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Commissioner Eudaly's June 3, 2020 Statement on the George Floyd Protests

Press Release
A photo of Portland's Gulf War protests including Commissioner Eudaly.
Published

Last night, I went to bed in tears watching police fire gas canisters as they were rolling down streets into random crowds of protestors. This morning, I woke up horrified by images that were shared with me.

My first experience with a protest was 30 years ago when I was twenty years old—I watched Portland Police use excessive force against protestors. It shook the foundation of what I thought it meant to be an American, seeing the police violating protestors constitutional rights, harming their bodies, and wrongfully arresting them. That protest led to judgements against the police, so this is not my personal opinion—this is what happened. It was terrifying, but I was undeterred.

I am so disturbed by what we are telling these youth—ten thousand people came out last night, mostly youth—with our actions through the police and with our inaction on police violence and unaccountability. I’ve spent the last 30 years as an activist, organizer, and advocate—not specifically on police reform—but I felt powerless. You feel powerless against the police, no matter how righteous your cause is and no matter how closely you’re obeying the law. You can be attacked, injured, and killed.

Almost 30 years later, I joined City Council. City Commissioner is the second most powerful political position in the City, and yet I still feel powerless against the police.

As soon as my team got to City Hall, we began conversations with community, with advocacy organizations, and with the police themselves to determine what we could do, because we were in the middle of intense protests following the November 2016 election. Time and time again, no matter how reasonable the request, we were told it couldn’t be done. “Oh, that has to be bargained in the contract—oh, that’s a directive.” We got nowhere with those conversations.

We are not going to see an end to this until we get somewhere. These protestors want action and we are not giving it to them. So, I don’t want to be cynical about police—I know there are many good officers in the force and I saw those images of officers taking the knee—but if you’re not open to change, and if you’re not calling out misconduct, if you’re not standing with us against racism, don’t take the knee. It is a disservice and an insult to every person who has died from police violence and to the people who have suffered real repercussions for taking the knee.

The Geneva Convention banned the use of tear gas, and I think we should too. I am absolutely horrified by what I saw last night, and it is sadistic to use tear gas in the middle of a public health crisis that is attacking people’s respiratory systems.

I’m really worried about the health impact these protests might be having, but what I see out there is beautiful. It’s an uprising and it’s a time for reckoning. We have to do something now.