Demetria Hester has been a prominent voice in nightly protests against police violence and systemic racism. Last month, she was one of the central figures in the dissolution of the Wall of Moms, and the creation of the new, Black-led group, Moms United for Black Lives.
She was one of 16 people arrested for disorderly conduct by Portland police outside the police union building Sunday, and she spent the night in jail before being released Monday morning. Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt dismissed her charges.
In June, Hester testified in the Jeremy Christian sentencing hearing. Christian had been found guilty of assaulting and intimating Hester one day before he murdered two men on a Portland max train in 2017.
Hester spoke with “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller Thursday. Here are some highlights from that conversation. To listen to the entire segment, use the audio player at the top of this story.
How is she feeling after being out almost every night since the protests began — and one day after her release from jail?
“Oh, I’m great. I’m ready to do it again tonight. Every day is a new day, for our revolution, to fight this revolution and get our reparations. We have been suppressed for so long, and everyone is waking up. They’re waking up and staying woke. The coronavirus gave white people a glimpse into Black people’s lives. And they’re sympathetic. And they have empathy because no one wants to be treated this way for so long.”
How did being intimidated and assaulted by Jeremy Christian in 2017 shape the way she thinks about this current uprising for Black lives?
“I couldn’t believe we were in 2017 because I’m from Memphis, Tennessee, where they do burn crosses, and they do drag you out of your house — the KKK, which are the police. That Portland, Oregon, allows people like Jeremy Joseph Christian to spew hate to everyone and to then back him up.
“That’s what pushed me because the night of the incident, the police knew who he was, allowed him to do what he did, treated me like the assailant, wanted my ID, had no compassion. I asked him [the police officer] why he wasn’t pursuing him, and he said ‘He said he didn’t do it.’ Those types of things, being a victim and then having to be revictimized by the system.”
How does she describe the idea behind Mom's United for Black Lives?
“The same idea that was there before: moms uniting for Black Lives Matter, and being on the front line to show the unity that we have as moms, period, to come together for Black Lives Matter because that’s what matters. And the moms come out there and support and they’re diehard, and that’s what we need.”
What does it mean to do this work as a mother and as a grandmother?
“This revolution needs to happen. I refused to let my children, his children, any other tell a horrific history. I want this to set the tone for revolution so that we can have peace of mind and have reparations. So, it feels wonderful to know that we’re going to get reparations in this revolution and everybody is woke enough for us to get our reparations, and for this to continue to be a revolution until we do reparations.”
What kind of reparations is she envisioning?
“The justice system broken down, all the way down, dismantled, and laws are made for everyone. Laws are made to protect us and to put pedophiles, rapists, people who need to be in jail, in jail. And free our brothers and sisters that do not need to be in jail. Everyone makes enough money to survive, plus some. We’re having free everything: free education, free food, free clothes. Our country can do that. We don’t have to do what we’ve been doing for years.
“We see that our country can survive with us not working the hours that we work. So we’re gonna have reparations that everybody is treated equally. We’re equally paid. We’re equally respected, and the people that do not do that, those are the ones that need to go to jail.”
How did she make the decision to stay on Sunday night after police called a riot?
“First of all, let’s get it so corrected: There was no riot. They always say it’s a riot every single night, and no one, and let me repeat: No one is rioting. No one. No one. We’re out there standing, chanting. No one is rioting. No one. None of the police get hurt. All of this is propaganda that they try to throw out there. When [Mayor] Wheeler got on and said, ‘Someone almost got killed’ — that was a trash can that you put by your desk, on fire. How did that burn down a building?”
How would she describe someone breaking into a building and trying to set it on fire?
“First of all, you have to understand this is a revolution. These people are beating us. These people are shooting — I’ve been shot five times with rubber bullets. So I cannot tell someone how to protest, but at some point, it’s too much. For you to every night be shooting us, tear gassing us, beating us for nothing and then lying about it. And you call setting something on fire, which they’re gonna put out, a riot.
“People have different ways of protesting because we’re tired. I can’t tell people how to protest. But nothing is set on fire to the point where it’s going to burn down. Nothing is set on fire where someone is in danger. You have to understand just because you’re watching something on TV and you see some footage, you have to understand what is the surroundings about it. And that’s what’s the problem about watching TV.”
What does she see as the most effective way to create the changes that she and other protesters want to see?
“For us to unite together. There are some protesters that come for their own agenda. Down there, we need protesters that are for Black Lives Matter. We don’t need protesters to come trying to have a photo opp, that are not sticking together. Because when you do have a protest, it’s about numbers.
“You don’t run, you walk. You stay tight, you know, you let them know that just because they’re arresting us that we’re still going to come back and come back for more because we’re gonna have the revolution. We want the police defunded, and this is the only way for people to actually see how cruel and evil these people are to nonviolent protesters. And they will show their selves by doing what they do. So when this time to defund the police, we’ll be able to, because people will have seen for 70-plus days how the police and the feds have treated nonviolent protesters.
“So we have to take the good and the bad for us to do this revolution, for us to get our reparations, but we’re staking it there. And that’s what it takes with a protest, for us to unite, keep coming back, let them know that we’re not stopping, until we have the change that we want.”
Was she expecting to be released from jail Monday?
“Absolutely. Absolutely. Because they know that we weren’t wrong. Mike Schmidt said ‘Oh, I feel sorry for the families.’ He’s never met me before. I don’t even know who he is, but he made the statement saying that he hopes that we heal. If he would have filed charges against me, that wouldn’t have been a sorry, that would have been a slap in the face. So I’m sure he really thought about the decision, that this isn’t right to do, period — to none of the protesters. Because we know, and he knows what we’re protesting about, and it’s right.”
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