While demonstrations against racism and police violence have continued in downtown Portland for more than two months there are a variety of other groups coming out to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
One group, called the PDX Car Caravan, drives a long line of cars around the city, twice a week.
The protest was sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May. The first mobile protest happened on June 12 and involved 30 cars. But by Juneteenth, it had grown to 200 vehicles.
Founder Donna Hayes said the car-based protest gives vulnerable people a chance to demonstrate from the safety of their vehicles. “The young people can deal with the tear gas. I can’t deal with the tear gas! I can’t go to jail! I take too much medication. And I really couldn’t keep up … I’m in a walker,” Hayes said.
“And with the coronavirus, we’re safe in our cars. And there’s a lot of people who want to participate but they can’t. They’ve got children, they’re seniors, they’ve got all sorts of autoimmune diseases and they can’t do it. And when they heard about this, they jumped upon it.”
The caravan meets on Wednesdays and Fridays in the parking lot of the Portland Community College Cascade campus near the student services building at 6 p.m. Drivers are given a half-hour lesson on how to safely block traffic, then quickly merge back into the convoy. Each time they take a different route and it takes about two-and-a-half hours to complete.
Each driver is encouraged to highlight his or her particular grievance. For Hayes it’s all about her grandson Quanice Hayes.
He was shot and killed by Portland police officer Andrew Hearst back in 2017.
Police were responding to a report of an armed robbery near a Northeast Portland motel. They found Hayes after a neighborhood search and say he moved his hand toward his waistband while crawling toward them.
A plastic replica gun was found at the scene.
His grandmother drapes a painting of Quanice Hayes across her car during the protests. “He was 17 years old! They claim he had a play gun. I know my grandson is smart enough not to reach for a play gun with a whole bunch of police around,” she said.
Hayes said she was so angry she wanted to throw a brick through City Hall. “That was where my heart lied,” she said.
“Then a friend pulled me out of my grief and directed me to what to do with my grief and my anger,” and that’s how the PDX Car Caravan was started.
Adrienne Flagg has taken part in every drive. She said some drivers get irate as they have to wait for the caravan to pass, but the police have generally left them alone. “I think the police are busy with other things,” she said.
“We haven’t really had any interaction except for last we week had two officers approach two cars that were blocking and said that they didn’t want to have to give them tickets.”
By the end of the conversation, the last car of the caravan had passed so police ushered the drivers on without tickets.