On August 14th, enemies of racism, anti-blackness, and state violence against citizens took to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard to protest. They marched in the long shadow of the cracks in the walls of the police state, cracks that formed when Ferguson, Missouri residents took to the streets to decry the murder of Michael Brown by a police officer.
Protesters took to the street on MLK between Alberta and Killingsworth, near to the Portland Police Bureau’s North Precinct building. The police stayed out of the way of the protest, not sending uniformed officers to the scene, but patted themselves on the back for drawing the exact opposite lesson that protesters sought to send:
Capt. Pat Walsh, who leads the bureau’s tactical operations division, said the bureau anticipated a couple of hundred protestors Thursday night, but the officers held back. “We didn’t need to be coming and going with our police gear and be targets,” Walsh said.
Nevertheless, several hundred people gathered together to speak against injustice, and in doing so, captured the meaning of a street named for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard far more than any pizza joint or upscale bistro could ever do:
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality… No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963.
I have my own photos from this event, some of which I’ll post here, but for now I want to draw your attention to Hart Noecker’s summary of the protest, at Rebel Metropolis. In my eyes, Mr. Noecker is Portland’s most important journalist. His writing combines palpable anguish at injustice, as well as unwavering optimism at the ability of people to make change. His commitment to justice and action put the lie to the supposed value of ‘neutral journalism.’ We are blessed to have him among us, in our community.
Mr. Noecker was also a participant in the Tour de Gentrification earlier this year, which included a stop at the empty Vanport lot at MLK & Alberta, a site that the mayor disingenuously claimed would not ‘contribute to gentrification’ if it hosted a Trader Joe’s. Mayor Hales, I think, is one of those folks who says whatever seems convenient, and then convinces himself that he believes it; and he is not particularly concerned with whether anyone else does.
As it is, redevelopment of the Vanport lot to serve the consumer needs of a narrow segment of the population of inner North/Northeast Portland is a concrete example of predatory gentrification, one part of a broader pattern of violence that the state sanctions or participates in, against the already-dispossessed among us.