Raising up children

Hundreds of protesters gathered on Jan. 20 at Peninsula Park in North Portland for the “Reclaim MLK Annual March for Human Rights and Dignity,” organized by Don’t Shoot PDX.

The protest focused on the voices of children, and many protestors carried signs and marched.

Organizer’s guidelines and accessibility pledge stated: “Our children deserve to be centered and celebrated by our diverse community because when we center the voices of our most marginalized, then we are truly doing the work of change agents.”

The Bus Project, the Democratic Socialists of America, the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals and Unpresidented Brass Band were all present at the march. An anti-Trump protest also reorganized to march with the MLK protest.  

“If we can do anything with this annual event, let’s stop and save one African-American person of color in our community,” said T. Oliver, co-chair of the Pacific Green Party of Oregon.

“I’m amazed the streets are not on fire yet after three years of Trump being elected to the government and doing what he’s doing every day,” protestor Francisco Jerez said. “I think people are not using the leverage they have on the government, but the government is using all of their means to oppress the shit out of everyone. It’s astonishing.”

Asked if the protest was likely to change anything, Jerez said, “No, other than showing to ourselves how many we are and that we are not alone. But I’m not actually sure it’s going to address the root of the problem. It’s a tiny step toward that. It needs to be hundreds of times this scale for it to really change anything.”

“[The protests are] all little drops in a great big bucket,” protestor Deborah Einbender said. “I love the theme this year: raising up children. The leaders in the world are showing a really terrible example to the youth of greed and fear, and we’re on a self-destructive path. We could all focus on the children and the future and making sure there’s a world here for them, a world that is fair and equitable for all. Without that, it really doesn’t matter.”

Although protesters blocked all lanes of traffic on the protest route, the event was mostly without incident. However, one incident did occur when a man attempted to drive through the crowd and argued with the protesters blocking the road. One protester reached into the car and a short fight ensued. No one was injured and no arrests were made. The protester who attacked the driver was immediately forced out of the march.

The march ended near a mural depicting figures in civil rights history. The artist, Isaka Shamsud-Din, gave a speech about the importance of reparations and offered advice to young artists.

“[One of my main objectives is] to inspire anyone and everyone who looks at this mural or thinks about our history to start digging on your own,” Shamsud-Din said.

The march disbanded after short speeches from those leading the protest.

Seanna Hart, a speaker for the group, said it had been successful, and she hoped people would remember that “we’re keeping his dream alive and still fighting for our rights.”

Protesters for MLK Day in Downtown Portland, Jan. 20, 2019