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A memorial is exhibited inside the Capital Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) zone in Seattle Friday, June 26, 2020. (photo by Susan Fried)
The Skanner Publisher
Published: 01 July 2020

Exactly one week ago U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, (D-NC), delivered a powerful speech in support of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.  

The bill called for major reforms to policing across the United States, including a ban on chokeholds, a ban on racial profiling and strict limits on the use of deadly force, military-grade equipment, and police immunity.

All police officers and police vehicles would record video. The bill also demands a complete overhaul of policing, reimagined as a consensual relationship based on “integrity and trust.” How hard is this to imagine at this moment?  

Congress is currently stagnant

Congress is currently deadlocked on the bill. Why? Because the Republican-controlled Senate won’t pass it, no matter how hard Oregon’s senators and others work to push for change.  

Stagnation looks bad for Congress at a moment when the American people are overwhelmingly feeling the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “fierce urgency of now.” 

George Floyd’s shocking and disgraceful murder exposed America’s brutal treatment of its Black citizens—no surprise to many of us—to the entire world. And thankfully it resonated. In cities large and small and on many continents.

People protested. They pulled down statues of Civil War heroes and they demanded change. Listen to them. You can hear their voices in the streets. 

To the protestors, keep your eye on the main issue of police treatment of Black people and how to change that. Flags and other symbols are a distraction. Don’t lose track of the main issue. 

This is not a time for small change. This is a time for big change, for bold change, for transformational change.  

People protest for change

We are blessed with a generation that has courage and is determined to achieve justice. Nothing else will do. We applaud their ambition. Keep protesting and now move toward changing policy. That’s where the real work begins. 

In Portland and the Northwest, day after day for a month and more, huge numbers of peaceful protesters have brought us hope that Black Lives Matter. That the casualties we mourn matter: Deontae Keller, Kendra James, Aaron Campbell, Keaton Otis, Jose Mejia Poot, James Jahar Perez, James Chasse, Quanice Hayes, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, George Floyd.  

Our hearts break because the list is so long we will never be able to say all of their names. 

Congress is broken. So can Oregon and Portland meet this challenge? How can justice and policing change? 

Oregon Sen. Lew Frederick’s bill, SB1604, though it needs more teeth, would help ensure city leaders and police chiefs could effectively discipline officers, holding them accountable and firing those who misbehave.  

This is essential. Over and over again Portland has seen the arbitration system return dangerous cops to their jobs.  

And what about the city of Portland? 

Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty cut $7 million from the PPD budget, pulling police out of schools and transit as well as cutting the gang violence team. A lot more needs to happen. We hope for more change when they negotiate the police union contract. 

More is needed

While this will reduce the over-policing of children and the poor it does not go far enough. We agree with Commissioner Eudaly, PAALF and Unite Oregon—more is needed.  

And the city, as far as it is able, must invest in Black communities by supporting housing, education, health and business. We know the problems and elected officials need to listen to people like us, and not to people without our experience.

After decades—centuries—of mistreatment and economic exploitation—America needs to get its act together on equality and justice. One example is the enforcement of some of the laws in Governor Brown’s 2018 Executive Order 18-03 that promotes business equity. This is not being enforced. Why? 

It won’t happen just from protesting— although the protests have been crucial. We need to win the political battles in Washington as well as Salem and Portland.  

Vote as your life depends on it

Our current president and the Republican majority have shown they are not interested in the issues of Black and Brown people. They may use vague phrases that sound good, but they are unwilling to take any meaningful action.

It is time to elect people who share our values.

It would only take a couple of Senate seats to win a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate. Radical change would be possible. When Democrats win in November they must drive hard and make it count.

We can’t win if we don’t vote. Just make sure that the one you vote for serves your best interest. 

When it comes to the November election we're with Beyonce. We have to vote as if our lives depend on it.  

What do you think? 

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