A rally calling for the end to nightly violence in Portland — while continuing important conversations about racial equality — drew several hundred people to Tom McCall Waterfront Park Sunday afternoon.
The event was organized by Eric Post — who last week raised an American flag at the former site of the Elk statue downtown, only to see it burn 15 minutes later — and featured remarks by him and Raeona Amadi, a Black woman who confronted protesters at a riot two weeks ago, and Black Lives Matter activist and preacher Deshawn Hardy.
"Oregonians for Peace" rally getting underway at Waterfront Park. It's being led by Eric Post, who made waves on July 4 when he put an American flag where the bronze elk statue used to stand. pic.twitter.com/lvdLQoDW6F
— Hannah Ray Lambert (@TheHannahRay) July 12, 2020
Among those in attendance was Canby resident Martin Lackner, who organized the pro-police flag waving at the Canby I-5 exit Thursday and was also involved in the Police Solidarity event at Wait Park last month.
He said Post’s message is not about shutting down the conversation or silencing minority voices.
“Eric said at the very beginning, ‘This isn’t my mic. This is everyone’s mic. If you’ve got something to say, come up and say it,'” Lackner recalled. “Everyone was invited to speak.”
That included a small group of counter-demonstrators that gathered but did not disrupt the event, whom Lackner identified as antifa, a loosely organized political movement characterized by militant opposition to far-right ideology, and which some have called to be designated a domestic terrorist organization.
“I’m sure if one of those antifa people wanted to speak, he would have handed [the mic] to them,” Lackner said of Post.
Portland has been, in the words of Mayor Ted Wheeler, a “staging ground for violence night after night” for more than six weeks — unrest initially sparked by the death of Minnesotan George Floyd in May at the hands of four former Minneapolis police officers, who have been since been charged for their roles in his killing.
While many of the large protests have been peaceful, others have resulted in widespread property damage, fires and violence. Some officers have been injured by bricks, fireworks and other projectiles from protesters; others have come under fire from demonstrators, journalists and public officials for their own use of force and riot control tactics.
Writing on Facebook before the event, Post had called for “showing … that we don’t want any more violence. We stand against it. Period,” specifically referencing a protester who was severely injured Saturday by a “less-lethal” munition that struck him in the head.
“That’s what needs to happen: We need to stop the violence,” said Lackner. “We need to stop the destruction. We need to stop the attacking each other and the divisiveness. We need to have a productive conversation to bring peace and harmony back to our country.”
Lackner was also critical of the state’s elected leaders, many of whom he said appear to have washed their hands of the situation in Portland.
“There needs to be some accountability for the elected leaders who are not having these conversations, who are not listening,” he said. “It seems like all of the leadership seems to be fading into the bushes while all this is happening. You know, where are they? They were all invited to be there. Not a one showed up.”
He said the group who has organized the pro-law enforcement demonstrations in the local area are planning other peaceful events for later this summer.
“We’re going to move forward, focused on productive dialogue, pride in our country and patriotism,” he said. “That’s where we’re going and we’re not going to stop.”
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