Discover more from a sorcerer's notebook
Live from #PDX Part 2
The Field Hand Report
First a confession. I had 7k worth of words all dripped in liberation and love for you about my experiences at the Justice Center ready to go yesterday. I moved my laptop and a glitch that has only happened once, while writing the first draft of United States of Grace causing me to lose a whole chapter, happened again.
This is the second time I have sat down to write this. To process the feelings, the trauma, the love, the joy, the new life, the power, of what is happening in Portland. I continue to offer a fuller narrative from a Black man about what is happening. I also write from a faith perspective. To be frank a counter faith narrative to the dominant one I see standing at Ted Wheelers side.
Some of our faith leaders out here are embedded with Empire. Some of us are embedded with the people and are getting tear gassed. You get to decide where Christ is present.
That’s just the truth of faith narrative out here, which is much more of an organic movement or collective of leaders than I originally reported to you. Simply put the Portland Interfaith Clergy Resistance as it currently exists, is in my opinion, a group of faith leaders who for various reasons are to find ways to privilege the young Black voices on the front lines, while reminding Ted Wheeler and his PPB goons that the eyes of God are upon him.
He won’t escape the furious judgement of a history of a liberated people. Our purple vests say, “Clergy Witness.” So, I write. I write my ass off.
Some house cleaning. If you haven’t read the covenant in part one of this ongoing series, you are not allowed to participate in discussion. Period. Read it here.
If you haven’t read my reflection on why #BlackWritingMatters at this time in human history read that here.
Now for what I am now calling …..
The Field Hand Report.
I have told you before each day on the ground is different.
It is now Friday the 31st at the time of writing this report. I have now gone to justice center 3 out of the last 7 days. My last day on the ground was Wednesday but I have reports from the group I have been serving with on the ground. Thursday night was quiet. No confrontation with the state. I will write another post about this strategy, and how I have seen Philly PD use it to great effect to break momentum. It’s called strategic withdrawal. I have also been invited to start building relationship, power, and strategy with a group of Black Pastors from across the #PNW who too are grieved by the dominant narrative from some of our Black peers. If and when it’s appropriate to share our work I will.
Wednesday, I attended a Tisha B'Av service at the front door of City Hall which for people outside the area is in the edge of the area where most of the Protest have been taking place. The Justice Center. It was organized by my new friends Rabbi Deb and Rabbi Ben.
By the way this is your reminder the story isn’t the Feds or the fascism Portland was now just the test balloon for. The story is Ted Wheeler and the PPB. They doubled down on overt state violence in response to cry on the streets for Black bodies. Ted Wheeler and his so-called progressive agenda created an environment for overt fascism to be flexed by a rogue administration in DC. We said George Floyd. Ted Wheeler said Tear Gas.
And now election day it may come to a town near you.
But that’s not that story. I wrote on a Rabbi friends blog what I think the story is.
The long struggle of Black liberation for 400 years has been the canary in the coal mine in the U.S.’s often fickle relationship with its own soul. Our blood has washed the streets of America from Crispus Atticus, Sandra Bland, now George Floyd. Our blood, our pain, our cries, often ignored by the global community as the petulant cries of a privileged minority in the world’s greatest superpower, are the very screams of liberation that echo across a humanity capable of a torn down Berlin Wall and where freedom has found home in Soweto.
This engagement with the State needs to be placed in context of the long struggle for liberation of Black peoples. Because it effects all humanity. I believe in a God who steps into human history for the express purpose of liberation, which is an expression of salvation.
preservation or deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss.
Look it up.
Just like the Tisha B'Av service I attended. I needed it to be placed in context. Now for someone whose partner has a Jewish family I am woefully inadequate at describing what my siblings did, at least for this Black soul that day, but I will try.
Tisha B’av marks the destruction of the Temples. The Exiles. The day our Jewish siblings believe the Messiah will be born also. This is the part that of course interested me, but not because I am Christian. Because of the history of this day. What has happened to the Jewish people historically on this day, and there are dozens of examples once I started looking, made this such an incredibly powerful moment for me. You see this is the day WW1 started. This was the day the Final Solution was codified at the famous Wanasse Conference. It’s the day the first trains left the Warsaw Ghetto.
If Yom Kippur is a serious day my friend Rose told me Tisha B’av is the day of grief. Of deep communal lament. I asked Rose what you think it is with this day, the evil, the brokenness that breaks through. For lack of a better word I asked her as a Jewish Woman just starting her anti-racist journey what the sin of this day is. She struggled but then said:
Literally translates to "hatred of grace." Many translate it as baseless hatred. Jews historically have been "punished" most for this behavior which I think is really telling. Of all the awful things human beings can do, hatred for others has the most consequences.
Pronounced: see-knot chee-nom
And from that grief, from that sorrow, generational cries for justice, the Messiah will be born. On a day like that. Full of lament. In response to that. Then to watch them apply that to Black bodies and the struggle for #Blacklives.
Well in a word it was stunning.
Interfaith clergy from the shul to the coven and everything inbetween participated. It is traditional for the cantor to read/sing Lamentations on this day. Rabbi Deb took the last words of the slain in the last few years and recited them to the traditional setting of Lamentations.
To hear her sing out “I Can’t Breathe” #EricGarner
Or “Why are you following me?” #TrayvonMartin
Those words floated over the growing crowd below us at the Justice Center. Our Creator was near to this solidarity. In this our Holy parent saw and said this is good.
We also read the demands that PUAH published. They are worth repeating here because I stand by them.
• The removal of Federal Marshalls from Portland.
• The end to falsely declaring gatherings to be ‘civil disturbances’ or ‘unlawful assemblies’ or, most outrageously, a ‘riot.’ These declarations allow police to act violently towards protestors and imply that protestors are putting lives in danger when the truth of the matter is protestors are exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.
• The end to the false narrative that protestors are violent and are precipitating the violent response of the police. Rather, protesting is one way we exercise our Constitutional right to ‘petition the government for redress of grievances.’ This is especially urgent in the call for Black Lives to Matter. We believe the first hand testimonies of dozens of ACLU and NLG Legal observers, medics, media, clergy, and around 40 reports to PUAH’s ReportHatePDX. PUAH’s testimonies describe police repeatedly seeking to end protest with violence, or in the words of the police (on their loudspeaker or LRAD), “use of force.” First hand witnesses testify that protestor initiated violence is rare and never worthy of the violent police response.
• The end to the use of all crowd control munitions against protestors, including but not limited to: projectile rounds, CS and OC skat shells, 40mm munitions of Saf Smoke, 60-Caliber Rubber Balls Rounds, 40mm munitions of foam and rubber rounds, triple chaser separating canisters, as well as kettling and non-weaponized physical assault. 2a, 2b
• Compliance with court orders against the use of tear gas and other chemical agents at a time when people are dying of COVID 19 and protestors in other cities have died from the inhalation of tear gas. 3
• The end to targeting ACLU and National Lawyer’s Guild Legal Observers, Medics, and Journalists. 4a, 4b. If it does not trouble you that the Portland Police Bureau wants no witnesses to their actions, it should.
• Eliminate the Rapid Response team as well as all associated units that work with them for crowd control. Ensure that no police wear riot gear.
• Restrict the use of overtime, especially when monitoring protests.
• Hold the city attorney accountable for police actions of crowd control that violate constitutional rights.
• Compliance with recommendations of the 2018 Portland Auditor’s Independent Police Review Report on Crowd Control. 5 We especially draw your attention to the following pages in that report:
Forbidding mass detentions (pp 12, 14)
Providing better recorded evidence (pp 13-14)
Prohibiting the detention of media and legal observers (p 14)
Updating intergovernmental agreements to require law enforcement entities present in Portland comply with
Portland rules of engagement and court orders (pp 13-14)
• Compliance with and mandatory training on verbal de-escalation tactics, proven to be the only approach that works for crowd management. As experts say: “There’s 50 years of research on violence at protests, dating back to the three federal commissions formed between 1967 and 1970. All three concluded that when police escalate force --using weapons, tear gas, mass arrests and other tools to make protesters do what the police want — those efforts can often go wrong, creating the very violence that force was meant to prevent.” 6
• Required mental health services for officers staffing crowd control to ensure that they are not operating out of years of PTSD and to ensure that their families do not suffer as a by-product of the militarized work they are being ordered to engage in. 7
We then went to the Justice Center. Y’all it was jubilant. There was an acapella singing of “Under the Bridge” by the Red-Hot Chili Peppers at one point. the whole crowd was singing. The speaker had folks light up their lights on their phones like a damn Cold play concert. There were people feeding people everyone. Supplies where being passed out. Drummers where playing music and the bubble machine, yes, the bubble machine was at top blast. Bubbles for all!
We were dancing in the streets.
That’s why it was out of nowhere the first canister of gas dropped. This was out of nowhere. No one breached the fence, no one was even shaking the fence.
The sacred cow of PPB that caused the violence in the first place. They put up the fence. They created the battle lines.
We try to wage peace and they wage war. Like Bob Marley said –
That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all
Without regard to race
Dis a war
That until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never attained
Now everywhere is war
The first round of gas wasn’t bad and most of us regathered after a few minutes. Crazy to hear right? The drumming and the dancing actually started back up. I had promised my family I would leave after the first round, and they were watching the live stream here. You can too every night. With them not being on the ground they didn’t know I was safer waiting for the second round of gas to leave, but I wanted to honor our agreement. They remind me that my #Blacklifematters and I covenanted with them to leave.
So, a dope peer walked me back to my car, and then I realized he was parked on the other side of the active State Confrontation Zone. We also could hear the flash bangs echoing through downtown so I knew it would be a much more fluid situation with him getting to his car.
The second more intense and agressive round of State Violence and gassing had started.
Lets take a moment to recognize what your white sibling did. He privileged my body over his. Now he was stuck.
I won’t get into detail, but I got to live every adolescent cis boys fever dream of driving through a war zone or an action flick. We turned off the headlights, blasted this Anderson Paak song, and drove through State Sponsored violence, clouds of tear gas blocks away almost trapping us, and everyday PDX folks rising up I saw it again.
The Kin-dom of God. There in the unidentified toxic gas, stood a people united, and regrouping. There stood God. I got my friend back to his car. I am home now until I decide to go out. For personal security and safety, I won’t tell you when, but I hope to see you out there.
In the Name of the Parent, The Rebel, and the Spirit
The Rev. Lenny Duncan +
END FIELD HAND REPORT