The activist group, which formed following Tuesday’s election of Donald Trump for the U.S. presidency, gathered along Portland’s waterfront to spread a message of unity and togetherness following several nights of protests that resulted in property damage and one person being shot in the leg.
An eclectic mix of speakers and an alphabet soup of activist groups gathered to speak about events and ideas they were promoting.
Among the prominent speakers was a leader of the local Black Lives Matter offshoot, an activist for immigrants’ rights, a leader of a student activist group at Portland State University, an activist for transgender people and Gregory McKelvey, the key organizer of Portland’s Resistance.
McKelvey was quick to point out during his opening remarks to the couple hundred people gathered that he does not see himself as the group’s leader.
“A lot of times the person with the mic, or the person with the megaphone or the person you might see seems like the leader, but there are a million people holding me up working as hard as me that make this possible,” McKelvey said.
Still, McKelvey said he understands many who have joined this new movement look to him for guidance and direction. That became clear when he addressed the spates of vandalism and violence that have at times plagued the protests over the previous five evenings and have led to the arrest of more than 100 protestors.
That message of peace was not unified among the speakers Sunday. A self-described anarchist who identified himself as Armeanio Lewis led the crowd in a spirited chant of “I will not snitch.”
“No matter what you believe — whether you are a pacifist who believes love trumps hate, whether you’re an anarchist who believes we need to smash the system right now, or whether your somewhere in between — we can all agree that we will not snitch in our comrades, is that right?” he asked the crowd at the beginning of the rally.
“We will not put those who are fighting with us in jail cells, all to maintain some kind of moral superiority that only exists in our heads,” Lewis said.
Lewis’ comments followed Saturday’s protest, which resulted in the arrest of 71 people. So far, Portland Police say the small group of protestors who have engaged in destructive and criminal behavior have caused more than $1 million in damages.
One thing the entire crowd seemed to agree upon was their objection to the president-elect and their anxiety over what a Trump presidency will look like.
“Trump is going to be our president,” McKelvey said. “And I hear people say, ‘Why don’t you give him a chance, or why why don’t you give him a shot?’ The way I like to think about that is if someone has a gun to your head, you don’t get to decide, ‘Should I wait and see if there is a bullet in there or should I prepare as if there’s a bullet in there?’”
McKelvey said he didn’t have time to wait and see if he’d lose health insurance or if his friends would be deported.
Teressa Raiford, a leader with the Don’t Shoot Portland activist group was also at the rally.
During her emotional speech, she described the feelings of fear she now experiences when seeing some emboldened people expressing white supremacist values.
“I’m scared of white women because 60 percent of you voted for Trump,” she told the crowd.
She also brought up recent hate speech and acts of intimidation that have happened around the state, including an incident of inflammatory graffiti at Reed College reported Sunday.
Of these acts, which have been reported across the nation since Tuesday’s election, Raiford said her group is working with the American Civil Liberties Union to try to bring the president-elect up on hate crime charges before his Jan. 20 inauguration.
Raiford also addressed something clear to many people at the rally: If they want this new movement to succeed in achieving its lengthy list of goals, the group needs to work at getting organized as a cohesive unit now.
“We can prevent violence if we do something about it now,” she said.
The group and the many affiliated groups will have plenty of opportunities to work on figuring out how to do that. They have numerous events planned this coming week.