Last month in Portland was tumultuous.
I got to march with the formidable Wall of Moms. Veterans stepped up to decry militarized tactics. Businesses complained that an inaccurate picture of their downtown — perfectly safe — was being conflated with dark images of carnage that aren’t actually happening. There is a lot of profanity going on after hours, but not as much as there were peace signs being waved. There is a lot of spray cans aimed at the Federal building, but not as much as there are chalk and sharpie crafted, harmless, and often humorous, pleas upon the sidewalk:
I got a spritz of tear gas, but not as much as the braver demonstrators have breathed for over sixty days straight. I saw that most buildings during a pandemic were not damaged, but plastered in plywood, conveniently providing ample canvas for graffiti art and lives lost memorials.
Scooters, such as the one against this tree, zipped around like it was the safest playground in the world. The dog dish tells you that even “naughty ” dogs go to protests.
Movement Making Matters
These photos that we took of a solitary soul taking up a spray can against tyranny was instructional. Technology has come a long way since merely the pen was mightier than the sword. We watched as he broached the fence, stood below the words “Justice Center” and began to show that the spray can, is indeed, mightier than the big police guns.
Then below “Do Justice” He began to write “Walk Humbly.” That’s when a cop emerged from that little door on the right.
First one cop came out, then a second, then a third who was dressed in plain clothes rather than the blue uniform. As more witnesses gathered, the cops grew unsure about what to do next,
As the cops watched an ever-growing clump of people slowly line up and stand witness. The cops took it all in and retreated to the building. Also, the protestor was not in the act of spraying, and they couldn’t hold him for standing with a spray can — maybe?
I found myself touched by the pacifistic and humble words of the “vandal.” So many signs around here are profanity laced, and childish.
Don’t get me wrong, I am on that side that says, yes property damage is not as bad as police brutality targeting actual human beings. Yet, I also believe that vandalism and property damage is employed as a fear-mongering tool on the right that works, rendering it counter-productive for the anti-racism side of (most) of humanity.
Clearly, we do need rabble rousers for real social change. But we also need the more modest voices. I do not know if eventually this man was arrested or not. But I do know that the watchful gaze of so many people across the street who were dutifully policing the police assured that he was not beaten or bloodied.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what changes our world.
Previously published on “Equality Includes You”, a Medium publication.
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Photo credit: Hamilton