Portland Liberals Need To Wake Up Before More People Die

The entire city of Portland is preparing for a violent clash tomorrow between white supremacists and those who dare stand up against them. While much of the city believes the event will be peaceful and a great opportunity to show what our community stands for, others know that it is probably the least safe place someone could be in the city of Portland tomorrow. For those who believe tomorrow is an opportunity to show what the city of Portland really stands for, we need to examine what that actually is. Who are we? Who do we want to be?

Photo via Emily Joan Greene

There has been an overwhelming response to the two murders that took place last week, committed by a known white supremacist who was recently filmed at an event thrown by the same group who has planned the event for tomorrow. But why is this story so compelling? Why are people so willing to forget about the two young PoC women who were harassed. Were the martyrs who lost their lives not more concerned of their safety than that of their own? Would focusing on them rather than the deceased not be a great way to honor their memory? It is clear that those who stood up to defend the young women were heroes. In fact, everyone who stands up against white supremacy is a hero. Because, it is dangerous. Anyone who fights against fascism is doing so with the understanding that they might lose their life. In fact, this was not even the first time that someone had stood up against Jeremy Christian. Antifa confronted Jeremy Christian in Montavilla and were called thugs for doing so. If Christian would have stabbed one of them instead of the two heroes on the max train, would we still refer to them as thugs? If we wait until a hero dies to applaud them for standing up to fascism then we are discouraging such bravery. Do not wait until more anti-fascist activists die before we commend their sacrifice.

The truth is, fascism is dangerous. We know that. The vast majority of people in Portland agree with that. However, we are having a hard time defining our terms. The Oregonian even called Antifa activists fascists. Fascism is defined as, “an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.” What this means is that white supremacist, neo-nazism, and ultra-nationalism can all be grouped together into different tiers of fascism. However, they are all dangerous. It doesn’t matter what name you ascribe to them. It is now popular to refer to them as the alt-right but we must not forget that the term is synonymous with neo-fascism. Now, I hope that we can all reach the conclusion that fascism is dangerous. I also hope we can agree that the various counter cultures that make up the alt-right are all forms of fascism at least by its technical definition. So the question then becomes, how dangerous is it and what are we willing to do about it? The answer is, it is incredibly dangerous. In fact, fascism threatens our entire way of life. Fascism threatens the very existence of America. But on a very real human and immediate level, fascism threatens those in our society who are the most marginalized. As patriotism has become synonymous with bigotry, those who do not fit into the white patriarchal system that Donald Trump and his supporters look back at with nostalgia, are the most threatened. That means that the two girls who were threatened by Jeremy Christian are some of the most vulnerable to fascism. That means that when people stand up against that, they are heroes.

Now the next question is harder to answer. What are we willing to do about it? The answer is currently very little. Some of us are willing to go to vigils. Some of us are willing to observe moments of silence. Others are even willing to donate to the victim’s families. But very few of us are actually willing to make the sacrifice that those men made that day. At what point did America go from celebrating D-Day and the storming of Normandy to condemning those who so much as punch Nazis? Now I want to be clear, I am not advocating for violence. I am advocating for taking a stand in the same manner that the heroes did on that fateful day on the Max train. After all, they are heroes for a reason right? I am advocating for being willing to put your body and yes even your life on the line to defend the most vulnerable among us from fascism and white supremacy whenever you can. That is far different than needless and unprovoked violence. That is self-defense but even more importantly, community defense. Sometimes there is nobody there to see it. Sometimes, the person you are standing up for won’t even know it.

During the campaign, Portland liberals called Donald Trump hitler, they called him a fascist, they called him racist, homophobic, xenophobic, ableist, sexist and much more. They said he would be the worst thing to ever happen to America. However, since he was elected Antifa has been the only group acting as if all of that was true. Everyone else is patiently waiting for impeachment as those with the least privilege continue to die. Is he not as bad as you said he was going to be? Or is it just not impacting you as much as you thought so you are okay with inaction? Some of us do not have the privilege of waiting for an unlikely impeachment. Fascism is at our front door now, attempting to break in and murder us. Behind the masks of Antifa activists are often times my friends. They cry just like you. They feel pain just like you. They are scared just like you. Do they make mistakes? Yes. Are broken windows going to defeat fascism? No. But you know what? For a homeless queer youth who feels powerless to the rise of hate in our city, sometimes breaking a window can feel damn good. Sometimes grasping what little power you can grab is worth something. Sometimes feeling as though you are sticking it to the man isn’t so bad. At a minimum, it isn’t what we should be focused on. Those same people who you chastise for breaking windows are also willing to put their lives on the line just like the Tri-Met heroes. If they would have broken a window at an earlier protest, would that make them any less heroic? Maybe it isn’t effective, but if you care more about broken windows than you care about the homeless youth who sleep outside of those windows every night, you need to re-prioritize. If you care more about the free flow of traffic than racism in our community, you need to check yourself. And if you care more about civility and order than murders in our community, you need to just leave.

Let’s talk about tomorrow.

Joey Gibson and his alt-right group are planning on throwing a rally in downtown Portland. Not only is this disgusting and insensitive given the murders that just occurred, but it is dangerous. And he knows it, in fact that is what he is seeking: danger. He has billed the event as a celebration of free speech yet has promoted it as an opportunity to commit violence against Portlanders. If I create an event and call it, “come beat up the people of Portland for not being white cis gendered males” and then encourage violence, guns, vigilantes and destruction during the events promotion, I will not get a permit because street brawls are not constitutionally protected. But if I switch the name to ‘free speech event’ it is suddenly constitutional and The ACLU of Oregon will write a statement in support of me?

It seems obvious that if it were an ISIS-influenced individual to have performed a double-execution style murder in the heart of Portland, ISIS and their other extremist friends would not be granted permission to hold a troll rally in the heart of the city a few days later, especially when previous rallies with almost exactly the same advertising and names in attendance turned out to be alarmingly violent, including violence towards unarmed women. This whole double murder was about the execution of people who stood up to alt-right ideology in practice. It is undeniable that the upcoming rally will feature the exact same ideological and practical disputes that led to two people, including a 23-year US army veteran, having their throats slit in a move that is straight out of the extremist handbook, whether those extremists be from Muslim, Christian, white or any other ethnic or religious-supremacy group.

I understand and agree with the notion that even hate speech should be protected. However, I think it is fully within the rights of the government to deny an event because it has been promoted by the organizers as an opportunity to beat up people because of who they are. The rights of those people who are being threatened are who we should be protecting. I’m unsure if ACLU didn’t research how the event has been promoted, or didn’t see the encouragement of violence from the organizers or what is going on here but this is not denying a permit because the government disagrees with the speech by any stretch. In short, I’m really disappointed in the ACLU of Oregon for alienating their allies, failing to research the promotion of the event, equating ‘speech’ with promotion of violence and defending the rights of terrorists to beat people up rather than marginalized communities to simply exist.

Joey Gibson has promoted the event as something that will be similar to The Battle of Berkeley. For those who don’t know what happened there, alt-right trolls decided to hold a rally in the progressive Mecca of Berkeley and were met by counter protests. This was by design. They wanted a conflict. As you might imagine, it got violent. The most high-profile victim of alt-right leader violence in Berkeley faces harassment and death threats (she was attacked by the top leader in a group providing ‘security’ called the Proud Boys, an openly chauvinist group). Major Portland Republican political leaders are openly calling for alt-right and Patriot militia groups such as Oath Keepers and 3%ers to have an armed ‘security’ presence at the rally, as a substitute for legitimate law enforcement officials, which virtually guarantees racist and islamophobic armed militancy. This is not going to end well.

Portland’s Resistance recently called on Joey Gibson to cancel his event and for the federal government to revoke the permit. Now that it has become clear that Donald Trump’s federal government is not going to revoke the permit and that Joey is going to stand his ground, there is only one possible outcome. We call on The Portland Police to do the right thing and police the alt-right crowd as if it were a crowd of marginalized communities simply protesting for progress. I appreciate Mayor Wheeler’s statement calling for the permit to be revoked. However, I also hope that the mayor never again normalizes such events by attending them and shaking hands. I also hope that he directs his police department to adhere to the values of that statement while policing the event.

The Portland Police Bureau has engaged in a pattern of disgusting behavior of perpetuating violence at protests organized by left-leaning organizations. However, when last week’s murderer attended an event by the same organization that plans on rallying tomorrow, police protected him and shielded the hate groups. Here in Portland, on May Day, thousands of people took to the streets and had their permit instantly revoked and the event shut down due to lies from the police department. If they can do that based on lies they should be able to do the same to white supremacists based on actual and real encouragement of violence. We must as a city acknowledge that our police department and its members have tremendous respect for, and similarities with, the alt-right. The PPB currently employs a known Nazi sympathizer and their officers have been photographed wearing Trump gear at alt-right events.

Photo via Kristian Fodenvencil

We must also acknowledge the current climate in this country and why these types of crimes are on the rise. White supremacists feel emboldened by the Trump administration. Racists now feel like they have a friend in The White House. It is no coincidence that Jeremy Christian, the murderer, had recently attended one of Joey Gibson’s events. While they claim they kicked him out, they also shook his hand. We must talk about why he felt as though he would be welcome there. We must continue to resist this administration and the fascists who support it. Jeremy Christian is a terrorist. This is the form of terrorism that America is most threatened by, not refugees, Muslims, immigrants or even anarchists. While I do not advocate violence or destruction, I hope that our community will work harder on fighting against fascism like those dressed in all black who also wish to resist this rising form of terrorism. If you are an ally in Portland, I encourage you to attend a counter event to that of the hate groups. However, I do so cautiously with the understanding that there will be violence. We are at a turning point in American history. Who do we want to be Portland?

Photo via Doug Brown

The Portland Police response to the max shootings is to put more officers on public transportation. Let’s talk about the fact that those officers intimidate PoC more than they stop terrorist attacks. Let’s acknowledge that they criminalize the poor by arresting people for not paying their fare more than they stand up to fascism. The response should have been to abolish our racist gang enforcement list and instead direct those resources at monitoring, policing and shutting down violent white supremacist and fascist networks within our community. Also, we keep electing false progressives into office because we fail to look at their donors or demand that they actually follow through on their platform once they get elected. Ted Wheeler ran on police reform, where is it? You want an example of privilege look at the police execution of Terrell Johnson on the max tracks as he ran away from police while in possession of a box cutter versus the arrest of Jeremy Christian who had just murdered two people and was allowed to drink a beer before being taken into custody. Is that reform? It is incredibly embarrassing that our police department endures national scandal after scandal and yet nothing changes. We need you to demand better before I become the next Quanice Hayes. Because when that happens, I don’t want any damn marches. I want action. If I die tomorrow at the hands of the alt-right, or if I die next week at the hands of the Portland Police, what are you going to do? Because I am telling you now, before it happens that marches, vigils, moments of silence and Facebook posts are not enough.

So where do we go from here?

The Huffington Post recently ran an article which featured many of the policy proposals that Portland’s Resistance has advocated for as examples of how Ted Wheeler could make our city less racist. Portland’s Resistance also has a broader set of criminal justice reforms that could drastically transform our city. However, if you are one of the two girls who was victimized by Jeremy Christian, you don’t have the luxury of waiting for reform in order to feel safe in your hometown. So what do you do? You the white Portland progressive. You the staunch liberal. You claim to be an ally, you’ve been posting on your Facebook non stop, you put #resist at the end of some of your posts, you went to the vigil, you even donated to a go fund me, you go to rallies up until the point police decide to start beating people up, you have a cool bumper sticker and you vote really really hard. But for some reason that doesn’t feel like enough. That’s because it isn’t. Join an organization, get involved, engage in individual reparations, shop at black owned businesses, meet an anarchist, wear a mask to a protest, when you are at the event tomorrow find someone from a marginalized group and let them know you are there for them and will defend them just like those on the max train if you have to, AND THEN. Actually do it! I don’t know about you but I’d rather die as a martyr tomorrow standing up against fascism than 50 years from now as a fake progressive in a jail cell under a fascist regime after American democracy has crumbled. And that is how real this is. Who do we want to be Portland? Because now is the time to decide.

Oh, and just in case you didn’t believe me, here is a bunch of stuff on Facebook showing the promotion of tomorrow’s event and comments by it’s promoted speakers: