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“White as Hell” – some perspectives on what is happening in Portland

Late-Breaking Editor’s Note: 07-29/20 Federal Agents from the Department of Homeland Security have begun to leave Portland’s downtown. This comes after 62 consecutive nights of protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

A Letter from Jonathan and Deanne Ater

Dear Family and Friends,

What is going on in Portland – and on your TV screen – needs some context. Below is a link to a long article from The Guardian which offers considerable insight into what has gone before and where we are today. The article speaks for itself: Portland and Oregon have a long history of flagrant racial discrimination and police brutality. The protests we are all witnessing are directed primarily to those issues. There is work to be done. The great majority of the protestors are both principled and peaceful.

To the extent that the post-Floyd protests are directed at police brutality and discrimination, it is at least ironic that the police forces respond with yet more aggressive enforcement. It is not just the federales who have been heavy-handed, but their presence and tactics in recent weeks have clearly made the situation much worse.

To be clear, as Nicholas Kristof points out in his current column (the latter are occurring in a small area of downtown Portland) – three contiguous public squares [are] surrounded by federal, county, and city government structures. These squares have appropriately been the site of demonstrations of all kinds over many years. As an absolute practical matter, there is no risk of substantial damage to any of these facilities, state or federal, in part because the building are already and always protected. The firecrackers and trash bin fires you see on TV are not pretty, but they are not going to burn down the houses of government.

Portland is not that much different from most of America, even if we are still “white as hell.” We have longstanding issues of racial and economic discriminations to address and hopefully repair. When Jonathan was a baby lawyer way back in 1967, he was invited to serve on blue ribbon (and mostly white) committee studying racial justice in Portland. Although the world has changed and many of the details are difference, the conclusions of the report remain true today. There is a lot of work to be done.

We urge you to read the linked articles [below]. They give much needed perspective to what is going on. Please understand that Portland is not a place of anarchy, but a community of folks who are troubled by the status quo and exercising first amendment rights to assemble and seek social change. Suppressing free speech with force is not a good idea, and if our democratic values hold, will not be successful.

The American Field Service, years ago, adopted as its guiding principle an ancient Sanskrit mantra:

Walk Together, Talk Together
All Ye Peoples of the Earth
For Only Then Shall Ye Have Peace.

Best to all,

Jonathan and Deanne

The Guardian article: ‘White as hell’: Portland protesters face off with Trump but are they eclipsing Black Lives Matter?

New York Times Opinion column: In Portland’s So-Called War Zone, It’s the Troops Who Provide the Menace by Nicholas Kristof

Please add your comments below.

5 comments to ‘White as Hell’ – some perspectives on what is happening in Portland

  • Lee Bolman

    Thanks for posting, Jonathan. Your take is consistent with what I’ve been seeing, including Nick Kristof’s article. In a deeply polarized nation, this is one more event around which the polarization gets deeper and more intense.

  • Steve Howard

    Thanks, Jonathon

  • Ken Merkey

    Even later breaking news – after 71 days, even with the Federales leaving, the Bolsheviks continue to loot and riot under the umbrella of the “peaceful’ protesters. Are liberal politicians ever going to learn anything? Portland has been a bastion of liberal policies for half a century. If you continue to elect liberal politicians, this is what you get.

  • A. Alberto Mestre

    Whoever at this point requires more information about the demonstrations taking place in many cities run essentially by Democrats such as Portland, Seattle, Chicago and New York or calls them peaceful. has a very different agenda than to promote better race relations. Even Mayor Ted Wheeler from Portland has said ” when you commit arson with an accelerant in an attempt to burn down a building that is occupied by people you have intentionally trapped inside, you are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder.” I do suggest learning more about the Black Lives Matter Movement because essentially it is a Marxist run and funded movement to promote unrest and chaos in the USA to weaken it and further divide it to eventually establish Socialism/Communism in this country. To my Democrat friends, let me remind them that, even Bloomberg, during one of the debates, called Sanders a Communist.

  • A. Alberto Mestre

    Whoever at this point requires more information about the demonstrations taking place in many cities run essentially by Democrats such as Portland, Seattle, Chicago and New York or calls them peaceful. has a very different agenda than to promote better race relations. Even Mayor Ted Wheeler from Portland has said ” when you commit arson with an accelerant in an attempt to burn down a building that is occupied by people you have intentionally trapped inside, you are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder.” I do suggest learning more about the Black Lives Matter Movement because essentially it is a Marxist run and funded movement to promote unrest and chaos in the USA to weaken it and further divide it to eventually establish Socialism/Communism in this country. To my Democrat friends, let me remind them that, even Bloomberg, during one of the debates, called Sanders what incredibly enough I can’t print on this comment.

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