The Portland City Council passed a resolution Thursday that condemns white supremacists and alt-right hate groups.
The hearing started with testimony from a senior policy advisor to Mayor Ted Wheeler.
Nicole Grant spoke about how the resolution came to be and her own experiences with prejudice and hate as a black woman in Portland.
“This resolution is not about white people. It’s about all people with a dedicated focus on those that are targeted as a result of their skin color,” Grant said during opening remarks.
All of the commissioners offices worked together to draft the resolution.
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Grant said the resolution speaks to the need for a cultural shift in Portland so white supremacists will no longer view the city as their playground and hurl threats at its residents and mayor.
Grant’s comments were followed by community leaders and organizations that study hate groups.
Joey Gibson, founder of Patriot Prayer, also testified. His Vancouver, Washington-based organization has frequently held rallies in Portland, and at times those rallies have attracted white supremacists to the city. Gibson denounced the claim that Patriot Prayer is a hate group.
“I'm here to denounce all forms of white supremacy and hate,” Gibson said before he read a Bible passage from Corinthians and told the commissioners that the solution to hate is love.
“I’ve seen hatred get out of control. And I know that I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the city of Portland. I stand behind my decisions,” he said before thanking the council for bringing the topic to the forefront for conversation.
Commissioners and testifiers alike stressed the need for the resolution to go beyond words.
“You have my commitment today, that this resolution is the beginning and not the end of a process. It’s the beginning that we have an acknowledgement that we have a lot of work to do in this community and that we as a City Council are willing to stand with our community,” Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said. “And make sure that this community is really a place where people are safe regardless of who they are, and what their skin tone is and where they were born.”
Commissioner Chole Eudaly addressed the elephant in the room, a controversial item commissioners passed the day before — against Hardesty's objection — to approve a settlement with a police officer who made a racist remark about killing black people.
“I want to take a moment to talk about white silence,” Eudaly said. “I want to give a lot of white people the benefit of the doubt. They don’t want to misspeak, they don’t want to speak on behalf of community members they do not represent … But silence isn’t neutral. Silence makes us complicit,” Eudaly said before acknowledging the controversial settlement agreement.
The racist remarks made by the police officer were brought forth by four fellow white officers. Eudaly celebrated them for not staying silent about what she called “unforgivable racist remarks.”
Following the passage of the resolution, CAIR Oregon, Western States Center and Oregon Justice Resource held a press conference at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, affirming their commitment to work with the city to implement change.
Bobbin Singh, director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center, presented a list of actions for the city to take. The most significant action was trainings on white supremacy for city employees, elected officials, law enforcement and mayors from across the Pacific Northwest.
Other recommendations include listening sessions with business owners to gain understanding about the economic impact hate groups have had and disseminating a toolkit created by Western States Center, called “ Confronting White Nationalism,” in local schools, as well as bringing together community organizations to talk about ways to dismantle white nationalism.
Amy Herzfeld-Copple, the deputy director of programs and strategic initiatives at Western States Center, said that after the fatal Unite The Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, several states and municipalities considered resolutions similar to Portland’s denouncing hate and white supremacy groups. A few weeks ago Berkley, California passed theirs.
“But this is certainly one of the first and most proactive and progressive resolutions of this kind in the country,” Herzfeld-Copple said.