We are at a moment of reckoning for Portland, and for America. A little more than a week ago, the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis laid bare a harsh reality: racism continues to rob our Black communities of safety, health, and prosperity. Black Americans have remained resilient in the face of police violence, racist housing policies, income inequality, and educational inequities. Too often, the very institutions that are supposed to protect and support our community instead fail people of color and deny them their basic rights.
This isn’t new news to Black colleagues, neighbors and friends. It is the reality they live with every day.
Mr. Floyd’s murder announced that reality so loudly, so obviously, so unconscionably, that Americans of every race said enough. We cannot look away.
People are grieving. They are angry. They are hurt. And those emotions are boiling over into the streets of America, including right here in Portland. For the past four nights, thousands of protesters have marched through the city demanding justice for our Black community. The majority have demonstrated peacefully, and I want to thank them.
I am proud to stand with the Portland community, seeking a just future for the Black community, which the government has failed. We have witnessed moments of solidarity and glimmers of hope, such as protesters and Portland police officers kneeling together last night.
Our public safety teams are doing everything within their power to protect people’s right to protest, and to avoid confrontations. But a small minority of violent protesters are hurting our community – setting fires to buildings with people still inside, harassing journalists, destroying small and large businesses, and threatening our first responders.
I do not believe that violence and destruction are the answer to healing the deep racial wounds harming Portland and America. Quite the opposite. I have implored the Portland community to channel their justified anger toward the difficult and necessary work of seeking justice together.
It was my honor to join leaders and friends in our city’s Black community, talking about the path forward over the weekend. If we are serious about change, we must create more spaces for Black voices to be centered and elevated.
We must acknowledge the pervasive anti-blackness in our culture, identify the anti-blackness in every one of us, and eliminate it. That applies to our workplace, too. I want to speak directly to Black employees: Please take care of yourselves, your family and your community.
Please know that I am committed to your safety and your success.
I invite each and every one of you, as public servants, to join me in insisting that we never return to business as usual.
I'm committed to examining my privilege, doubling down on equity and ensuring that here at the City of Portland, when we lead, we lead with racial equity, always.
We need to hear – and own – difficult truths so we can build a better, more equitable Portland. Together, we will acknowledge Portland’s history and write its future.