NAACP leads ‘Why We’re Here’ event at Waterfront Park

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Portland protests in the name of Black Lives Matter continue for the 65th consecutive night after two days in a row of largely peaceful gatherings that garnered no police responses, use of tear gas, or arrests.

Saturday evening, the Portland NAACP hosted an event at the Waterfront to re-focus the message. President Rev. E.D. Mondainé said they want to get the conversation back on the Black Lives Matter movement. The prominent civil rights song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” opened the event, titled “Re-Centering Why We’re Here: BLM.” Other speakers included City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and Senator Jeff Merkley.

Mondainé said for the last 60 days of protests there has been chaos, especially after the federal government became involved. He said the street scene was necessary, and expressed appreciation, and also said it was time to re-center and to come away from the noise, away from the crowd.

“We are moving in a direction that we started in in the 60s and it got interrupted,” said Mondainé. “So, now we are back and we have to take this movement as soberly and as positively as we can, so the advancement of Black people can be a state of fact rather than a state of fiction.”

Hardesty opened her remarks with a thank-you to the public, to the 70,000 people who emailed and wrote the Portland City Council and called for a reduction of the Portland Police Bureau’s budget, which was then cut by $27 million this year.

“It is because of you,” she said. The Commissioner has also begun to assemble a committee that will review the police bureau’s budget. “We need people at the table, helping us develop the next round of cuts.”

During Merkley’s speech, he said that he hoped to pass multiple pieces of legislation next year, including an act that would end some of the tactics that federal officers used on protesters while in Portland.

“That comes with the secret policing operation-these officers coming out equipped for war,” said Merkley. “They proceed to go down the streets of Portland and grab people and thrown them into vans… Not in America, not in a republic, and we are going to end it.”

The “Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America’s Streets Act” would require an officer’s identity and agency affiliation to be visible on their uniforms, it would prevent unmarked cars from being used in arrests, it would limit federal agents’ crowd control actions to federal property, and make any arrests made in violation of the previous rules unlawful.

The senator also said he wanted to amend the 13th Amendment so that the existence of slavery is completely eliminated, and spoke of a third piece of legislation he is working on with Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris on police reform.

Merkley concluded his talk with an homage to the late Congressman John Lewis.

“Let’s stir up a lot of good trouble in honor of John Lewis.”