Gatherers held signs that read one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s most famous aphorisms: “The time is always right to do what’s right.”
The signs were generic in a sense — fit for a protest or rally for any cause in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue at Oregon’s Convention Center in Portland.
Perhaps it’s because leaders of Portland’s chapter of the NAACP weren’t planning to spend their Saturday afternoon rallying. But things changed when news of violence, injuries and even death spilled out of Charlottesville, Virginia, the epicenter of a white nationalist rally that prompted Virginia’s governor to declare a state of emergency.
Jo Ann Hardesty, president of the NAACP Portland Branch 1120, said she hasn’t seen this kind of articulation of racial aggression since the 1960s. That’s what prompted her to organize a rally.
“When you sit home and text that you’re an ally, but yet you’re not willing to put your body, your resources on the line to protect people under attack, then you are in fact part of the problem,” Hardesty said at the rally.
“Not only do we have an obligation as being penned or voiced as the whitest city in America, we have a rare and unique and robust opportunity to make a difference because we have the center stage,” said Rev. Elbert Mondaine, vice president of NAACP Portland.
“We have been called the names. Now we can say this is the message that we’re sending from the whitest city in America: No, we won’t tolerate racism.”