Over the weekend, Portland saw numerous vigils and demonstrations which honored the life of George Floyd, killed by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25.
The protests that followed took aim at the systemic racism and a long string of violence perpetrated by police officers against black people. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night’s protests all began with mostly peaceful congregations, but ended with police deploying tear gas, flash bangs, and exerting forceful evacuations and arrests. More protests are expected tonight and throughout the week.
While a majority of the protestors advocated for peaceful protests, there were agitators who lobbed glass bottles, rocks, and balloons filled with paint at Portland police, equipped with batons and riot gear.
Each of the three Portland protests has ended with the disheartening scene of protestors fleeing from tear gas and police cars, with looted shops and graffitied walls and broken glass. The message of this movement isn't lost, but it is muddied by the way some in the media will frame the night’s events, with the implication that murder is forgivable but the destruction of the Apple Store is not. These are the same folks who don’t understand the symbolism of capitalist empires systemically devaluing black and brown lives being destroyed, and who will gainfully misinterpret Martin Luther King Jr.’s oft-quoted “A riot is the language of the unheard,” as if King was never arrested, as if King was never beaten down by police, as if King was never assassinated.
Growing up, my grandmother gave me grave consultations about what to do, what to say, how to act if ever I should be involved in an incident with a police officer. If a squad car ever pulled up beside us at a red light, my father would tell me to keep my eyes forward, don’t even look over there. I watched grownups, who wouldn’t bat an eye at the looming shadows in the darkened hallway or the foulest creatures lurking underneath our beds, quiver at the sight of a black-and-blue uniform. All of my life, I’ve been afraid of that which is supposed to protect me.
What you see when you swipe open your phone, when you tap your finger on the live Twitter feed, is only a small frame in the mosaic of racial injustices that make up the history of this country. I've been wrestling with the ethics of being here, documenting what I'm seeing. As a Latino, this is a shared struggle. Part of me is out here because it's part of my job. The other part of me is out here because I believe we are in need of police reformation/defunding, because I don't wish to ever see another video of a black man gasping for air while a white officer murders him in broad daylight. I choose to be here, standing in solidarity, capturing, as best as I can, the nuances of this very important moment.