UPDATE: A Repairable Racism Within Occupy Portland

Occupy Portland protesters march on November 2 -- photo by Paul

Please See Below for Update

By Ahjamu Umi

A few weeks ago, I wrote two articles on racism within the Occupy movement. Although I, and several people who responded to my articles, supplied several examples of how racism exists within the Occupy movement (simply because racism exists in every aspect of U.S. society and Occupy is a part of this society), there were some respondents who insisted my articles had no factual basis.

Here is a case that clearly demonstrates the contradictions within Occupy as it relates people of color. Don Al-Andross is a Black man who participated in an Occupy protest on November 2nd, 2011. He was subsequently singled out, arrested, and charged with assaulting a police officer by pushing the officer in front of a bus. The truth is that brother Don was racially targeted by the Portland Police Bureau. He was assaulted by a bicycle officer who twice shoved his bike into Don’s knee and rib cage. After assaulting Don, the officer continued his aggression by continuing to attack Don with his bicycle. In an effort to protect himself, Don pushed the officer away from him. Don’s effort to defend himself against the police attack was defensive and certainly within the realm of actions that anyone in the same situation would feel justified in carrying out. Don felt that his life was in danger and so he only acted in a way to protect himself from harm or possibly death. The capitalist media, which referred to brother Don by his birth name of David Burgess, presented an open and shut case, suggesting the brother was certainly guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. By most appearances, it seemed that Occupy Portland practically accepted the racist media’s version of events.

At the same time, another Occupy protester, a young White man named Justin James Bridges, was assaulted by Portland police at a protest and hospitalized. While Occupy Portland completely embraced the case of Mr. Bridges, making him the face of the local movement and providing him with infinite support, with minor exceptions, brother Don was basically ignored. When his case was brought up, people suggested they couldn’t take a position because they weren’t there when the incident happened and didn’t know what had taken place. Those same people didn’t seem to be concerned with the fact they also weren’t there when the incident with Mr. Bridges took place. In fact, there was even a statement released at the time from Occupy distancing the movement from brother Don, thus suggesting the charges against him were true.

There were apparently several people at the November 2nd demonstration who have stated publicly that no assault upon police officers took place. These people have evidently confirmed that they observed the entire incident with brother Don and that he never acted outside the sphere of protecting himself from unwarranted harm. Also, TriMet has confirmed there is no evidence of a report filed by any of their drivers confirming an accident that day. A phenomenal event considering a police officer was supposedly injured in this alleged incident. Still, the racist judicial system rages on, scheduling a court date for brother Don for some time in April. This confirms the age-old joke from the late Richard Pryor when he famously stated, “you go down to the courthouse looking for justice and that’s just what you’ll find – just us!”

It’s great that Occupy Portland has supported Mr. Bridges. He and everyone victimized by police terrorism deserve as much support as can be generated. It’s just time for Occupy Portland to correct its error in how it has responded and supplied support to Don Al-Andross. People can support brother Don Al-Andross by doing any of the following actions:

  • If you participated in that November 2nd demonstration and were a witness to the events that occurred, Don needs to hear from you.
  • Come out en mass to brother Don’s court date. Once the actual date is set, the date and time will be published.
  • Help brother Don raise money to offset expenses he has had to incur as a result of this persecution. He has lost income and needs financial assistance in any way possible.
  • Helping brother Don locate a competent attorney who can provide him the adequate representation that he deserves.

If you wish to express your support for Don Al-Andross, you can contact him directly by email here.

Editor’s Note and Update, 3/18/2012 11:30 PM – At the Author’s request, we are appending this statement to the original article. The Portland Occupier Editorial Group would like to make it clear that they did not request this statement, and feel that the original article has merit still, for rhetorically promoting conversation about the issue. However, we wish to acknowledge and abide by the Author’s wishes, and therefore are posting the following statement in full.

A few days ago I wrote and submitted an article entitled “Repairable Racism within Occupy.” The article was an attempt to bring justice to the case of Don Al Andross who is facing a felony charge for participating in a November Occupy protest march. In that article I included a comparison between the responses of Occupy to Don Al Andross’ case compared to that of a White person who experienced police brutality at a different Occupy march. I shouldn’t have made that comparison. I shouldn’t have made it because I didn’t take the time to check the misinformation I received about the situation before submitting that article. As a result, my words caused harm and pain to people. Although I do want to make it clear that the major intent of that article is to bring attention to some of the discrepancies in the movement that I believe are influenced by racist ideology and practices within this society, I sincerely apologize for making that comparison. I apologize to the persons I hurt and to all who read the article.

This apology is important for several reasons. First, we have to be about building a society where people come first. This means excluding all behaviors that position people as commodities to be used for convenience. Second, if we are going to build a society better than the one that currently exists, we have to make a commitment to being accountable to each other. That means admitting when we are wrong, responding with sincerity and humility, learning from our errors, and making decisions to not make the same mistakes going forward. I have a long history working in this movement. Before arriving in Portland the last year or so, the majority of that work was confined to African people and issues e.g. the inner-city, Africa, etc. As a result, I’ve experienced police brutality personally on several occasions, up to and including physical fights with police. I also have relatives and comrades who have been seriously brutalized and even killed by police. I have also been the victim of slander in the movement and in those instances that slander was never acknowledged or addressed. This is why I know I have to take responsibility for the confusion my words caused.

I promise to make sure anything else I write is strongly supported before submitting it. This is my responsibility, not the responsibility of the Occupier or even the people who gave me incorrect information. We are all volunteers so please, don’t blame the Occupier. So, again, I apologize to the people I hurt. Hopefully they can forgive this incident and understand my zealousness to submit that article was fueled by my passion for justice. The last thing I intended was to cause them or anyone harm, but clearly that’s what I did. Finally, I wish to implore everyone reading this to feel free to use me as an example of what not to do, and hopefully how to respond to errors when made. If you live long enough, you will make errors. I believe, and I hope the persons I harmed also believe, that making errors isn’t the end game. How we respond to them is. This is especially important in this day and age where we see corrupt political candidates, dishonest talk show hosts, and many other people, say any and everything to achieve their political goals, regardless of how wrong they are or who their words harm. I hope I am responding in a way that demonstrates the integrity and commitment to social justice that I have worked my entire adult life to achieve This incident has given me much to think about. I realize I have to learn to corral my extensive passion and energy to ensure I am taking appropriate actions while not stifling that passion. It’s essential that I learn to do that and if reading this helps anyone think about doing this also then that’s hopefully a good thing for all of us.

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  35 comments for “UPDATE: A Repairable Racism Within Occupy Portland

  1. March 15, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    I want you to know how grateful I am that you wrote this article–even though it makes me sad to read it. The fact that racism exists within the Occupy Movement was not news to me (I’ve witnessed it on a couple of occasions). The fact that racism exists in our Police Force is a know and documented fact. What took me by surprise was learning that:

    1)anyone needed “proof” of these facts; and

    2)there has been such a profound lack of support of Mr. Al-Andross.

    We can–and should–explore and embrace the complexities that race and cultural identity play in a movement stil dominated by Euro-Americans. I know that there is a Black Affinity Group. I wonder if the time has not come to form a White Ally Affinity Group. If you are interested, please contact me at [email protected].

    • Chris
      March 15, 2012 at 6:32 PM

      Kate, the author may be referring to me – I made a number of comments critical of the previous articles to which he refers.

      For the record, my objection was never that I believed Occupy to be wholly free of racism and needed proof to be convinced otherwise, but rather that in the first article the author accused Occupy of racism without providing any support or elaboration for his statement, even though an accusation of racism is both an indictment of character and a call to action in our society – I would be committing much the same breach if I were to say, for instance, that Occupiers are thieves – and then in his second article, rather than addressing criticisms about the first article, he accused its critics of being white supremacists. In short, his writing was inflammatory, insulting, and utterly devoid of valuable content.

      To the author, thank you; this is precisely the kind of example I hoped you would provide in your previous articles. I am not able to provide money, legal counsel, or a witness statement on Don’s behalf, but I sincerely hope that he receives justice both inside and outside Occupy, and that Occupy will be more sensitive to such disparities in the future.

  2. lester
    March 15, 2012 at 7:08 PM

    This is the first time I’ve heard that the guy accused of pushing that cop was black.Until now, I’d just assumed he was a white guy.

    Ahjumi, your perception is vastly different than mine. I’ve never heard anything but outrage over what has always been described as a lie by PPB.

    Oh well, if you look for racism everywhere, that’s where you’ll find it.

    • cantadelalma
      March 15, 2012 at 7:33 PM

      Racism is everywhere.

      • lester
        March 15, 2012 at 9:38 PM

        The Pentecostals believe the same thing about demons, The Republicans about “liberals”. . . Every religion needs an enemy.

        • Justine
          March 20, 2012 at 3:00 AM

          That is perhaps, the worst argument I have ever heard. Institutionalized racism is well documented, has a long history, and is visible everywhere if you are open to seeing it. To equate it with some religious dogma simply proves that you have no idea what racism actually is.

        • dave
          March 27, 2012 at 10:36 AM

          “The Pentecostals believe the same thing about demons, The Republicans about “liberals”. . . Every religion needs an enemy.”…The occupiers about the “1%”

    • Karen Trusty
      March 17, 2012 at 1:53 PM

      Racism is everywhere especially evident in this story. Why didn’t you hear that he is black, why didn’t occupy investigate and pick up this story? Much of racism is obvious to people of color because they see it and are the object of it every day. Listen to your friends of color-ask them. My friends of color say that this is one of the toughest towns to live in precisely because of the subtle and not so subtle racism that they experience every every day. Are you as a white man going to deny a person of color’s report that they are profiled everywhere they go, followed in stores, moved away from in the street? Are you going to deny this report. I know it is difficult and a bit humbling to start seeing and hearing about the racism today but I invite you to listen and learn rather than just deny.

      • lester
        March 19, 2012 at 12:30 AM

        “I know it is difficult and a bit humbling to start seeing and hearing about the racism today but I invite you to listen and learn rather than just deny.”

        I invite you to listen as well. You can start with the author’s retraction.

  3. March 15, 2012 at 7:36 PM

    To Chris. I appreciate the spirit in which you responded this time, but I guess I would also say that from my perspective, we don’t have to validate racism for White people. If people want to see racism, the examples are everywhere. If you aren’t trained to see the examples, than you also aren’t qualified to question us when we bring them up, but thank you for your response. To Lester – first, if you are going to base your response on accuracy, you need to make sure you are accurate. My name is Ahjamu not Ahjumi. Second, like most responses like yours, you attack this article based on subjective circumstances such as who you talked to, but you in no way can refute the foundation of my argument e.g. aside from some individuals such as the folks from arrestee support and a few others, there has been no level of support in this instance in comparison to the other gentleman I mentioned in the article and there has no a severe lack of support in this case. Maybe you are confused, but people expressing outrage isn’t support and I doubt I need to explain to Occupy people how to concretely support arrestees because Occupy has already proven it can do that for arrestees – White arrestees. So, in essence, you make my point better than I did so I thank you for that.

    • lester
      March 15, 2012 at 10:55 PM

      “If you aren’t trained to see the examples, than you also aren’t qualified to question us when we bring them up”

      Using that logic, if you aren’t trained in police work, you’re not qualified to protest the actions of police. If you’re not trained in finance, you’re not qualified to complain about the unregulated derivatives market. If you’re not a social scientist, you’re not qualified to comment on society, and if you’re not a lawyer, you aren’t qualified to comment on the law. Aside from that, you have no idea what my “training” is- you’ve reduced me to a stereotype, and by doing so, you’re responding to a fiction that you created.

      You’re using the tactics of the oppressor here- disenfranchising the people through the claim that they lack expertise to have any valid opinion other than yours.

      “Second, like most responses like yours. . .”

      More stereotyping on your behalf.

      “you attack this article based on subjective circumstances such as who you talked to but you in no way can refute the foundation of my argument ”

      The foundation of your article is nothing but the subjective circumstance of whom you talked to. Your article is entirely your selective perception. Not once do you offer one actual piece of evidence verifying the racism that you allege.

      “there has been no level of support in this instance in comparison to the other gentleman I mentioned”

      You didn’t even bother to factor in any significant differences between the two. Bridges was very high profile. He skated around camp the entire time playing guitar through a portable amp and he acted as interpreter at most GA’s and other meetings.Everyone knew him. The fact that that doesn’t merit any attention by yourself hints at intellectual dishonesty.

      Also, of the two, which one was crippled by their encounter with the police?

      Also, the majority of the arrestees have no support from Occupy because there is a lack of resources. And the persons that do have legal support were provided that support on a first come first served basis. Also, that support wasn’t determined in any way by Occupy Portland, but by the National Lawyers Guild.

      “but people expressing outrage isn’t support and I doubt I need to explain to Occupy people how to concretely support arrestees because Occupy has already proven it can do that for arrestees – White arrestees.”

      And you end your rebuttal with an obvious falsehood. Nice going. As stated above, the majority of arrestees have no support. Reality eventually has to worm it’s way into your ideology about racism.

      Hypocrisy.

      Rather than write an article inviting people to a fundraiser to provide support for Mr. Al Andross, you used him to achieve your political agenda. As you’ve clearly pointed out, people expressing outrage is not support. Maybe you want to stop for a moment and allow the realization that you are guilty of the same lack of support that you are accusing Occupy of. Do you fall under that blanket racist accusation, or have you provided yourself with a convenient excuse that justifies you?

    • Chris
      March 15, 2012 at 11:29 PM

      Ahjamu, no, you don’t HAVE to validate racism for white people, but if you really want to advance racial equality and mutual understanding, you might consider doing it anyway.

      You’re making the same mistake that radical feminists often make, which is to assume that your perspective is the only valid one and that therefore you never need to explain it, defend it, or compromise social ideals created in a space which intentionally excluded the voices of the same people on whom you are trying to impose those ideals – that your oppression somehow gives you the right to silence your oppressors and dictate terms to them.

      • ani
        March 19, 2012 at 1:59 AM

        Chris, where are you getting Ahjamu is trying to silence anyone? Or radical feminists, for that matter (really? just want to toss that insult on the table out of the blue?– I say insult, as it is out of context– a critique would require some backing). What does this, “….compromise social ideals created in a space which intentionally excluded the voices of the same people on whom you are trying to impose those ideals… ” even mean?

        As a radical, I am sick of the accusation that speaking plainly and truthfully about our experiences as oppressed people, experiences of being marginalized, is somehow oppressing anyone.

        When privilege is questioned or spotlighted, it can feel threatening to those that have had more of it. That’s normal. Now recognize that if we want to move forward together in a revolutionary movement to bring about an egalitarian society, we need to move past that discomfort and actually engage with open ears and hearts.

        Racist oppression exists, even within Occupy.
        Sexist oppression exists, even within Occupy.
        There are many other inter-related oppressions existing within the movement, but you get the idea. The important thing is that we commit to looking outside of our own experience, and hearing what life is like for some “others”.

        Solidarity.

        • Chris
          March 19, 2012 at 9:51 AM

          “As a radical, I am sick of the accusation that speaking plainly and truthfully about our experiences as oppressed people, experiences of being marginalized, is somehow oppressing anyone.”

          It’s not the speech or the experience that oppresses; rather, it is the invalidation of any dissenting viewpoint – usually by insistence that “no one can judge” the oppression except a member of the oppressed group, or that justice can only be achieved if the speech of the oppressed is accepted as true and objective without challenge – combined with the inherent call to action present in such speech, namely that society conform itself to the speaker.

          In short: “y’all have to do and accept whatever I say because I said so, you’re not allowed to argue, and you’re bad people otherwise.”

          “Or radical feminists, for that matter (really? just want to toss that insult on the table out of the blue?– I say insult, as it is out of context– a critique would require some backing).”

          I feel fairly comfortable making a comparison between radical black activism and radical women’s activism, but if you need an example of how feminists claim the exclusive right to identify female oppression and silence opposing views by invalidation, here’s one: “mansplain”.

          “When privilege is questioned or spotlighted, it can feel threatening to those that have had more of it. That’s normal.”

          And when people say something that’s false or subjective and demand that it be accepted as objective truth, it can feel insulting to those who have bullshit detectors, and that’s normal too. The mistake that radicals so often make is to believe that they’re never wrong when it comes to identifying oppression and privilege, and that anyone who disagrees with them has the preservation of that oppression or privilege as their sole motive.

          This article is a good counterexample, actually. The author believed the difference in experience between Justin and Don to be the result of racism. The PC response to this would be to accept that it WAS racism, since a PoC said so (and the oppressed are, presumably, infallible), and to consider what we should change in the world to correct this racism, or in ourselves, to prevent it, and to come together as a group to denounce (i.e. oppress) anyone who disagrees.

          But people did dissent, providing factual corrections to the author’s basis for his perception of racism (i.e. that there had not, in fact, been any great outpouring of material support for Justin) as well as reasons why they were treated differently (Justin’s greater visibility in OP, as well as his greater injuries and the efforts of his friends to publicize what had happened to him). The author could have accused them of being racists, of being blind to how racism was the REAL reason for the difference, and of perpetuating white supremacy. Instead, he issued an apology.

          I do not wish to put words in the author’s mouth, but I do not believe he would have issued any kind of retraction unless he genuinely believed that he was mistaken. It is my hope, too, that this perception of oppression has been “healed”, and the parties in conflict reconciled. This would not have happened if the author’s statements had been accepted unconditionally, or if he had been unwilling to consider opposing views.

          • Leata
            March 30, 2012 at 10:29 AM

            Your points about the oppressed requiring unconditional acceptance of their statements is accurate. Well written. It takes intelligent people to not merely accept as the truth the politically correct viewpoint, especially for fear of being called the oppressor.

    • Don Al-Andross
      March 16, 2012 at 11:37 AM

      You are a Great Man Ahjamu & your words are very positive and TRUE.
      Myself & All the positive thinking people thank you for your courage and honesty.

      Don Al- Andross

      • Jess
        March 17, 2012 at 11:19 AM

        I agree. Thank you, Ahjamu Umi, for keeping this conversation going. I am a white person trying my best to be an ally to people of color and communicate to the white people in my life what racism is and that they cannot be victims of it because they are a part of the dominate race. It can be really frustrating. I am a white person and I am listening!

  4. Bryan
    March 15, 2012 at 7:56 PM

    I have no doubt that racism exists in some part in every aspect of our culture, but have you considered that the example you provided could simply be a result of the fact that a greater number of influential people knew of Justin Bridges and/or witnessed the event?

    More people supporting Justin’s case does not immediately prove the existence of racism.

  5. Kelly Caldwell
    March 15, 2012 at 9:08 PM

    aGAIN, i REPEAT THAT THERE IS NOT A NEED TO “PROVE” RACISM. IT IS OBVIOUS ENOUGH. pROVE IT, AND IT IS A REALLY OBNOXIOUS TACT TO TAKE, IN MY OPINION.

    • lester
      March 15, 2012 at 11:06 PM

      “i REPEAT THAT THERE IS NOT A NEED TO “PROVE” RACISM.”

      So the accusation is proof enough? Hitler and Stalin would have wholeheartedly agreed. I don’t, however. If you’re going to accuse a person or group of some heinous act or character, you have the burden of proof.

  6. Cameron
    March 15, 2012 at 9:24 PM

    I’m sorry. I wholeheartedly agree the Occupy Movement has racist tendencies, I’ve experienced them myself. Having been with Occupy since Day 1, and knowing both men and having gone to court to support them both on at least 1 occasion, I have to say the situational differences we not racially motivated. Justin was our faithful translator who participated in almost every GA and was providing those services when he was brutalized by the police, paralyzed in a wheelchair and forced to take care of his own skyrocketing medical bills while handicapped. Everyone knew him. Everyone saw this, it was videotaped and put on Youtube. Don on the other hand, was participating in his very first Occupy event, and was being harrassed on a lesser degree. Many people didn’t see what happened. Hardly anyone knew his name when he got arrested. There was no video evidence, and most people received the hearsay on the news before they heard the truth. I am deeply sympathetic to what he has endured. Occupy has many flaws, especially in demonstrating Solidarity, like to arrestees. The unfortunate truth is that people act based off emotion, not reason. So they got up in arms for one seriously popular dude who was mortally wounded, yet were directionless for an unknown dude who was targeted by the police, like many of us have been. The police were probably racist in this instance, but Occupy did not perpetuate the racism. Nevertheless, we should show up in court in support.

    • Pete
      March 16, 2012 at 8:23 AM

      Cameron,
      While I agree wholeheartedly with your ideas, I want to correct you on one point. Don (or David Burgess) was not, in fact, participating in his first Occupy event on the day he was assaulted, arrested, and falsely charged with felony assault on a “peace officer.” I also know him and have marched with him on several occasions, the first of which was the Bank of America action at the convention center, which preceded the sit-in at Jamison Square. I would encourage all who are able to turn up at his trial once the date is announced. He’s been thoroughly peaceful at every action I’ve been on with him, and you need only meet and talk with him to be deeply suspicious of the account of the Portland Police Bureau which, as I hope we all know, has a shameful record of racism and using excessive force against people of color. Ahjamu, thank you for highlighting the disparity in interest between these two cases. The statement which was published on Occupy Portland’s website after our friend’s alleged assault on a cop on Nov 2nd was shamefully reactionary and not worthy of this movement. To buy into the accounts of an often racist mainstream media and police department and throw a fellow occupier under the metaphorical bus was an appalling misstep, and one which must not be repeated.

    • Don Al-Andross
      March 16, 2012 at 11:34 AM

      Thanx for your supportive words, just some info to support your post: the night I was racially targeted, assaulted, and illegally arrested on November 2nd 2011 was definitely not My first time protesting with fello occupy protesters I was there from the very fist day occupy Portland was created and started mobilizing & I have been a Activist since I was 9 years old learning and being taught by My Grandparents and at 15 years old 1996 was the year I believe at Brandon High School in Tampa Florida (My birthplace) there was two Adult white sepremacist that attacked Black & Hispanic teenagers with racial slurs and parked at our school got out and punched several students & Myself, Monroe Parks and several others faught this grown Man who was a known white sepremacist and defended ourselves and fellow students at Brandon High school. It was a true test of bravery for Myself but I passed it well.

      Don Al-Andross.

  7. March 15, 2012 at 11:07 PM

    Interesting. I was at the November 2nd march. I believe that that was the night we came to the World Trade Center and I heard one bicycle cop say “here we go”. Nothing happened. Then we walked to the Hawthorne bridge and had a quick mic-check to decide whether we were walking to GA in Terry Schrunk or walk across the Hawthorne. And then up the wrong way on MLK and then back to the west side across the Burnside bridge. Is that correct? I honestly do not remember where this incident could have happened, though I definitely heard about it later.

    It was just prior to the D17 march, I spoke with the officer who was “pushed into the bus”. I hadn’t realized that this guy was someone I had conversed with on Livestream a few times – once with him purposefully off-camera. He was asking my help to pull up Livestream on his iPhone. Pleasant conversation. Thought nothing of it. As that march progressed and we took the street on… Oak(?) I saw him use his bicycle as a weapon more than one time so can attest that this is something that he does. I then witnessed another cop punch Squirrel in the face with his bike behind it so this is not surprising that this would be standard practice.

    I really don’t think Occupy Portland is racist just like I don’t think Occupy Portland is anarchist or liberal or homeless or full of drug addicts or any of the other myriad of things we have been described as. There might be some racist but that is because we are – or attempt to be – a microcosm of society. At least… I hope we have this aim. Only by hearing and understanding all positions and having them bring their voice to our chorus will we make any real progress as the “99%”.

    • Don Al-Andross
      March 16, 2012 at 11:24 AM

      Thanx for your honesty Sam and thanx for being a truth teller of fighting Injustice, I have at least 20 witness’s that seen the police officer assault Me with his bicycle using it as a battering ram against Me and then have the audacity to lie and try to make Me into some bad Guy for protecting My life in self-defense “wow” If they want to continue trying to take this court there will be hundreds if not thousand of people there saying the Truth standing up for Don Al-Andross & standing up for themselves, contact Me Sam you have My e-mail, & God bless the poor and God bless the strong & honest hard working Mankind who want peace.

      Don Al-Andross.

  8. James Sarantis
    March 15, 2012 at 11:26 PM

    I know Ahjamu and in the short time I have, he has opened my eyes to the subtleties and threads of racism that is interwoven in our society at all levels. I’m not sure any of us lighter-skinned folk can ever really know how deep it goes. But I think we can only progress if we first acknowledge the issue and then make strides to view each other as fellow citizens of our community yet celebrate our differences at the same time, regardless of the amount of pigmentation in our skin. I sure hope Don receives the exact same justice that the judges son would receive had he been in the same circumstances. Anything less than this would be a travesty in our society.

    • lester
      March 15, 2012 at 11:45 PM

      “I sure hope Don receives the exact same justice that the judges son would receive had he been in the same circumstances.”

      You know that aint gonna happen, unless Don has ten times as much money to spend on a lawyer than the judges son would have to spend. Though I don’t agree with Ahjamu’s point in this article, it’s undeniable that our society has institutionalized racism throughout its history, especially the criminal justice system.

  9. Justin Kertson
    March 16, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    Wow. It is clearly that you never spoke with Justin James Bridges about any of this to get your facts straight. Not only was there no reason to drag him into this, but you have essentially, and falsely, held him up as some kind of example of white privilege while at the same time showing that you clearly know nothing about what is going on with Justin. The Occupy movement has far from thrown its full weight of support behind Justin. He has received little to no money through occupy to help him survive, and has received little to no material support of any kind from occupy. There is a small group of five of his friends who are living with him in my home and taking care of him while he heals, and that is the extent of the support he is receiving outside of the occasional kind word. Here is a great example of what you refer to as the full weight of Occupy Portland’s support for JJB: We have been harassing the St. Francis people, for example, for months about the fact that the space is anything but wheelchair accessible and they could care less. The one time we took Justin Bridges down there it took us 20 minutes to get him inside and the process resulted in him being in immense pain. If Justin has received more support, maybe it is because he was mistreated way more than Don. Don’s situation sucks, of course. But he is not in a wheel chair. He has movement on the right side of his body. He isn’t in constant, daily physical pain. It isn’t racism to recognize that Justin was harmed way more by the cops than Don. It seems to me like you don’t know much about Burgess and the support he has received either, let alone your clear lack of facts on Justin. There has been a whole campaign centered around court support for Don. Justin himself and his band actually played a benefit show at which hundreds of occupiers attended, and for which Don was the primary beneficiary, but I guess you missed that in your attempt to paint us all as a bunch of racists who care more about white people. If you don’t want to be accused of lacking factual basis for your articles, then stop writing articles that are so, so far from any of the plainest facts available.

  10. Don Al-Andross
    March 16, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    Hello everyone this is Don Al- Andross I appreciate all of the positive feedback and support you have all been giving to Me,please spread the word and information to everyone you know about My situation of being racially targeted by the Portland police department. I started being an Activist/philanthropist (Good Samaritan) at An early age of 9 When My Grandfather Mr. Lee Carroll (World War II Veteran) taught Me to respect everyone & treat them as you would want to be treated and so I did, I live by this example, If more people would live by this example there would be much more peace and respect in the world. As far as racism within Occupy and racism inside of the u.s police departments around this country especially the Portland police department having deep racism against Blacks, hispanics, & poor Whites, they are trained in this way of racial profiling & targeting certain people rather they know it or not, to harass & defame individuals that are not privileged or not in the upper class of society, which we all know poor people and blue collar hard working people are the most peaceful people in this country, its the 1% that are the TRUE CROOKS creating mischief between the poor, buying politicians, creating laws to keep the poor down and disenfranchised, the police officers, FBI agents DHS & other gov’t agencies have to look themselves in the mirror & ask themselves why in the world am I doing this?, Im profiling, servailencing and attacking peaceful protesters, peaceful protesters that only want a decent plentiful life and a bright future for their children and a bright future for themselves, these peaceful protesters in Occupy wall street, and ALL other peaceful movements all around the world want peace not war. So with this said, these agents of the government and police officers have to ask themselves do I want help these people or do I want to collect a check and be a puppet for the government by harassing & brutilizing peaceful people that simply want to live a plentiful life like any human being should want to live. So with that said I am Don Al-Andross I respect everyone both Men and women that respect Me, I love God & I love my fellow human beings of all races, religions, and I will always protect Myself, always protect My brothers of all races from evil citizens, corrupt evil police officers etc… I cannot respect anyone that does not respect Me & tries to inflict harm or hurt Me, I will protect My life at all times and I hope you will do the same as well. Is life unfair YES and it will always be that way, can we make life better for ourselves YES if we start to care for one another and call out a Devil and put Him/her in their place when they get out of line or try to kill one us, no matter what race you are if you see a person for their character or who they are and not judge a person by the color of their skin, you will find out that we all have similar or the same goals and passions about life, So as far as any peaceful movement or any person reading this, lets move forward and save our world from total pollution and total destruction. Help your fellow Man and live productively we can start today by helping each other.

    Sincerely: Don Al-Andross

    you can contact Me by e-mail or donate to help My charity at [email protected]

    A link to My youtube videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TP6RvsUDZhY

  11. Carlos
    March 16, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    A low level of support is often the result of a low level of awareness. This is not to say that low levels of awareness are not related to white’s lack of consideration of race in our almost subconscious willful avoidance of the topic of race and the issues facing people of color. In fact, I will say that Ahjamu is correct that racism played a factor contributing to willful ignorance of Don’s current predicament because he is an African American male in a predominantly white town. But I’m also prepared to suggest that it’s not the only factor that contributed to the lack of public awareness, with respects to the real facts surrounding Don Al-Andross’s arrest.

    Question: where was the alternative resources of information bombarding the walls of social media sights so as to inform the majority of uninformed Portlanders about Don’s arrest?

    Or is it the fault of occupy Portland, a leaderless movement, that nobody with direct first hand knowledge made ongoing, continual and daily attempts to saturate our conscious with the facts surrounding Don’s arrest? Are we only to rely on hearsay and the mainstream media?

    Seeing as we obviously can’t rely on the mainstream media to get a story correct, it’s imperative that those who do understand the facts, and possess accurate knowledge, take it upon themselves to spread that information in as many ways and as far and wide as possible. I personally have not been exposed to enough ALTERNATIVE sources of information on the subject of Don’s arrest, and as Ahjamu points out, there’s little accurate info from the mainstream media.

    Question: Why was the Justin Bridges case embraced so effectively by Occupy Portland?

    While acknowledging that race does play a significant factor as to why so many embraced Justin Bridges story more than Don Al-Andross’s, I want to point out that there are other reasons besides race that ALSO factor into why Justin’s story received so much support within the predominantly white occupy community.

    For instance, my general knowledge of the Justin Bridges case was the result of a focused media campaign by a SMALL group of his immediate friends and family, constantly keeping the issue in people’s minds. In other words “Occupy Portland” is not responsible for promoting the Justin Bridges case, when it was his immediate friends and family who actually had first hand knowledge, and a direct relationship with Justin, who took it upon themselves to get the word out in as many ways as possible.

    Again, who else is qualified to get the word out if they don’t have the facts? Not “Occupy Portland”. Justin’s immediate friends and family were the one’s who were up all night making the propaganda videos and spamming them all over the internet. I have first hand knowledge of who was responsible for constantly bombarding OPDX social networks with the Bridges story because the people are my neighbors, I watched it go down.

    Finally, in my opinion, it’s intellectually dishonest to ignore the fact that Justin Bridges was ALREADY a recognized face inside Occupy because of his daily participation in GA’s as an American Sign Language interpreter for the def community. So, it stands to reason that his general level of prior exposure ALSO aided in his story being that more effectively spread.

    Now, let’s make Don’s story just as famous if not more famous, but that’s going to take more information and the spread of it. Which is why I thank Mr. Umi in igniting that process with this provocative article. It’s most definitely needed because, again, race consciousness is an issue for what is a movement primarily constituted by white people like myself, and apparently Don Al-Andross needs more support than ever from the greater community of Portlanders, including those of us participating in Occupy.

  12. Carlos
    March 16, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    And for the record, this is the first time I’ve heard anything about the fact that Don is African American. Those details were never explicit in any of the media coverage I saw on the subject.

  13. Theresa & Adam
    March 16, 2012 at 9:53 PM

    One of the best ways to end racism in ourselves and our communities is to 1) Listen to People of Color and 2) Honor What They Say.

    This includes acknowledging People of Color’s leadership especially when race is at issue. This includes listening, really listening. This includes not picking apart the way things are said. If we don’t see the racism they do, they do us a favor as they help us all reduce discrimination and disparities by pointing out when they see it and feel it. Ahjamu is pointing out that the man of white got more support than the man of color in this instance. What? We are all raised to be racist. We are surrounded by racist images in education, movies, games, music,etc. How can we escape it? Don’t take it personally. Just admit it without having to defend against it and challenge all those who call you on it. The point is not whether we are racist or not, it is whether we choose to perpetuate white supremacy or to change how we behave and finally begin to address racism for real.

    As a community, we now have the opportunity to acknowledge our racism, as well as a difference in support for Justin and Don, and have the chance to support them both the best we can.

    This type of email posting becomes toxic and unaccountable fast, hurts us all, and perpetuates racism. I don’t know for sure, but each one of us on this list has probably worked side by side somewhere in Occupy as an ally to each other and wants to (has to) trust each other. Without trust, we’re done. If we don’t acknowledge our history (racism IS the story of america), we are already repeating it.

    Healing starts with listening. Listen up! Let’s get together and actually work it out(and actually help don and justin). That would be more than a revolution!

  14. kari
    March 17, 2012 at 10:21 PM

    I appreciate this article and agree with what you are writing. Thank you for articulating this truth. As a white person I know that it is our/my responsibility to talk with other white folks about racism both in Occupy and in the world at large so that it is not always people of color that are pointing out and fighting against racism in our community. In that spirit, fellow occupiers — especially those that still have faith in the legal system as a source of justice — I invite you to a join the forming book club to read The New Jim Crow. http://www.newjimcrow.com/ .

    We will read the book, learn about the mass incarceration and racism within the criminal justice system (with broader implications for racism within our nation), and then take action together to address this horrendous problem. That is the plan anyway.

    If you are interested contact me at [email protected] and we’ll get connected.

    Help the work along, one step at a time.

  15. Justine
    March 20, 2012 at 3:10 AM

    Please keep us posted on the status of Don Al-Andross’court date. I definitely want to be there to support him.

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