“We wanted to symbolize that both sides were oppressive,” said a 25-year-old protester who did not want to identify himself for fear of retaliation by the government. “We have all experienced with our own hands that police violence is police violence, regardless of which political party has power. … There is no difference in the person beaten.”
“White people may feel it’s time to let the administration run, but black and native people who had a rope around their necks don’t have time,” the protester said. – There is no justice, so there is no peace.
In his inaugural speech on Wednesday, Biden called for racial justice and unity in America, acknowledging that the nation was deeply divided by systemic racism and political forces. He condemned the supremacy of whites and domestic terrorism and said the country needed to be healed.
“The cry for racial justice is preparing us in about 400 years,” Biden said. “Everyone’s dream of justice will not be postponed any longer.”
Nevertheless, all the protesters, wearing black clothes and gas masks, marched on the streets of Portland on Thursday, where demonstrations of social justice have been going on for months. Protesters had damaged the State Democratic Party headquarters and the U.S. Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE building a day earlier, police said, and four people were charged with the incident.
CNN witnessed several arrests Thursday night when most people took part in a demonstration at the ICE building. Indeed, the demographics of the Portland protest movement have often been criticized. Protesters say it should come as no surprise, given that the city is 77% white and not to be underestimated.
“I want to dispel that white anarchists choose this for their own benefit,” the 25-year-old protester, who is white, told CNN that he had lived in Portland for most of his life. “There are black and indigenous people who can’t have the same outside action as whites.”
“No matter who is president”
The anger of some protesters is fueled by the assumption that the Biden administration will not meet their most important demands: the abolition of the ICE and the liquidation of the police. This concept can range from reinvesting police resources in marginalized communities and completely disbanding forces.
“There’s a lot of anger and rage” over Americans’ social inequality, protester Alix Powell told CNN. And vandalism is the way some people express their anger, he said.
“There’s a lot of hopelessness in people my age and people I know who feel that no matter what you vote for, whatever you do, they don’t listen,” he said Thursday. “Riot is the language of the unheard.”
“It doesn’t matter who the president is: Black life doesn’t matter, Arab life doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter to us. It just doesn’t matter,” another protester of Arab descent, who also remained anonymous, said CNN on Thursday.
National black leaders are counting on the new president to unify the county and implement policies that address the disparities black people face in housing, education, jobs, health care and voter repression, they said. I also want Biden to make up for the damage done by President Donald Trump’s offensive rhetoric to people of color and for refusing to deal with police brutality in the black community.
Among the first three enforcement orders Biden signed on the day of the inauguration was to ensure racial equality and support underperformed communities. Biden has also put together the most racially diverse presidential cabinet in U.S. history. The Department of Homeland Security, with a few exceptions, suspends deportations for 100 days. And on Friday, it will sign executive orders extending support to low-income Americans.
Many months of demonstrations in Portland
As in the country’s cities, protests erupted late last spring in Portland over the death of George Floyd, under the hands of Minneapolis police officers, and extended demands for police accountability and prosecutor reform Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McCozat and others.
Events ranged from peaceful Black Lives Matter parades to violent demonstrations, including arson and vandalism. Some have become targets of hate groups seeking to confront people defending the rights of marginalized communities.
Oregon’s complex racial tensions can be traced back to the time the nation was founded. According to a schedule published by Portland city officials, the Oregon Constitution was amended in 1854 to the exclusion of black people from the state.
Amendment 14, which grants citizenship to blacks, was passed in 1868, two years after it was approved by Congress.
However, it was not until the 1950s that Oregon began to withdraw laws and regulations that promote racial discrimination in housing, schools, and employment.
CNN’s Andy Rose, Dakin Andone and Hollie Silverman contributed to the report.