Election night protests in Portland were peaceful, with hundreds of demonstrators focusing less on the unfolding presidential election and more on all that remains at stake in the Black Lives Matter movement once all the votes have been counted.
Still, in a nod to an unpredictable situation exacerbated by the uncertainty surrounding the presidential results, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced early Wednesday that she would keep the Oregon State Police and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office in charge of any police response to demonstrations through at least Friday. In addition, the Oregon National Guard remains on standby as needed.
Tuesday night’s rally opened with music and speakers faintly audible a few blocks away from the neighboring Multnomah County Elections office in Southeast Portland. Speakers quoted revolutionaries like Assata Shakur, shared personal experiences going back to the Rodney King uprisings in Los Angeles in 1992 and recalled key historical moments, including that the November 3 election coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Ocoee Massacre, when white people in Ocoee, Fla., razed, killed, and drove out their Black neighbors, to create an all-white
The march started an hour later than scheduled, but was otherwise one of Portland’s more orderly 2020 protests. Organizers avoided any ballot drop-off sites, so as to not criminally intimidate voters. Drummers formed a line behind a black truck, leading the procession from Revolution Hall across SE Belmont. Medics, security specialists, and journalists were the only people allowed to get ahead of the truck, with the latter group advised to stay on the sidewalk. Those who did carry open weapons followed proper gun etiquette, keeping fingers off triggers and muzzles pointed in safe directions, as per the state’s open carry law.
While President Donald Trump’s name did come up —as the rappers YG and Nipsey Hussle used for their song “FDT” —speakers focused on what’s at stake for Black and Indigenous lives post-election, with the crowd at times chanting the names of victims of police brutality, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Kendra James, and Kevin Peterson, Jr. Black Portlanders talked about not wanting to hide themselves or hold back anymore to protect themselves, or others, from white fragility, a persistent issue in Portland and the rest of the country.
The march passed shuttered businesses, some with newly-nailed up boarded windows, and some that have been closed down since the start of the pandemic. Protesters were ordered to leave small businesses alone, and seem to have complied. (Revolution Hall was tagged with graffiti, but by white teens who admitted they came after the march left. Protesters shined flashlights into apartment and house windows, asking people watching at home to join them, while others directly spoke to bar and restaurant patrons along the route, urging them to join the march.)