Protecting Each Other in Portland
By Shin Yu Pai and Tamara Power-Drutis
Last week’s horrifying murder of Nabra Hassanen placed a spotlight on the increase in Anti-Muslim hate crimes in the United States since the 2016 presidential election. While hard data on these crimes is difficult to piece together given the individual and institutional barriers to reporting, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) 2017 Civil Rights Report cites 2,213 bias incidents in the last year, including 260 anti-Muslim hate crimes. This marks a 44% rise from 2015, and a staggering 584% increase from 2014, when the group counted just 38 hate crimes.
In response, individuals are working within local communities to push back against Islamophobia.
Following the Portland murders of Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche and Ricky John Best and injury of Micah David-Cole Fletcher, individuals across the city united to support the victims and take action against anti-Muslim hatred.
“Two men lost their lives and another was injured for doing the right thing, standing up for people they didn’t know against hatred. Their actions were brave and selfless, and should serve as an example and inspiration to us all. They are heroes.” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler in a statement to the Washington Post.
Portland’s Community Cycling Center partnered with Amplifier to install artwork from the We The People initiative in their storefront windows. The pieces — designed by Shepard Fairey based on reference photos by Arlene Mejorado, Delphine Diallo, and Ridwan Adhami — challenge us to defend dignity, be greater than fear, and protect each other.
To honor Meche, Best, and Fletcher and to combat intolerance, the Center will display the images as permanent pieces of their shop. Kasandra Griffin, Executive Director of Community Cycling Center, told us that, “We were excited to be able to unfurl three large We The People window art installations at our bike shop on NE Alberta St. last week.”
While the team installed the artwork, by-passers gathered on the sidewalk to enjoy them. Since the installation, store staff have witnessed a steady stream of people stopping to regard the art and talk with others about the pieces. “The shop staff are proud to have them there representing support of our vibrant, diverse community,” says Griffin.
“The shop staff are proud to have them there representing support of our vibrant, diverse community,” says Griffin.
Community Cycling Center is a 22-year-old nonprofit bicycle shop that delivers safety education and free bikes to thousands of kids every year. The organization is committed to providing access to bicycling to all Portlanders, specifically those who reside in low-income or underserved communities. As one of the most culturally diverse, affordable, and popular bike shops in the city, the Center is considered part of the fabric of Portland.
All of these images, and others, are available as free high resolution downloads on amplifier.org for other communities interested in declaring themselves a hate-free zone.
In addition, there are many ways that individuals can take part in combatting the roots of bias based crimes.
Coalitions like Documenting Hate are working to document and understand these incidents in order to identify new approaches and solutions. If you are a victim or witness and want to tell your story, you can do so on their online form.
You too can be an ally, and stand against hate in your community. The Southern Poverty Law Center has compiled a helpful Community Response Guide for how all individuals can get involved where they live.