December 1st, 2020
Artwork by Anonymous
Day 160. It’s been 160 days of community. Of love. Of trauma and deep fear. I’ve witnessed more violence than I ever thought I would see. I never thought I would be going to war, but that is what it feels like every night. The world watched as we stood outside the Federal Courthouse yelling, pleading, shaking the “sacred fence”, throwing objects, starting trash fires. Homeland Security calls us “violent anarchists” when a majority of the crimes listed on their website regarding their presence here were acts of graffiti. And what the world doesn’t know- the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) is much worse than the federal officers ever were. They knew we were prepared for tear gas, so they used it less often. They began bull running towards us and pulling people to the ground with the intention of bodily injury. Then came the mace. But we came back every night. So they started arresting us in mass numbers. We elected a new District Attorney (DA) into office who dropped 500 of 550 charges against protesters. So the police began violently beating people so they would be physically and emotionally unable to come back. State troopers and some members of the PPB were deputized as federal officers so if you were arrested it would both bypass the DA and land you federal charges. The mass arrests came back and the beatings got worse. Numbers dwindled because they were forcing us to stay home in bed with concussions, stitches, and PTSD that keeps you up at night. If you were standing in the street you were arrested and held to the ground by multiple officers on your back. Standing on the sidewalk? Punched and pulled to the street, thrown to the ground, and arrested. Sitting? Violently arrested. Apart of the wall of moms? Arrested. Throw a water bottle? Violently arrested. Use the same laser the feds flashed in our eyes? Target arrest and federal charges. You’re a visibly labeled medic? Beaten. Thrown to the ground. Hit in the back of the head with a baton. Press? Rubber bullets shot at you and flashlights shined at your camera. Press asking questions? Arrested. Pleading with an officer to stop violently arresting a member of the press? Helmet ripped off and thrown to the ground, knocked unconscious, and dragged unconscious to a police van where you’re driven offsite: you wake up in the hospital. Yelling at the police? Thrown to the ground so hard you have lacerations on your knee, hand, back, arm, and shoulder. Taken to the hospital. This is only a shortlist of things I have seen first hand. This doesn’t account for the unmeasurable pain tear gas and mace causes. I fall asleep at night reliving these memories, unable to unsee the violence.
And then the Oregon fires came. And we stopped. Instead at an insane speed, we gathered supplies and brought them to Southern Oregon and indigenous communities. We created a supply center that was open 24 hours a day run by only “violent anarchists”. And what came of it? Because of the misconception of who we were? Oregon turned on us yet again. ANTIFA was labeled as the people starting the fires and it created a massive ripple throughout the states. People were held at gunpoint trying to help bring supplies. Citizens created “checkpoints” where they were armed and pulling people over to question them. We are the enemy on every level. Right-wing protesters from all over the state come to counter-protest the movement during the day. They bring guns and bear mace. Two people have died. Many people are threatened both at the protests and at home. If you’ve been arrested, they find you. You get voicemails with recordings of conversations you’ve had at protests. They tell you they know where you live and know where you work.
There are many things the media fails to show you what is really going on in Portland. Lawyers, medical professionals, mental healthcare workers, and social workers have all come together to support and care for one another because as more time passes we realize how dire a community is needed. Community support is the backbone of the Portland BLM movement. It’s about giving and receiving. About taking care of those who need it. Monetary donations to our BIPOC community, delivering food, buying supplies for the community we want police funds reallocated to. There are people supplying medics with supplies, people coming every night with snacks, licensed therapists providing free support, people sitting outside jail 24/7 so there is someone waiting for you to offer support when you’re released. The list goes on. All I have seen or felt from anti-fascists is love and support. The people of Portland want community. We want to be taken care of, but the government has failed. Ted Wheeler has never been on our side even though he acts like it when the media is around. We have learned to take care of each other and attempt to experience joy with each other. This movement has given me friends. Given me a deeper understanding of our BIPOC community. Given me gratitude and a slow every growing deconstruction of my white privilege.
We are all fighting demons. Our democracy is collapsing before our feet. We are more divided than I ever thought we could be. Hate runs deep in everyone's bones. Black people in this city are facing more racism than I have ever witnessed- or maybe it’s because I’m truly seeing it now. Families are divided, friends have been lost, but our hope for a better future prevails.