PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — When Black Lives Matter protesters marched into Portland City Hall last Friday, Mayor Charlie Hales met with them and invited them to meet on Tuesday.
But when Tuesday rolled around, the mayor’s office said the meeting would be held at the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church. However, according to Don’t Shoot PDX organizer Teressa Raiford, no one told them about the location change.
Then, in the early afternoon, City Hall was locked.
“Mayor Hales is a liar,” Raiford said at a 3 p.m. press conference outside City Hall.
Another organizer said the non-communication and lockout at City Hall feeds into the same reason “why black people get shot.”
Asked why they didn’t just meet with the mayor at the Baptist church, Raiford said they had told people to meet at City Hall, convinced them to come, and felt disrespected by the lack of communication. She also said Hales hasn’t spent time with the community that wanted to meet.
Group leaders said they had no intention of leaving City Hall until the mayor comes back. “Eventually he has to come here,” protester Greg McKelvey said.
Hales, Raiford said, “had a chance to meet with us but instead you chose to meet with the black people you wanted to meet with.”
“He talked about all this stuff. We’re willing to work with you and open up this dialogue,” protester Micah Rhodes said. “But his actions, they are showing I’m going to skip out at the last moment and I’m not going to tell you about it and you’re going to show up here and I’m going to be in North Portland. And I’m going to come back and say, oh yeah, we had this meeting but you guys didn’t show up.”
Rhodes said the mayor’s actions were “not going to work for us.”
After meeting with a small group at Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church, the mayor made his way back to City Hall where dozens of protesters were still waiting.
“Some of you had questions about why I moved the meeting,” Mayor Hales said. “I moved it because I wanted to keep this building in operation.”
He then stood on the steps of City Hall where many had their questions ready.
“I want to know why black people are being killed all over the world for doing nothing,” one person asked.
The mayor was confronted about training classes available to police and how city and state leaders can do a better job of holding officers accountable for their actions.
McKelvey said incoming Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler contacted the group. Raiford said the mayor elect supports their efforts.
In an earlier press release, McKelvey said protesters last Friday “were assaulted, hit, pepper sprayed and/or had some form of bullets fired at their feet. Video evidence of these events exists and has been reviewed by Don’t Shoot Portland.”
On Friday, Hales heard reports of what he called inappropriate reactions from members of the police during the protest and encouraged anyone who experienced excessive force from police to file a complaint. On Tuesday, he said Marshman would be able to report back about those complaints.
But McKelvey said “general meetings will not change anything if not prefaced by reasonable demands.” Some of those demands include:
- Stopping the new Portland Police Association contract until Ted Wheeler takes over as mayor
- Making all bargaining sessions with PPA public
- Changing the binding arbitration clause so those who are fired stay fired
- Moving deadly force incidents to a civil service board so a judge, not an arbitrator will make the decision
- Stopping sending PPB gang officers to protests
The protest last Friday was in direct response to recent police shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte. The Portland march began in Northeast Portland, weaved its way through streets and bridges and eventually wound up inside City Hall.