still major victories in my book. Still, while waiting for the train, I kept one eye on them, and made sure I was far from the tracks.

Between those wonderful meals, Jessica and I hit the Salvador Dali Museum. Now there was a true prince of the Freak Kingdom, and did he ever proudly wave his flag. And he was a damn good artist to boot. In one way, the museum was a shrine to weirdness in one of its highest and loudest forms. It was comforting, and even Jessica admitted she had rarely seen me so at ease, as if I was a completely in touch with my environment.

Well mom, I need to start getting ready for our flight. I am sorry I have not written in awhile, but over the past few years I have become…comfortable…is that the word? Kind of. Yeah. So kind of comfortable with your absence. I still miss you, but I have gotten to a point where while I still think of you many times every day, those memories have seen their jagged edges worn with time to smooth contours, gentle instead of harsh. Consequently, I rarely feel the need to write down the feelings those memories engender to let them out to the light of day. Much like the butterflies in our backyard back home, I admire their beauty, and if they land on me, I am content with them to stay until they or I feel compelled to move along.

Despite all the hurt, pain, and cruelty, this can be such a beautiful world. Behind it and stronger than all is Love, which if given the chance, can cut through any darkness. Thank you for showing me that in so many ways.

For good or ill, I don’t much believe in an afterlife. We live and we die, and in between, if we are lucky, we get to share in lives well-lived. In our decay, life springs anew. If there is something beyond here, then I will see you.

But with all my heart, I hope not too soon.

I Love you.




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Burgerville Workers Union Rallies In Support of Fired Union Member http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/08/12/burgerville-workers-union-rallies-in-support-of-fired-union-member/ http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/08/12/burgerville-workers-union-rallies-in-support-of-fired-union-member/#respond Fri, 12 Aug 2016 16:00:32 +0000 http://www.portlandoccupier.org/?p=10898 482Story and photos by Pete Shaw

The Walla Walla onion rings–so good that they named them twice–have arrived at Burgerville. Inside its stores, signs advertise the food while emphasizing the community values Burgerville espouses to distinguish itself from the larger fast food chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King. One placard shows a farmer kneeling in a field of large onions, holding a large bulb and its green shoots. Below the photo, bold letters announce, “Grown in Walla Walla.” Another sign shows a young woman and a child at a table with a couple of shakes–perhaps the seasonal marionberry, which uses locally sourced products–and a tray of the onion rings. The text reads, “Made for sharing. Our Walla Wallas are specifically grown and prepared for growing together.” It is typical corporate propaganda, depicting the corporation as existing not for the purpose of maximizing profit but rather for making the world–your world–a better place.

Despite the implication that Burgerville has higher standards than other fast food chains, when it comes to how it treats its workers, Burgerville is no different. Because of that, in April some Burgerville employees formed the Burgerville Workers Union. The union, which has yet to be recognized by Burgerville management, is demanding a $5 an hour raise for all hourly employees, healthier working conditions, and greater respect from management. Those are fairly standard demands of any association of workers. The Burgerville Workers Union–organized with the support of the Industrial Workers of the World–has been campaigning for recognition, and one of its tactics has been showing the real human impact of the lack of workplace justice at Burgerville. Those glaring absences of justice leave workers at Burgerville without recourse to the demands and whims of management.

466On Tuesday August 9 at 9PM, 50 union members and supporters marched into the Burgerville on NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Multnomah Street in support of Paul, a former worker at that store. According to the Burgerville Workers Union, Paul, who is a member of the union, “has been asked to come in and work long hours without legally required breaks, often closing late at night, and staying past the end of his shift to help his coworkers and managers.” Two weeks ago, while working two hours after his shift was scheduled to end, Paul scalded himself with hot water, and in pain and frustration, accidentally damaged a sink. He was suspended for a week and then fired, without due process or an opportunity for restitution.

In a letter delivered to the store’s manager, the union stated, “We are enraged by the treatment of Paul. We are regularly pushed past our limits by Burgerville, especially those of us working late night shifts. Managers prioritize speed of service and labor costs over worker safety, creating dangerous working conditions where accidents happen and people get hurt. Instead of being offered help and relief, workers are blamed, punished, and fired. This is unacceptable and is a clear demonstration of the need for an independent voice for Burgerville workers.”

That need was also made clear a few months ago when Ivy Fleak, a worker at a Burgerville in Vancouver and a member of the union, called out a manager for sexual harassment. According to the union, Fleak was soon targeted by a different manager who attempted to fire her for standing up for her rights. The union and its supporters rallied behind Fleak, and consequently she got her job back and received back pay.

The victory was short lived. According to the union, management retaliated by making “unsubstantiated allegations and threats, putting her in a position where she felt she had no choice but to quit.” In mid-July a person claiming to be a private investigator loudly accused Fleak of stealing thousands of dollars in gift cards, but neither he nor Burgerville management provided any evidence. Management gave her a choice: resign quietly or face criminal charges. No due process. No transparency. Fleak opted to leave her job.

Fellow worker and union member Chris described Paul as one of the hardest workers he knows, often on the unpredictable closing shift. “We work close together a lot,” he said. “Plus those are really hard shifts; you know–there’s no end time. So you work late into the night, scrubbing the grease off floors. You’re working hard. You’re working as fast as you can to get out of here as early as you can to get a decent night’s sleep.”

461Scottie of Scottie’s Pizza Parlor on SE Division, where workers earn at least $15 an hour, came out in support of Paul and the Burgerville Workers Union. He told people how he once worked a job where he found himself in a situation similar to Paul’s, where management was pushing him to work faster and not safely. A box fell on him, and in anger, he punched the box and hurt his hand. But Scottie’s situation was different from Paul’s.

At that job I was fortunate enough to have a union so my job was protected. I received disability pay, and I was able to go back to work once I was healthy enough to return. That’s exactly what should be happening in this case, and that’s why Burgerville needs a union.”

Rob Sisk, President of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503, announced that  at SEIU’s recent General Council, the statewide union passed a resolution to support all fights for a $15 an hour minimum wage that specifically cited the Burgerville Workers campaign.  This followed Local 503’s Board of Directors officially endorsing the fight in May.

“All workers in this country have a right to living wages,” he said, “and a right to a union to hold on to those wages and gain respect in the workplace.”

440aRebecca Lewis, who is a stagehand, stated, “The kind of union busting we’re seeing from Burgerville is disgusting.” She then noted that quite a few stagehands worked at the nearby convention center, saying they “don’t have to eat here.”

Soon, the crowd split into two groups, and for about a half hour set up picket lines in front of both entrances to the store. Numerous cars honked their horns in support, and quite a few walking passersby expressed interest. One woman asked a supporter why there were picket lines. She was going to get a hamburger, but when told about the union and Paul’s firing, said she would go elsewhere to satisfy her hunger. The advocate told her that instead she should get her hamburger and use the opportunity to tell the manager to rehire Paul, which she did.

Earlier, Paul–who is 19 years old and a culinary school student–filed an application for employment. He told the crowd, “I’ve worked here for 8 months, I work over 40 hours a week, and I’m a full time college student. I’m just trying to pay my rent. I don’t think a sink should be worth more than my job,” to which someone replied, “We’ve got your back, Paul!”

Whether Paul gets his job back remains to be seen. What cannot be doubted is that in the three months since its inception, the Burgerville Workers Union is making strides toward providing a counterweight to a previously unchecked management.

Standing together as a union gives us workers the courage and strength to push back,” said union member Luis Brennan. “It gives us power that we can use to fight for what we deserve.”

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City Postpones Sweep of Springwater Corridor http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/08/01/city-postpones-sweep-of-springwater-corridor/ http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/08/01/city-postpones-sweep-of-springwater-corridor/#respond Mon, 01 Aug 2016 16:10:24 +0000 http://www.portlandoccupier.org/?p=10888 317aStory and photos by Pete Shaw

Resistance mounted by houseless residents of the Springwater Corridor and their allies has resulted in Mayor Charlie Hales delaying sweeping away people without housing who live along the trail. Two weeks ago Hales announced that camping would no longer be allowed along Portland’s portion of the 21 mile long trail and that the City would evict people from Springwater on August 1. A campaign of letter writing, lobbying, and direct action forced Hales to push back the evictions until at least September 1. The 500 residents of the stretch of the Springwater Corridor covering 82nd to 122nd Avenues compose the largest single houseless encampment in the United States.

In February Hales lifted the City’s camping ban. That change made it legal for groups of up to six people to camp on City property as long as tents were removed by 7 AM. The mayor has said that services will be provided to people forced out of Springwater, but according to Portland Tenants United (PTU) services are “already at capacity.” In other words, should Hales initiate a sweep on September 1, the people living along Springwater Corridor will be cast to the wind.

After Hales announced his original plan to sweep the Springwater Corridor, the people without housing who live there convened a general assembly that included supportive neighbors and community members, as well as allied organizations including PTU, Boots on the Ground PDX, Backpacks of Hope, Advocacy Five, Jobs with Justice, Rising Tide, Anawim Christian Community, Hazelnut Grove, Portland Solidarity Network, Serve the People, and Right 2 Dream Too. At that meeting Springwater Corridor residents voted to demand the City cancel the sweep and commit to not displace any houseless residents of Springwater without dedicating resources to a relocation plan.

At a rally outside City Hall on Thursday July 28 that had originally been scheduled to further pressure Hales into abandoning the sweep, Austin Rose of PTU described the one-month reprieve as a “temporary victory.” Speaking to a crowd of about 30 people, Rose said, “Unless the mayor works for real solutions to this problem, he’s going to go in there on September 1 and do the same thing he would have done on August 1.”

Rose noted that those “real solutions” must include all people impacted. “We need real, collaborative solutions,” Rose told the crowd. “No clean up about us without us!” In particular, Rose noted that people without housing “have been forgotten in these conversations about their lives.”

301One potential solution which seems to be catching the City Council’s eye is a proposal by developers Dike Dame and Homer Williams to create a shelter for up to 1,400 people without housing at the Port of Portland Terminal 1, just north of the Fremont Bridge along the West bank of the Willamette River. According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the facility had been used for “staging of lumber, logs, paper products, steel containers, and bagged grain.” The City now owns the property.

Three years ago, Dame and Williams vociferously opposed Right 2 Dream Too’s move to a new site under the West side of the Broadway Bridge. Their hostility, along with that of many other residents of the Pearl District, resulted in the move’s scuttling.

Commissioner Nick Fish opposes using Terminal 1 for a shelter, but even if approved by the council, the site would likely not be available to the residents of Springwater–or any people without housing–for at least a few years (although according to Tony Hernandez at the Oregonian, Dame and Williams have said that an 18 month temporary shelter could be erected within 60 days). As well, the site is zoned for industrial use, and according to the DEQ is contaminated with heavy-oil-range hydrocarbons, PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), arsenic, copper, and lead.

But more importantly, according to Rose, nobody has bothered asking the people without housing who will be expected to make use of the shelter what they think of the plan. For now, Rose says the best working solution for the residents of Springwater is Springwater. When he mentioned the Terminal 1 plan at Thursday’s rally, the crowd voiced opposition. One person shouted, “It’s a prison for the homeless!”

It is paradoxical that Hales would jettison the over 500 people who reportedly live along the Springwater Corridor. According to the report 2015 Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness in Portland/Gresham/Multnomah County, Oregon, there are 1,887 people without housing living in Multnomah County. Because resources for people without housing are already stressed to their limit, PTU says, “When folks are forced out, there is nowhere for them to go except into the neighborhoods.”

On top of that, the renter state of emergency continues as rents continue skyrocketing. According to the website Rent Jungle, the apartment rental in Portland over the past 6 months increased by 3.8%, or $61, with the average rent for a one bedroom apartment costing $1,546, while a two bedroom rental averages $1,871.

Tying together the fights for affordable housing and raising the minimum wage, Rose stated, “That is not sustainable for those of us who make under $15 an hour. That is not sustainable for those of us who make $15 an hour.”

The exorbitant and increasing rents make for a natural alliance between tenants and people without housing. “A lot of tenants are one paycheck away from being out there themselves,” said Rose. “So we believe these fights go hand in hand. Walking the trail in the days preceding our meeting, it was clear talking to folks that many residents used to have housing in the surrounding neighborhoods. Many Springwater residents were displaced by landlords trying to raise rents or issuing no-cause evictions. Hales’ planned eviction is a double injury to these Portlanders.”

Residents of the Springwater Corridor will continue organizing with their allies as long as Hales’ threat of sweeping them away from their homes looms. Their resistance is important both to people without housing as well as those who rent.

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A Warm Farewell http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/07/29/10875/ http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/07/29/10875/#comments Fri, 29 Jul 2016 16:00:30 +0000 http://www.portlandoccupier.org/?p=10875 1

Story and photos by Pete Shaw

“I’ll never stop believing in your smile

Even though you didn’t stay, it was all worthwhile.”

–Donnie Fritts

This month Portland is losing two very fine activists in Alyssa Pagan and Walidah Imarisha. They will be deeply missed, but this city is all the better for the time we have been lucky to have them here.

Alyssa, who has already returned to her native New Jersey, has been fighting to raise the minimum wage, solve the renters’ crisis, stop police terrorism–particularly against people of color–and expand awareness of the issues facing people who are transgender.

2I first met Alyssa at a 15 Now action, but the moment that comes to mind when I think of her is a vigil in remembrance of transgender women of color who were victims and survivors of violence, held on August 20, 2015. It was one of the most moving events I have ever witnessed, with the names of the 18 murdered transgender women shouted into the Portland night from Pioneer Square. After each name was called, a eulogy was offered, telling a life story. Dehumanized in life–and sometimes in death due to improper descriptions of who they were–the vigil affirmed their humanity. The crowd of over 300 people bore witness, offered support and love, and wondered if others in the crowd would meet a similar fate.

Alyssa, who often described herself as a “badass Black, Puerto Rican trans woman,” said she never felt safe in her life. It is a feeling I cannot understand, and frankly, one I hope never to know. But if I did, I would feel very lucky–and perhaps a bit secure–knowing Alyssa was with me. At a party before she left Portland, numerous people talked about how she was always there for them on a personal level. The deep level of love and affection they had for her was tangible.

Like Alyssa, I am from New Jersey. In fact, she was born not far from where I grew up, and she recently posted a photo of herself and two Friends in Red Bank, a town with which I am familiar. Prior to that, she had attended the anniversary of Eric Garner’s choking murder by New York City police, and since that Red Bank photo, she has been in Philadelphia, protesting at the Democratic National Convention. I am comforted to know she is part of those actions.

Walidah Imarisha will soon be heading south to Stanford University where she will teach writing.  She is a great writer in several genres, and her students will benefit immensely from her skill, enthusiasm, and wisdom. Her recent book Angels with Dirty Faces is at once informative, harrowing, and beautiful. Her poetry, some of which can be found in her Scars/Stars, is compact and powerful. Her leaving bothers me because she has become my Friend, and I will miss her.

I first saw Walidah about 4 years ago when she was performing some of her poetry at an art show for the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee. On that occasion I took a few reasonably satisfying photos of her. She has occasionally used one of those photos to promote her Why Aren’t There More Black People in Oregon? presentation, and I always get a charge from feeling I was useful to her in some small way. Her program on the history of black people in Oregon covers the past, present, and future, and she has traveled all over the state to give it, sometimes in the face of white supremacists who in the end provide proof of the story she tells.walidah tomando las calles

Walidah often led the monthly vigil for Keaton Otis, the young Black man murdered by the Portland Police on May 12, 2010. Fred Bryant, Otis’s father, also attended those vigils until his death, and since then the vigil remembers him and all victims of police violence. The vigil, held on the 12th of each month at NE 6th and Halsey, will continue in Walidah’s absence.

Future” is one of Walidah’s most persistent subjects. She writes science fiction, and she says we must dream the future we want. The abolition of chattel slavery in the antebellum United States is a case in point. Once just a pipe dream, when it was embraced by enough people, what was once fiction became reality.

For the past few years she has lived near me. I bake bread, and my better 99% often insisted I take a loaf to Walidah because she put up with me. Fair enough. Doing so was one of the many great pleasures of my life, and I will always appreciate that despite my nervous mumbling and gyrating, she always managed to look like she was happy to see me.

In the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf admonishes the crying Sam Gamgee, Merry, and Pippin, “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

Maybe so. But they still hurt.

Best of luck in all you do, Alyssa and Walidah. Live long and prosper.

And know the door is always open.

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Moving Life, Still http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/07/25/moving-life-still/ http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/07/25/moving-life-still/#respond Mon, 25 Jul 2016 16:00:54 +0000 http://www.portlandoccupier.org/?p=10850 John and Dorothy Shaw

John and Dorothy Shaw

Story and photos by Pete Shaw

A few weeks ago I was in New Jersey. I go there twice a year, and I should tell you now that this is not the lead-in to a joke, although I am sure you have already come up with numerous punchlines. My brother and my father live there, in Denville, a small town in the northwest part of the state. My dad is from Brooklyn–Greenpoint, to be precise–and my brother was born in Queens. But in 1968, along with my mom, who was also from Brooklyn–Bay Ridge, to be precise–moved to Marlboro, New Jersey, and from 1970 until two years ago, the house in Marlboro was in one form or another, home. It was a small, quiet place when I was growing up, and I have fond memories of my youth. I would not want to live there now if only because so much of the open space I knew is gone, save for in my memory.

As I type, the Republican National Convention is wrapping up. Donald Trump is the Republican candidate for President of the United States. I don’t have a terribly difficult time typing those words, although I would be lying if I told you that I feel good about it. He is a man who preaches hatred in numerous forms, and he plays to the most base instincts in our humanity. He is selfish, and it seems he regards people as things he can use or things to be feared, depending on whether they support or oppose him. He cares only about wealth and power, and their projection. He is the perfect representative of a capitalist society, the distillation of its practical ethos that everything, including life, has a price.

On July 2, my brother, dad, and I were sitting in a park on a bluff in Weehawken, New Jersey, overlooking Manhattan. The view is incredible, and I highly recommend it. A day prior, my brother and I had been a few miles to the east in Hoboken, wandering around. There is a park there that overlooks the Hudson River, and in it were shot a few scenes On the Waterfront. A mile or so east is the old Hoboken train station which you can see in Once Upon a Time in America. The views of The City from all those spots are stellar, and with the right eyes the New York seen and conjured in those films comes to life.

My brother. He coulda been a contender.

My brother. He coulda been a contender.

My dad is 91. The rise of Trump, for lack of a better phrasing because the dark spirit that he embodies has been with this country since July 4, 1776, shocks him. Perhaps the view from Weehawken displays a Manhattan as different to my dad’s eyes from when he was growing up as the country now appears to him.

A week earlier, I took my dad to see his sister, Dorothy. At 88, she is his last remaining sibling. Patrick died long ago. Bernie in 1991. Tilly and Dolly a few years later. Kenneth only a couple of days after my mom passed. Florence a couple of years ago. Dorothy, who now lives in an assisted living facility on Long Island, not far from where my mom first started her career in teaching, has had some health setbacks the past couple of years. Regardless, she is still sweet. In her room are photos of their mom, who died when I was 10; their dad, who left much earlier; and Bernie. She and Bernie lived with their mom in Queens. Those that I met all seemed to be kind, caring, and decent people. Dorothy and my dad, as well as my cousin Adrienne who lives nearby and helps take care of Dorothy, remain so.

We had lunch and shot the breeze for a few hours. On the way back to Denville we drove near where my grandpa and grandma on my mom’s side lived after they moved from Bay Ridge, and then past Coney Island. To the immediate right was the train yard where a long time ago, my dad told me, the trains slept. They still bed down there. To the left was the high school attended Lee Mazzilli, the great hope of the Mets in the 1970s. One day my grandparents took my brother to a Mets game. I, too young and probably too much of a hellion, was left behind. It was helmet day, and they made sure to get me one of the souvenir batting helmets being given away.

My dad and Aunt Dorothy's dad and mom.

My dad and Aunt Dorothy’s dad and mom.

A few more blocks toward the Coney Island  beach is where Woody Guthrie lived, renting a place from a landlord whom he more or less described as scum of the earth. That landlord’s last name was Trump.

When we would visit my mom’s parents, it was always a good time. At least that’s how I remember it. Which is funny because we really didn’t do much. But I guess it was nice being able to go from throwing a ball against a wall in the tiny backyard they had to just being with them. When we would leave, my grandpa would flick a dead light switch on the wall, telling us he was turning on the lights atop the towers of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. And lo and behold, when we came to the bridge about 20 minutes later, the red lights were on. That grandpa died in 1984, three years to the day after my dad’s mom, and grandma Farrell died in 2000, only a few days after my better 99% and I moved to these parts. Every so often I remember how much I miss them, but I draw comfort in being so lucky as to have known them.

My dad plays bocce on Wednesdays with some of the other residents of the independent living facility in which he lives. I was invited to play. My first match saw me paired with Kathleen. She is from the Bronx, although she now spends much of her time in Florida. She told me about living in an apartment building without an elevator, having to carry her children up to the fifth floor. Many years distanced from the experience, she smiled about it. Then she got down to the business of kicking ass. We won our game, handily, a fact she noted a few days later.

Bob, from Brooklyn, moderates the bocce games. He is a crafty player, skilled at knocking away the opponents’ balls. He is about 10 years younger than my dad, and he is quite the character. A salty sort who could go on forever about the Dodgers.

My mom’s mom would have liked half of him. I always got the feeling the two worst people in the history of the world to her were Oliver Cromwell and Walter O’Malley. As she was Irish through and through, Cromwell makes sense. O’Malley takes a little more time to understand. He was the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers who moved them to Los Angeles. Back around 1994, me, my brother, and my nephew were visiting my grandma, and there was a Mets game on television. She asked who the Mets were playing. She really did not care much about baseball, but when we replied, “The Dodgers,” the beast was unleashed. “I HOPE THEY KILL THEM!” Had Cromwell entered the room, she would have told him to take a number.

Bob also likes the Los Angeles Dodgers, hence the half-like. But fair enough as he talks Koufax and Scully, two good names to while away the last rays of a humid Summer day on the front porch of the St. Francis Residential Community. Gifted with gab, he kept me laughing and both my father and I engaged. Bob is good for my dad, and I am glad they have struck up a friendship.

You might think that since my dad is from Brooklyn that he liked the Dodgers. But you would be wrong. He was a Giants and Cubs fan. Kenneth liked the Cubs, and so he took a shine to them too. So it was not so terrible a thing when we drove 30 minutes to the Yogi Berra Museum located on the campus of Montclair State College. Berra played for what at least for most Brooklynites would have been the hated Yankees. But if he was detestable as a fantastic player for the most storied team in baseball, he seems difficult to have disliked as a person; a very down to earth man who had a wonderful way with words. Lines such as “Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore–it’s too crowded” and “You should always show up at your friends’ funerals so they’ll be sure to show up to yours,” have a quaint inner logic and are just a handful of the many that have been attributed to Berra. But as he noted, he never said most of the things he said.

9727aAnd if hated as a Yankee, at least Berra had his final appearance as a player with the Mets. He also was a coach on the Amazing Mets that won the World Series in 1969, and in 1973 he improbably managed them to the World Series. My brother once told me he remembered them heading to Oakland up 3 games to 2 and thinking, “Wow, they really have a chance to win it.” However, they could not seal the deal. But by all counts it was a fun ride.

By day, I spent time with my dad and brother. At night, I was at my brother and sister-in-law’s place. My brother’s wife is a veterinarian. This perhaps explains the 3 dogs, 2 cats, and 2 ducks they have. She has opened a free vet clinic in Newark for people who have pets or want to have pets, but cannot afford veterinarian’s fees. I am not surprised she has done this: she is a wonderful person.

These are, for me, nice snapshots of a few days of a life that has afforded me the opportunity to know many good people, all extraordinary in their own way.

I don’t worry too much about Donald Trump. I don’t think he will win this election–the electoral map will be difficult for him to overcome. However, his ideas, hardly new, have been given much more light and purchase than at any time in my life. That worries me, deeply. Because soon someone will come along and fill in that vacuum, and that person will be a better politician than Trump, not so given to shooting from the hip, and possessing far greater savvy when it comes to using a dog whistle. The meaning of the words will be the same, but they will sound nicer and to many, palatable.

And I don’t mean this as an endorsement for Hillary Clinton or any Democrat. As some person noted quite a few years ago, the Republicans prefer to rule with an iron fist, while the Democrats like to slip a silk glove over it. That said, if I lived in a swing state I would vote for Clinton. To me, voting is a tactic, and particularly, it is a tactic to buy time. And to deal with all the problems that this capitalist system has brought upon us, ranging from climate change to endless war to white supremacy and many foul points in between, we need all the time we can get. It is a five minute break from doing the real work that makes change. If you read this publication with any kind of frequency, you know some of the many groups doing that work. If you have not done so already, join one of those groups–no matter for whom you vote, if you vote at all–and get involved in the real work of creating the world you want to see. I assure you, your problem will be choosing from the many out there.

One of my brother and sister-in-law's dogs.

One of my brother and sister-in-law’s dogs.

Listening to the contemptible bullshit coming out of the Republicans over the past few nights–the visceral hatred for pretty much anyone who is not white, Christian, heterosexual, and probably a few other things–it is horrifying to see these horrible people churned out by our system, with Donald Trump currently at the head of the sordid parade, ready to lead the troops into battle. These are badly damaged people, malformed by the system that produced them.  There are numerous terrible moments to choose from, but one that sticks out for me from that fetid morass was the gleeful cheer that rose from the crowd when it was announced that yet another police officer involved in the murder of Freddie Gray was acquitted.

Pick your totalitarian state, and these folks would be fluent in the father tongue.

A long time ago when these type thoughts would bring me down, I’d think of people like my family and friends to cheer me up. They were, I felt, examples that the system sometimes works because it produces people like them. Decent people. Not heroes. Just good, ordinary folks trying to make ends meet.

But these days I think this false. I do believe the capitalist system works. But it works to dehumanize people, some far more horrifically than others; to make sure a few people control most of the wealth and power while the rest fight for the crumbs. You can pick up a newspaper any day and see this, as well as the great lengths most of those newspapers will go to present this as either a wonderful opportunity of some sort that shows how wonderful the system is, or in the rare cases when the carnage is too horrifying to cover over, a gross mistake of the noblest intentions.

I suppose I now have twice as many thoughts to get me down. But I would be lying to you if I said they did. Instead I find myself even more cheered by both these good people I have had the great fortune to know, both those who have made their way as decently as they could through an indecent system, as well as the truly wondrous people doing wonderful work to abolish that indecent system. Beautiful links of a gorgeous chain existing not because of the system, but despite its best attempts to crush them.

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Passion, Resolve Infuse Black Lives Matter Event in Wake of Latest Murders http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/07/13/passion-resolve-infuse-black-lives-matter-event-in-wake-of-latest-murders/ http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/07/13/passion-resolve-infuse-black-lives-matter-event-in-wake-of-latest-murders/#respond Wed, 13 Jul 2016 16:08:20 +0000 http://www.portlandoccupier.org/?p=10836 BLM 1 Story and photos by Pete Shaw

A woman with two children walked down the stairs into Pioneer Square in the early evening of July 7 and began talking about how tired she was. Tired of seeing Black people gunned down by police. Tired of being scared every time her husband, sons, and grandsons walk outside. And most of all, tired that nothing is being done to solve the problem of police murdering Black people with almost total impunity. Her words shattered the somber silence that until that point had only been accompanied by the Friday evening traffic, muted conversation, and the soft impact of a light drizzle falling upon the square’s bricks. She was impassioned, despairing, and resolute.

By the time she finished speaking the crowd that was gathering for a hastily organized rally demanding justice for Black people murdered by police and victimized by police violence had swollen to a few hundred people. A few more people spoke–with the same passion and intensity as her–and then what had become a throng took to the streets.

The direct impetus for the rally and march were the police murders of Alton Sterling, 37, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on July 5 and Philando Castile, 32, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota on July 6. Both murders were captured on video. Sterling was clearly pinned down when shot twice in the chest, just after a police officer shouted that Sterling had a gun. The gun, in Sterling’s pocket, posed no threat. The police then shot Sterling four more times.

Castile’s death was perhaps even more horrifying. According to Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who along with her daughter was riding with Castile when he was pulled over during a traffic stop, a police officer shot him while Castile was reaching for his license. Reynolds said Castile informed the officer that he had a gun, but was reaching for his wallet when the officer shot Castile in the arm. Reynolds began filming after Castile was shot, and the video showed Castile bleeding out and dying. He was taken to a hospital and soon after arriving was pronounced dead.

BLM 3Sterling and Castile’s murders were nothing new. Police, dating back to the slave patrols during the antebellum United States, have long been visiting violence upon Black people and their communities. That violence serves the ruling class, controlling and containing potentially rebellious people whose bodies are largely considered expendable save for the labor they provide. Castile was the 123rd Black person murdered by police this year in a country where police and vigilantes murder one Black person every 28 hours.

By comparison to the many Black Lives Matter protests that have taken place over the past couple of years, there was something different about Thursday’s rally. It was suffused with a far greater sense of anger, as if over the past few days some line had been crossed. Of course, that line had been crossed long ago, even before Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and the numerous other Black people murdered by police and vigilante forces, with virtually nobody held accountable for those deaths. Perhaps it took the brutal murders of Sterling and Castile to bring it to the fore. The prevalence of social media, combined with the ease of video recording has brought into living rooms–and palms–the terrorism that has been visited upon Black people by police and other security forces for as long as this country has existed. The intersection of history and the modernity of social media was well summed up in one marcher’s sign that read, “I am a bullet away from becoming the next hashtag.”

The energy pervading the protest found its expression–and perhaps will continue doing so–in solidarity and resolve. After leaving Pioneer Square, the march, which included members of various racial, immigrant, and labor justice groups, wound its way to the Justice Center, a place whose name becomes more farcical with each police murder that goes unpunished. A truck of riot police rode down a nearby street. Many white people in the crowd formed a chain across 3rd Avenue at both Main and Madison Streets, sending a message to police that if they were to bring violence to the gathering, they would first have to inflict it upon them.

Person after person spoke from the steps of the Justice Center about violence they had seen and felt, loved ones they had lost, and the organizing that needed to be done to make change ranging from reforming to abolishing police, as well as the capitalist system that relies on their violence. It was heartbreaking. It was riveting. And it was inspiring.

Ad hoc as it was, the march was messy. It stopped and restarted in spurts. At some points, particularly along major public transit routes, the crowd stopped for a few moments, perhaps readying to sit down in the street, and then moved along again. But that messiness, as Alyssa Pagan later pointed out from the steps of the Apple Store on Southwest Yamhill Street, was what a grassroots democratic movement looked like.

“Because our system that we live under is so severely undemocratic,” said Pagan, “this is what it looks like when you actually try to create a space like this. It looks like chaos. This is beautiful chaos though. The reason that I’m organizing with this group and wanting to keep on having people do mobilizations in the streets is not because I think that is going to be the only thing that saves us, but because I want people to be able to start to see their own power. We talk a lot about it. But this is actually what it’s gonna look like. The reason that it looks so chaotic is because we have no one else, so I’m telling you: this is what hope looks like. And it is going to be messy.”

BLM 4Quite a few speakers during the event made mention of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, noting that he was not going to solve the problem of police violence and capitalism. “Don’t tell me about your Bernie Sanders,” said one speaker. “Bernie Sanders is not going to solve the problem.”

Another speaker echoed and added to that idea, saying, “Bernie Sanders is not going to solve this. We need a revolution from the ground up.” Sanders was mentioned throughout the march, and speakers emphasized the need for change from below because the institutions through which Sanders–or any political party’s candidate–would work, including both the Democratic and Republican parties, are designed to uphold the country’s capitalist norms, which include placing little value on the lives of Black people and other potentially rebellious groups.

“This is a radical movement!” shouted Lamarra Haynes. “And that being said, guess what? The classrooms, the courtrooms–nothing was ever made for Black people. You can’t take back shit that was never yours.”

That point was given great clarity back at the Justice Center when Michael Strickland, a videographer with white nationalist connections who posts heavily edited footage from various social justice movement demonstrations on the internet, began waving a pistol at people who were upset by his presence. Multiple still shots and video show nobody who could be reasonably described as threatening to Strickland’s life, even as he declared otherwise. There was an undercover policeman in the crowd who saw Strickland brandish his weapon. There were riot police in the vicinity. Eventually, after being talked down by some of the rally attendees, Strickland was arrested, handcuffed, and taken to jail, along with, we were told, 5 or 6 magazines of ammunition.

The incident was yet one more stark reminder of the difference the color of a person’s skin makes to their treatment by law enforcement and left witnesses to the Strickland incident to ponder what the outcomes for Sterling and Castile might have been had they too been white.


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SURJ Condemns Police Violence; Urges Support for People of Color Led Groups http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/07/12/surj-condemns-police-violence-urges-support-for-people-of-color-led-groups/ http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/07/12/surj-condemns-police-violence-urges-support-for-people-of-color-led-groups/#respond Tue, 12 Jul 2016 16:00:48 +0000 http://www.portlandoccupier.org/?p=10826 DSC_0204aStory and photos by Pete Shaw

Over 50 people affiliated with the Portland chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ PDX) gathered at the Justice Center on SW 3rd Avenue on Monday July 11 demanding an immediate end to police violence and calling upon white people to take action for racial justice. The event was part of a national day of action that saw people in at least a dozen cities clamoring for police to be held accountable for their murders and acts of brutality, particularly those they inflict upon people of color.

“We’re here today to condemn racist police violence and to loudly and visibly proclaim Black lives matter,” said Choya Renata of Portland SURJ. “We’re here for Alton Sterling, Alva Braziel, Philando Castile, and all others killed by police, recently and through our country’s history. To say their names, to honor them, and to commit ourselves to working for justice.”

Braziel, Castile, and Sterling were all murdered by police in the last week, and their deaths–all captured on videos recorded by citizens–have resulted in a national outcry and nationwide protests. They join the long list of what have become household names–Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray among them–of people of color who have been murdered by police. In nearly every case, including Brown’s, Garner’s, and Gray’s, no police officer has been held accountable.

According to the website Killed by Police, of the 617 people murdered by police in 2016, at least 301 of them were people of color. Of those 301, at least 155 were Black and 100 Latino.

DSC_0092aMonday’s action also focused on local victims of police violence, calling for “removal of the officers who wrongfully murdered Portland community members Keaton Otis, Aaron Campbell, James Chasse, Jr., James Jahar Perez, and Kendra James.”  On Sunday night, members of SURJ PDX memorialized Black people who have been murdered by police–both locally and nationally–by putting up around Portland posters honoring the victims of police violence.

During a rally and march on Thursday July 7 that began at Pioneer Square, numerous speakers called upon white people to step up in working to dismantle the racist institutions and systems that enable police violence against people of color. That call was echoed on Monday as Renata stated, “We call on white people to join us in organizing for racial justice centered on and in solidarity with people of color.” In the short term, that includes attending the monthly vigil for Keaton Otis on July 12 at NE 7th and Halsey,and the Kids and Families Rally on July 13 at Dawson Park, as well as providing financial support to groups fighting for racial justice led by people of color.

SURJ PDX member Kari Koch said the group “supports white people in talking to other white people about racism and racial justice–moving people who might be interested or concerned, but not engaged or not fully understanding the system of violence.”

Koch noted there is a variety of ways for white people to show their solidarity with people of color organizing in Portland. “For example,” she said, “organizing can look like building the leadership of white people to advocate for racial justice in their workplaces, or working with white people to understand immigrant justice and mobilizing to defeat anti-immigrant ballot measures.”

That building of leadership should not be confused with supplanting people of color’s leadership roles in groups fighting for racial equity. “One of SURJ’s core principles is to follow the lead of people of color led movements for racial justice,” said Koch. “People of color don’t need us in order to get free. We need to challenge racism in our spaces and communities.”

The need for white people to address racism in their own circles–particularly its institutional aspects–is clear.  After all, it is not white people who are being gunned down once every 28 hours by police and vigilantes, and after the rallies and marches in support of racial justice, Black people and white people go home to very different worlds. A statement issued by SURJ PDX noted, “We are opposed to the fact that white people can get kudos for showing up for racial justice, while Black people and all people of color get targeted and even murdered.  We recognize our privilege in being able to speak out with little to no repercussions.  We don’t want kudos.  We want racial justice.”

“This organizing is part of a long history of solidarity work going back decades and generations,” Koch told the crowd. “What we’re doing today is calling out the violence in the system. We refuse to be complicit. We refuse to accept state violence. People of color are being murdered.”

For more information on how you can get involved in the fight for racial justice, go to SURJ PDX’s webpage at: http://surjpdx.org

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Illegal Re-entry Charge Against Francisco Aguirre Dropped; Fight with ICE Continues http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/06/23/illegal-re-entry-charge-against-francisco-aguirre-dropped-fight-with-ice-continues/ http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/06/23/illegal-re-entry-charge-against-francisco-aguirre-dropped-fight-with-ice-continues/#respond Thu, 23 Jun 2016 16:40:36 +0000 http://www.portlandoccupier.org/?p=10811 DSC_6981a

Story and photos by Pete Shaw

Francisco Aguirre, the immigrant justice activist who for 81 days in 2014 took sanctuary in Augustana Lutheran Church when the US government threatened to detain and deport him, returned there on Sunday June 19. However, this time the cause was celebratory. On May 27, Assistant US Attorney Greg Nyhus filed a motion to dismiss the illegal re-entry charge that the Department of Justice had been pursuing against Aguirre for nearly 21 months.

And for those 21 months numerous people, and faith and justice groups, rallied behind Aguirre and his family, providing them with the necessary support and working every available avenue to see Aguirre prevail. They also provided a platform for calling attention to some of the hardships faced by people without documentation in the United States and the need for a more humane immigration policy.

“One thing I learned is that hope is the last thing you’re going to lose in life,” said Aguirre Sunday night. “If you don’t have hope, you’re not going to survive.”

Aguirre came to Portland from El Salvador in 1995 without documentation, fleeing violence that was largely a consequence of US foreign and economic policies, particularly the Dirty Wars of the 1980s and the Drug War. Those US interventions in Central America resulted in destabilized legitimate governments whose reach is short, and in those places where they have no power, have been replaced by the rule of drug cartels and others who use violent means to reach their desired ends. That instability and its resultant gang violence is also what lies behind the more recent migration of mothers and children from Central America, particularly Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

After a no contest plea to drug trafficking charges–which Aguirre disputes, adding that he thought he was pleading innocent–Aguirre was deported to El Salvador in the late 1990s. He soon returned to Portland, again without documentation. In August 2014, he was pulled over for driving under the influence, a result, he said, of drinking two beers. That DUI charge drew the attention of the federal government.

On the morning of September 19, 2014, a federal agent knocked on the door of Aguirre’s home in Fairview, saying he wanted to discuss something with him. At first the agent did not say what he wanted to talk about, but when Aguirre pressed him, he said it had to do with Aguirre’s small computer repair business. Finding it suspicious that this man was backed by 11 other agents, Aguirre asked him for paperwork showing that was in fact why they were there. The agents worked for ICE, and the claim of investigating Aguirre’s company was a ruse to draw him out of his home so they could take him into custody. Aguirre stood his ground and asserted his rights, saying they could not enter his home without a warrant.

9918Following the encounter, Aguirre made some phone calls, and very quickly the immigrant and immigrant rights community moved to defend Aguirre. By that night he had taken sanctuary at Augustana Lutheran in Northeast Portland. For a few months thereafter, wherever Aguirre went he was surrounded by allies–often in large throngs–who had his back. Court dates saw the gallery packed with those who could not find a seat waiting outside. On one visit to the Portland Field Office of US Citizenship and Immigration Services to complete some requirements for obtaining a U Visa–offered to immigrants who are victims of serious crimes and who have cooperated with authorities in prosecuting those crimes–Aguirre was accompanied by a caravan of supporters. Phone calls, petitions, and visitors flooded the offices of Billy Williams, the US Attorney for the District of Oregon, demanding the charges against Aguirre be dropped.

Aguirre also had in his corner Ellen Pitcher, the tenacious lawyer who defended him. At Sunday’s celebration, Pitcher stated that Williams said he was not aware of an illegal re-entry charge ever being dismissed. She said she was confident that Aguirre would have prevailed had the trial gone forward due to his experiences in El Salvador and his good works here in Portland, which include organizing day laborers, helping found the VOZ Workers Rights Education Project, and serving as coordinator of the Martin Luther King, Junior Worker Center on NE Grand Avenue. Pitcher’s mettle also no doubt helped with the charge being dropped. “I’m very persistent,” she said. “I refuse to give up.”

What was celebrated Sunday was the refusal of Aguirre, his wife Dora Reyna, and the numerous people and organizations who supported them to give up. Yet during the interfaith service guided by Augustana Lutheran Church’s Pastor Mark Knutson, at least 10 different community and faith groups that stood with Aguirre–and all immigrants suffering under the United States’ unjust immigration laws–were represented, although none seemed willing to take credit for their work. Rae Anne Lafrenz, coordinator of the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, spoke to this humility and grit when she told the audience, “You guys are the leaders. Any achievement that has happened is because of each one of you. Francisco’s family is together because of all of you. When Congress won’t act on our behalf, and when the government won’t act on our behalf, it’s up to the communities like this one to take action.”

Action will continue to be taken, and not just because there are about 11 million people without documentation in the US who, as Aguirre put it, are living with the fear that when they go out of their homes, they don’t know if it is the last time they will see their families, friends, and community members. Aguirre himself is not out of danger. He still faces the possibility of ICE detaining and deporting him. He said ICE had served him a warrant for his arrest and tried to get him to sign a document giving up his rights to fight the case in court. In his fight against ICE, Aguirre is being defended by Stephen Manning of the Immigrant Law Group.

DSC_9706aPitcher urged people to continue fighting for Aguirre and for all people without documentation. She noted that it was particularly important for people to lean on their representatives in Congress. Those representatives, she said, chose not to get involved in supporting Aguirre as he faced the illegal re-entry charge because they did not want to trespass on the Department of Justice’s turf. “They do not have that excuse anymore,” Pitcher said from the altar. Noting that Congress does have power over ICE, she stated, “It’s up to you and me to convince them to use it.”

Aguirre’s victory in his battle with the Department of Justice is a bittersweet one. Moises, his son from another marriage, was living with Aguirre, Reyna, and their two children. Just like Aguirre, Moises lacked documentation, and the stress of seeing what his father was experiencing, as well as the fear of going to jail–a conviction for illegal re-entry could have resulted in up to 20 years in prison–drove him to go back to El Salvador. On February 2 he was murdered there. Noting that Moises “ended up paying the consequences of all of this,” Aguirre expressed his belief that he was “here with us in spirit.” And a little more: on this Father’s Day, Aguirre noted that he had become a grandfather. With a mixture of sadness and pride he said, “I also want to say, Moises, happy Father’s Day.”

During the service, the house band–a very fine jazz trio–struck up a song with the line “God is watching from a distance.” In some religious communities, particularly those whose focus is on a punitive God who seems lustful for vengeance, such a line would be taken ominously. But the tone at Augustana Lutheran Church invokes a nurturing, loving God. Knutson gives the impression of someone who regards God in a non-traditional sense; that is, he invokes a God who reveals Herself in various ways to different people, but always calls them to act according to their better angels. Her watching from a distance is a gentle reminder that when all else seems to fail, She is there to soothe and comfort. Perhaps it is that grace that led Aguirre to say, “(US Attorney) Billy Williams should be proud because he made the right decision. This is his victory too.”

And maybe it is that grace, along certainly with Aguirre’s courage–augmented through the support of other immigrants and allies in the immigrant justice community– and of course, hope, that keeps Aguirre pushing his fight. Standing in the soft early evening light filtering through the windows of Augustana Lutheran Church, Aguirre thanked his supporters, but also encouraged them to join him in continuing to fight for immigrant justice. “We must welcome immigrants in whatever part of the nation immigrants exist. In a country of immigrants, we must learn to work with the immigrant community. We must continue to fight for the 11 million immigrants. We must come together to protect them.”

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Deepening Solidarity in the Fight for Racial Justice http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/06/21/deepening-solidarity-in-the-fight-for-racial-justice/ http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2016/06/21/deepening-solidarity-in-the-fight-for-racial-justice/#respond Tue, 21 Jun 2016 16:13:54 +0000 http://www.portlandoccupier.org/?p=10799 Photo by Lokmee Au

Photo by Lokyee Au

Story by Pete Shaw

The road to obtaining political power is fraught with obstacles, including a variety of institutional forms of racism. As Frederick Douglass once noted, power concedes nothing without a demand. Democracy must be wrested from the powerful through the hard work of those struggling for justice.

As advocates for justice organize communities, they develop goals, strategies, and tactics; eventually they may gain enough leverage that those in power are forced to listen to and act upon their demands. It is a long and tedious process, replete with many setbacks, but it can reap great rewards.

But what do communities do once they achieve some modicum of political influence? Do they keep pushing for more power and more justice, or do they take a more conservative approach, focusing on maintaining what has been gained? As communities push forward, what form will that push take? Can activists achieve more power by doubling efforts within their group? Or do they reach out to forge alliances with other groups?

Many of these issues were addressed in a forum held on Wednesday, June 15. Hosted by the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) and made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities, Layered History, Linked Liberation: Solidarity and the Role of APIs (Asian-Pacific Islanders) in the Fight for Racial Justice brought together a panel of Chinese American leaders who discussed how they thought the Asian-Pacific Islander community and Asian-Pacific Islander organizations–including APANO–could, according to Lokyee Au, APANO’s Engagement and Development Coordinator, “identify where there are gaps in our work for racial and social justice, and to create more intentional actions to bridge those gaps.”

Au also noted, “APANO has been in coalition with allies and advocated for issues for other communities of color, but we are really intensifying our look at how that solidarity goes deeper, how we call out the wedges that divide our communities.”

The event’s discussion was informed by the recent sentencing of New York City police officer Peter Liang for the murder of Akai Gurley, a 28 year old Black man. Liang, who grew up in New York City’s Chinatown, is the son of Chinese immigrants. On November 20, 2014, while patrolling the New York City Housing Authority’s Louis H. Pink Houses in Brooklyn, Liang fired his gun–it was declared an accidental discharge–and after ricocheting off a wall, the bullet struck Gurley in his chest. On February 10, 2015 Liang was indicted on multiple charges, including manslaughter, of which he was found guilty a year later, along with official misconduct. On April 19 of this year, Liang’s manslaughter conviction was downgraded to criminally negligent homicide. He was sentenced to 5 years of probation and 800 hours of community service.

Liang’s trial raised hackles in both the Black and Chinese American communities. Police killing Black people is clearly nothing new, but indictments, let alone convictions, are rare. A 2014 investigation by the Daily News found that in the prior 15 years no fewer than 179 people were murdered by on-duty New York City police officers (43 more deaths occurred at the hands of off-duty officers). Only three of those deaths resulted in an indictment in state court, with one of those indictments thrown out on technical grounds. Of those 179 documented murders, only once was an officer convicted, but he did not receive time in prison.

It was a complex moment, and this was reflected in the reaction of many people in the Asian American community.  Certainly many Asian American people and organizations supported Liang.  Given the rarity of indictments, it had to be more than a coincidence that Liang was not only indicted, but convicted and sentenced. For them, Liang was a scapegoat.

Photo by Pete Shaw

Photo by Pete Shaw

However, numerous Asian American organizations–the Asian Pacific Environmental Network of Oakland, Asian Americans United of Philadelphia, the Asian American Resource Workshop of Boston, CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities of New York City, the Chinatown Community for Equitable Development of Los Angeles, and the Chinese Progressive Associations of both Boston and San Francisco–issued a joint statement expressing outrage “that Peter Liang has escaped accountability for killing Akai Gurley.” Describing the downgrading of Liang’s sentence as “an insult to Akai Gurley, his family, and all victims of police violence,” the announcement declares, “we must hold all police officers accountable to continue to fight for violence-free communities and win change in our systems and our institutions.”

The statement continues, “We continue to affirm that if we believe in true racial justice, we cannot excuse an officer for killing an innocent unarmed black man because Peter Liang is Chinese or Asian like us. We know that the strength of our power is fully realized when we stand together with those who also face injustice.”  Noting that “other communities of color stood with us against the police killing of Yong Xin Huang in 1995 and other incidents of police brutality and countless critical moments our communities were also hurt,” the signing organizations emphasize, “we have a responsibility to protect our prosperity by protecting ALL families and that means also the family of Akai Gurley who has lost their loved one forever.”

In her introduction to the forum, Kara Carmosino, APANO’s Director of Programs and Strategy, stated that Liang’s trial had “raised tensions around racism, community loyalty, and solidarity” in the Asian American community. Specifically, those tensions were between Asian-Pacific Islanders and communities of color, particularly Black communities.

Scot Nakagawa of ChangeLab moderated the panel.  He provided important background for understanding some of the historical relationship between Asian American and Black communities, focusing on the year 1965, when the Immigration and Nationality Act was signed. That law resulted in the abolition of the earlier quota system based on national origins and created a new immigration policy that while still maintaining per-country limits, focused on reuniting families and attracting skilled labor to the United States.

The legislation, said Nakagawa, was pushed along by the Civil Rights Movement, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War. In particular, the Vietnam War resulted in a shortage of skilled workers in the US such as doctors and engineers, and many Asian immigrants filled those roles. These professionals were, as Nakagawa put it, the cream of the crop. But those professionals helped give rise to the myth of the model minority. Nakagawa noted the irony of this myth being used as an argument against racial justice policies, even as studies show that Asian Americans, despite the promotion of their aggregate economic success, are less likely to receive promotions at work.

The myth is also used against other people of color, particularly Black people. During the Civil Rights Movement, Asian American stereotypes were held up as examples of how minorities should act. According to the myth, Asians were quiet and obedient, while Black people were loud and rebellious. Nakagawa explained that prior to the successes of the Civil Rights Movement, Black people had a lower rate of unemployment than white people. But once they received legal protections, employers began looking for other workers they could exploit, such as many do today with immigrants lacking documentation.

As Black people were pushed out of the labor market and their unemployment rates skyrocketed, President Richard Nixon began getting tough on crime and launched the war on drugs, which was drastically ramped up under Ronald Reagan. As a result, huge numbers of Black people–stereotyped as lazy and prone to crime–were sent to prison (and at extraordinarily higher rates than white people who were committing the same drug crimes). Because of these practices, young Black men became the face of criminality in the US. In contrast, Asian Americans were held up as examples of how minorities should act and what the results could be if people just did what they were told and did not rock the boat.

It was these myths and stereotypes, Nakagawa said, that animated racial tensions that came to the fore during the Liang trial. And it is these myths and stereotypes that stand in the way of greater justice for Asian-Pacific Islander Americans and Black people.

The first question before the panel was what the appropriate roles were for leaders and community institutions in addressing the divide between the Asian American and Black communities. Jennifer Phung, who leads Organizing People/Activating Leaders‘ (OPAL) Youth Environmental Justice Alliance, replied that it was important to “have spaces to talk about the complexities of how we are addressing anti-Black racism in our communities.” Phung noted that when Liang was on trial, much of the Chinese media called for Chinese people to band together and fight for justice, but that she sees this idea of justice as an unhealthy form of nationalism. She explained that organizers ought rather to show how “our struggle connects with other people’s struggles.”

Helen Ying, an expulsion hearings officer for the Parkrose and Reynolds school districts who was a teacher for many years, agreed with Phung, saying organizers need to reach out beyond their communities and seek common ground with other ones. When a rally for Liang was held at Pioneer Square earlier this year, Ying organized a conference call with leaders of Chinese American and Black community groups to foster an understanding of common values. To that end, Teressa Raiford of Don’t Shoot PDX spoke at the rally alongside her Chinese American counterparts in justice.

Photo courtesy of APANO.

Photo courtesy of APANO.

Nakagawa then noted the importance of transforming the understanding of solidarity “from ‘me for you’ to ‘we for us.’” To that end, he wondered how the Asian American community could create solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Kyle Weismann-Yee, who grew up in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Northeast Portland, said that solidarity comes from education. That education must come from leaders, but individuals also have to educate themselves. In particular, he noted the importance of recognizing “Black people’s lived experiences.”

Weismann-Yee said it is important to teach people that it is in their self-interest to forge bonds with others outside their communities, while Phung talked about the importance of recognizing how many of the “rights we benefit from come from prior liberation movements.” Phung also emphasized that people in the Asian American community are also affected by police brutality and police violence, albeit in different ways from the Black community. “Our liberation is connected,” she said. “If the system doesn’t value Black lives, then it doesn’t value us.”

So how can Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders continue building power in solidarity with others? Ying stressed empowering Asian-Pacific Islander students to build relationships with other communities. Phung added that people in Asian communities need to keep building with other leadership groups, that what people are fighting for should lead to “a collective liberation that embodies everyone’s justice.” Weismann-Yee added that it is important to understand where to provide needed support to other communities as well as to “see the shared values that make us complete people.”

One of Aesop’s Fables tells a story of a father with three sons who are heading out into the world. He instructs each of them to gather two sticks. When they return he takes one stick from each of his sons, and he breaks each one individually over his knee. Then he takes the remaining three, but is unsuccessful in his attempt to break them. The message is clear: together, the brothers are stronger.
The solidarity necessary for achieving transformative liberation is significantly more difficult than gathering sticks. But as history has shown many times over, when that solidarity is achieved, the gains are far greater than could ever be accomplished by any group on its own.

Thanks to Lokyee Au for her help in writing this article.

For more information in how you can help build deeper solidarity between communities of color, go to APANO’s website at: http://www.apano.org.

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