100 Days. 100 Nights.
That’s how long Portlanders have taken to the streets.
Because George Floyd was murdered and there has been no justice.
Because Breonna Taylor was murdered and there has been no justice.
Because 765 people have been killed so far in 2020 by police across the country and that is unacceptable.
Because 40 people, disproportionally Black, have been killed by Portland Police since the tragic killing of Kendra James and there has been no justice.
Because traffic enforcement continues to pull over Black Portlanders at a highly disproportionate rate in a city with a 6% Black population and that is not justice.
Because just about every audit, poll, and listening session reveals racist outcomes and a lack of trust in the Portland Police Bureau, especially in BIPOC communities. Yet there has been little change and no justice.
Because our local police collaborated with 45’s federal occupation that kidnapped protestors in unmarked vehicles while unleashing chemical weapons on Portlanders and there has been no justice.
Because media and non-violent protestors have been indiscriminately beaten, tear gassed, and stripped of their 1st amendment rights by Portland Police and there has been no justice.
Because data shows that a disproportionate number of Black protesters have been arrested in the last 100 days of protests here in Portland and that is not justice.
Because our new reform minded Multnomah County DA Mike Schmidt, who was elected with over 70% of the vote on a mandate for change, is being undermined and targeted by law enforcement throughout the state as he fights for criminal justice reform.
Because when white supremacist and other right wing extremists come to Portland to sow fear and attack our community, Portland Police look the other way, but when Black Lives Matters protesters take to the streets, they are preemptively met with lines of riot police already waiting to break it up. There is no justice.
Because PPB has made a mockery of the word “riot” – falsely using the term almost every night and hurting the reputation of our city while encouraging right wing violence with their demonization of protestors. This prevents justice.
Because the City of Portland has not responded to this historic moment with the bold action it demands of us.
That’s why this is still happening. Because when there is no justice, there is no peace.
The people of Portland are demanding action. It’s past time for City Hall to take the demands for drastic change seriously.
It’s been an exhausting 100 days for our city. But may I remind everyone just how exhausting it is to live while Black in America. Let me remind folks that the civil rights movement lasted a lot longer than 100 days and make no mistake – today’s struggle against police violence and creeping fascism is the new civil rights movement.
Let me say that my actions and statements throughout these 100 days have not been perfect. But when I make a mistake, I listen, own it, am held accountable, apologize, and adapt.
Social movements are complex and messy. Portland has joined a national reckoning that forces us to confront an institution with origins as slave catchers and ask – who do they protect and who do they serve? It has been made clear that this is a problem beyond just a “few bad apples.” In fact, it’s really not about individual police officers at all. It’s about a system that is fundamentally flawed and not producing the outcomes of community safety and trust we deserve. As a Black woman in Portland, I do not feel the Portland Police Bureau is here for my protection.
I have said repeatedly – I am a child of the civil rights movement and a believer in non-violent, direct action. I have condemned acts of violence and arson that have been committed by a small handful of folks during some of these protests. I will continue to do so when appropriate. But I will not let that distract from our call to action in this historic movement, which is to confront police violence and change this broken system.
Let’s also confront a hard truth. Peaceful means of protest and civic engagement have not produced the desired outcomes of our community. It’s not shocking that the unresolved trauma inflicted on so many in our community by the police manifests into more aggressive action. Just a few days ago, 3 of the 11 members of IPR’s Citizen Review Committee resigned. This quote from one resignation letter says it all:
“The events of this past weekend were a tipping point for me. We continue to witness excessive force used by officers on the streets. Members of the media continue to be threatened. Armed Trump supporters are allowed to parade through downtown Portland while pointing guns at people that aren’t wearing Trump gear. These are just a few examples of a failed system with failed leadership. I can no longer support this system in any way. I believed real change could occur in the current system. I no longer feel that way.”
I am doing everything in my power to make that real change. Working with outside advocates and utilizing the momentum generated by protests, here is just some of what I have done in the last 100 days.
- After 2 unsuccessful attempts in previous budget votes, I successfully convinced my colleagues to reinvest $15 million from PPB directly into our community
- We eliminated the rebranded Gun Violence Reduction Team (formally the Gang Enforcement Team) that was revealed by audits to have racist outcomes and ineffective at curtailing gang and gun violence.
- We eliminated student resource officers that enforced the school to prison pipeline as students have asked for years.
- We eliminated PPB’s transit police that have been caught racially profiling Portlanders, including well known community leaders.
- We stopped the flow of cannabis tax dollars to PPB.
- Reinvestment went to expanding the Portland Street Response pilot, a non-police first response option that will respond to 911 calls involving those in mental distress and/or those living on our streets to lend a compassionate, helping hand.
- Additional reinvestment created participatory budget funds for our Black youth and our Houseless neighbors.
- My office worked closely with community advocates to write and pass a ballot referral to voters this November that will change the city charter to establish a truly independent, empowered civilian police review board that can provide real police accountability.
- -As the Commissioner of Portland Fire & Rescue, I directed the bureau that federal occupiers and collaborating PPB could not stage at fire stations during the height of the federal brutality waged outside the Justice Center.
- I joined Governor Kate Brown’s DPSST task force to influence police training policy at the state level.
- I led a candlelight vigil that partnered with Hip Hop Stands Up and have joined the protests multiple times to hear directly from those on the ground and talk about my ideas for moving forward.
- I was the lone no vote against re-establishing legal communication between PPB and Federal forces.
- I wrote an open letter to Police Chief Lovell and Mayor Wheeler asking for a list of policy changes related to use of force that can be read here: https://www.facebook.com/CommissionerHardesty/posts/591517888436367
- I outlined a vision for re-imaging community safety that can be read here: https://www.portland.gov/hardesty/news/2020/7/14/commissioner-hardesty-shares-her-vision-community-safety?
- I have grown frustrated at the limitations of my ability to reform the police from the outside. I have asked Mayor Wheeler repeatedly to assign the Portland Police Bureau to my office so I can use my 30 years of expertise on police reform to make the change Portlanders are demanding.
This is all just start.
Let me be clear, we do have serious crimes that occur in Portland that need to be addressed and PPB needs to make responding to those 911 calls their priority. We don’t need resources wasted on largely peaceful protests or PPB officer’s shooting videos of all the calls they are negligently not responding to.
It’s important to remember that everyone, even those committing crimes, have equal protection under the law and a right to due process.
Nowhere in that process is it legal to repeatedly punch a protestor in the face, as was recently revealed through a video captured by OPB Reporter Sergio Olmos.
As my friend Eric Ward of the Western States Center told the Willamette week recently:
“Right now, it appears we have a rogue police force. This is not about individual police officers. This is about an institution, and that institution appears to be rogue. You cannot tell me that the Portland Police Bureau is not sophisticated and responsible enough to track down those individuals who are creating and committing acts of physical violence on the streets of Portland. I simply don't believe it. And the fact that I don't believe it says just how much trust has been broken in a moment where we need that trust most.”
On that note, I want to thank the Portland media that has done an incredible job covering these last 100 days. Whether from established outlets or freelancing, reporters have had to endure police violence themselves as they go out night after night to make sure Portlanders are understanding what is really happening. Thank you for your service to the city of Portland.
I also want to thank the 911 dispatchers at BOEC and Portland Fire & Rescue for their stressful, difficult work trying to keep Portland safe during these trying times. It warmed my heart to see members of Portland Fire & Rescue conduct their own event in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
So what’s next?
- Currently my office is hard at work developing a 30-60-90 day plan in the event that we are assigned the Portland Police Bureau.
- On September 9th, we will ban facial recognition technology in both the public and private sector here in Portland.
- My office is currently working with Commissioner Eudaly on a munitions ban.
- Next week, I will be announcing a series of events to move the conversation forward. These events will focus on uplifting BIPOC youth leaders, re-imagining community safety, and police alternatives that prevent crime and provide safety for all.
- In late October, we have an opportunity to further reinvest the bloated PPB budget into programs that lead to crime prevention and community safety for all.
- In January, contract negotiations with the Portland Police Association will resume. All city hosted sessions will be open to the public and I will be deeply engaged in this process. I hope you will be as well.
In the end, we have so much more work to do. I’m open to far more ideas than what I have put on the table so far. As we move forward, let’s keep the focus on Portland and our residents. That’s who we were elected to serve, not Fox News pundits and the disgraceful occupant of the White House. What Portland needs is truth and reconciliation. We need new leadership and a new direction. We need to prove that in the city of Portland, Black Lives Matter.
We need justice. Then we will have peace.