Portland, OR – A private contractor working on a city road project refused to comply with Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s order to remove a Thin Blue Line flag emblem from the side of the company’s vehicle.
Hardesty’s unheeded directive came after someone posted a photo of an Oregon Concrete Solutions work truck online, Pamplin Media reported.
The vehicle had a Thin Blue Line flag on the right front quarter panel, drawing the outrage of Jay Parasco, secretary of Portland-based nonprofit Street Roots.
“Want to make sure @JoAnnPDX is aware that @PBOTinfo is using city funding for Oregon Concrete Solutions to work on Hawthorne and 32nd while prominently displaying white supremacist symbols on their vehicles,” Parasco tweeted on May 13, along with a photo of the truck that offended him.
Hardesty, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), released a statement the situation on Thursday.
“My office and PBOT are aware that the “thin blue line” flag is being displayed by a City contractor doing work for PBOT,” the anti-police commissioner confirmed.
Want to make sure @JoAnnPDX is aware that @PBOTinfo is using city funding for Oregon Concrete Solutions to work on Hawthorne and 32nd while prominently displaying white supremacist symbols on their vehicles. pic.twitter.com/37KjojQaQ6
— Jay Parasco (@Jayparasco) May 13, 2021
“The thin blue line imagery is viewed by many in our community as a symbol of white supremacy that has been prominently displayed by those that oppose the Black Lives Matter racial justice movement and we understand this is causing distress in the community,” Hardesty wrote. “You can count me as one of the many Portlanders that finds this imagery deeply offensive.”
She said the PBOT contacted the contractor and asked them “not to display the symbol while performing work for the City,” but the company owner refused to comply.
“Unfortunately, they declined, and we are limited in our ability to address this issue under our existing contracts and policies,” Hardesty said.
She said the situation is clear evidence that there is more work to be done in order for Portland “to live up to last year’s anti-racism resolution, including holding City contractors to the same standards we hold City government.”
Hardesty vowed to work with the Portland City Attorney and the PBOT to find a way to control the speech of private companies when those companies are working on a city-funded contract.
“This incident also highlights the lack of diversity amongst City contractors,” Hardesty alleged, adding that she has been trying to “fix” that issue since before she took office.
She expressed gratitude to those who brought their concerns about the company’s truck to her attention, and said she’s “committed to a systemic overhaul to address this in the future.”
Hardesty noted that even if the privately-owned company had followed her directive and removed the symbol, it wouldn’t have been enough.
“At the end of the day, it is the values that this symbol represents that we must stand up against,” she declared. “If this contractor took down this symbol only as a performative measure after being asked by the City – it doesn’t change the hearts and minds of those who put it up.”
Hardesty said it is up to every one to “do the difficult educating and organizing so that people can see the world more empathetically.”