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Portland Protesters Topple George Washington Statue, Torch American Flag

Portland, OR – A group of protesters wrapped an American flag around a George Washington statue on June 18, lit the flag on fire and then toppled the statue before scattering.

The George Washington statue was also covered in graffiti, KOIN reported.

The protesters were participating in the 21st day of anti-police protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, according to KOIN.

CNN reported that the statue had graffiti written on it that said “Genocidal Colonist,” “You’re on native lands,” “BLM” and “Big Floyd.” The statue also had “1619” spray painted on it which is a reference to the year that slaves were brought to the American colonies.

There were two different organizations that held protests outside a high school, according to CBS. Then another group of about 20 people met at the bronze George Washington statue at about 10 p.m.

Protesters also tried to set up an “autonomous zone” in Portland’s Pearl District that was similar to the one in Seattle, according to The Columbian.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside what they believed to be Mayor Ted Wheeler’s home, according to The Columbian. At about 5:30 a.m., the police declared the gathering a civil disturbance and unlawful assembly.

Once police declared it unlawful, the 50 or so people still there got up and left, according to The Columbian. Police said one person was arrested.

“We’re very pleased with the successful outcome this morning,” said Portland Police Lieutenant Tina Jones, according to the Columbian.

On June 14, protesters in Portland had pulled down a statue of Thomas Jefferson, according to CNN. Those protesters spray painted the words “slave owner” and George Floyd’s name on it.

CNN reported that both Washington and Jefferson owned hundred of slaves.

CNN wrote, “People around the country are reconsidering the legacies of the founding fathers and other historic figures in response to the massive Black Lives Matter protests against systematic racism and injustice.”

Portland has been hit by unrest following Geroge Floyd’s death, and the city has even given employees a week of work to grieve the death.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced the paid time off in an email to employees on Monday, KOIN reported.

“As a nation and as a City we continue to grieve the recent loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and others in the country and in our community,” Wheeler wrote. “We acknowledge that Black employees are experiencing a collective grief and trauma coming from a culmination of oppression that is over 400 years old.”

“We hear and understand that many of our employees, especially our BiPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color) employees, are deeply impacted by these recent events and are hurting,” Wheeler said in a press release, according to KATU.

The mayor said he has directed supervisors and managers “to approve the leave without question,” and encouraged other local employers to do the same, KOIN reported.

Wheeler called the move a “tremendous privilege.”

“We’re witnessing a dramatic shift in our nation, one that is urgently charting the path forward for restorative justice, inclusion and understanding,” he declared. “I feel tremendous responsibility, as well as tremendous privilege, to be a part of this historic movement. Thank you for walking that path with me as we continue to serve the City of Portland.”

PPB Chief Jami Resch, who is a white female, resigned from her position on June 8, The Oregonian reported.

She was replaced by PPB Lieutenant Chuck Lovell, an 18-year veteran-of-the-force, who is an African American.

On Tuesday, Wheeler said that his white privilege had previously made him blind to understanding that he should have acted more quickly to help stop alleged systemic racism and police brutality, The Oregonian reported.

He then announced that he is ending the Portland Police Bureau’s (PPB) gun violence reduction unit, and said he will pull officers from the multi-agency Transit Police beginning in January of 2021, The Oregonian reported.

The mayor said he plans to establish a more robust police accountability board than the Independent Police Review committee that is already in place.

The superintendent of Portland Public Schools (PPS) already severed ties with the Portland Police Bureau (PPB)’s school resource officer program.

“The time is now,” PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero tweeted on June 2. “I am discontinuing the regular presence of School Resource Officers @PPSConnect. We need to re-examine our relationship with the PPB.”

The school resource officer program provided area schools with 11 armed police officers, The Oregonian reported.

Guerrero said that in lieu of police, the district plans to invest “in direct student supports” such as counselors, culturally-specific partnerships and social workers for its 49,000-plus students.

“What we are hearing loudly and clearly from the community is that they do not want this direct, physical, ongoing presence in the schools,” Wheeler said, adding that he had already decided to end the program prior to Guerrero’s decision, OPB reported.

Although armed officers will no longer patrol the hallways of the city’s schools, police will still respond to calls for service on any of the campuses whenever they are needed, Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner said, according to The Oregonian.

Students likely won’t have to wait more than ten extra minutes for officers to arrive during an active shooter.

Guerrero made the decision to discontinue the program in the wake of the May 25 in-custody death of 46-year-old George Floyd.

“These violent acts traumatize us as students, family members, educators, and community members, and I share in your grief and anguish,” Guerrero said at the time, according to OPB. “Now more than ever, we must remain resolute in our commitment to Black students.”

Written by
Tom Gantert

Tom Gantert graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Tom started in the newspaper business in 1983. He has worked at the Jackson Citizen Patriot (Michigan), Lansing State Journal (Michigan), Ann Arbor News (Michigan), Vineland Daily-Journal (Michigan), North Hills News Record (Pennsylvania) and USA Today (Virginia). He is also currently the managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential, a daily news site of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Tom is the father of a Michigan State Police trooper.

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Written by Tom Gantert

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