Late-night clashes between urban law enforcement and downtown protesters have dominated headlines in the nearly two weeks since George Floyd’s death in police custody.
But in small towns across the Pacific Northwest, as well as neighborhoods around Portland, thousands of people have marched in dozens of peaceful – though often loud and defiant – demonstrations for racial justice and police accountability.
Six-year-old Rio Pederson is among those taking to the streets. He showed up at a family-friendly Northeast Portland protest Sunday with a hand-drawn sign, accompanied by his father.
“It looks like a white people and a Black person with a heart in between, and then I drew a policeman with a gun, and I drew, like, ‘NO’,” Rio said when asked to describe the sign. “And I wrote ‘Black Lives Matter.'”
“We’re learning a lot,” said his father, Ryan Pederson, noting that this was their third protest this week. “What are we talking about lately?”
“We’re talking about, racism isn’t fair,” Rio responded.
A similar sentiment has spurred children, teenagers and adults to chant and carry signs across the region.
Warrenton High School students organized three protests near the north Oregon coast over the past week, The Astorian reported. Photos posted by the newspaper show demonstrators in downtown Astoria wearing masks over their mouths and noses, and carrying signs memorializing Floyd's life. The Black Minnesota man died May 25 after an officer knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.
Close to 400 people, from young children to elderly adults, gathered along U.S. Highway 101 in Coos Bay Saturday chanting "Black Lives Matter." The World newspaper reported that many who drove by honked in support of a protest that was marred by one arrest – of a man who allegedly pulled a gun on the crowd and stated, "White lives matter."
About 100 people gathered in John Day Friday to wave signs asking for an end to police brutality. The Blue Mountain Eagle reported that rumors of riots and looting circulated through town ahead of the march, drawing armed citizens to line the street. Leaders of both groups told the newspaper that they were hoping for a peaceful day, and Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer later said events had been quiet.
About 60 people gathered in Hermiston last week, holding signs with messages like, “All lives don’t matter until black lives matter,” and about 150 people in Pendleton chanted “No justice, no peace,” at a separate protest there,
In Vancouver, Washington, Saturday about 1,500 drivers registered their cars to participate in what they dubbed a "Car Rally for Black Lives," hosted by NAACP Vancouver and YWCA Clark County. The Columbian reported the peaceful vehicle parade drew community leaders, families and people who have avoided other protests – including some immune-compromised people who have avoided other events because of COVID-19 concerns.
Back in Portland, Cameron Scott found out last-minute about a protest a short distance from his home and walked there with his wife and two children, ages 2-and-a-half and 5.
“With two little kids, I don’t get involved in protesting very often,” he said on Sunday. “The enormity of the situation, it’s something that’s been going on for so long. These protests are making a difference.”