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Live from PDX Part 4
Field Hand Report: Reflections and Rest in a Revolution
Beloved , it has been a little while since I have updated you about what’s been happening, from my perspective, on the ground at the PDX protest for #BlackLives.
Some housecleaning first though. If you haven’t read my post about why #BlackWritingMatters please go and read that first. It explains the dynamics of this community and why I do what I do on my small little corner of the internet.
Second, I don’t know if I am supposed to be broadcasting this, but I promised this community an inside peek into my work. So even though you don’t have a copy of “United States of Grace” (Preorders here) yet, I am working on, gestating, birthing, the beginnings of a third “work.”
A new book.
It’s hard to call it a book it feels so much bigger. It came to me fully realized in the days after the public execution of George Floyd by the state. Right after I put the finishing touches on United States of Grace. In my mind’s eye I can read whole chapters to you. Touch the leatherbound cover. But if you want to hear more about that you should contact my agent. Or stay tuned.
But I tell you this because when I get in one of these places, obsessed with a new piece of the art, I can be so singled minded that things may seem slim around here for post. I will endeavor to be the semi-regular writer with poor grammar, a sharp wit, and decent power analysis you have come to love. But my relationship with my writing, its work in the world, and its place in our collective liberation has really changed since United States of Grace.
But fair warning the next 90 days may be feast or famine with this newsletter with a big announcement and pay off at the end.
Your update. As some of you know I have been serving with the Portland Interfaith Clergy Resistance and their Clergy Witness program. We have also moved from just focusing our efforts at the (in)Justice Center to trying to be in as many places as we can be at once.
Also, the tactics of several of the on the ground organizers, groups, and collectives have changed. Moving to regular meet ups and protest all over the city of Portland and surrounding area. This has always been the case, but now that national media fervor over the paramilitary federal agents operating here is over it seems like the brunt of direct actions are aimed elsewhere throughout the city.
For the record in my opinion this group of federal agents is still operating in the area and if you look at the recent raid on our immigrant siblings in Bend OR, and the state response with violence, tear gas, and the same tactics you are starting to see a disturbing pattern emerge here in the #PNW.
We are still being gassed almost nightly. We are still being shot at. We are still declaring #BlackLivesMatter.
My role as a witness as some of you know from previous reports is limited by my status as felon. I typically leave as the first round of gas or arrest start to happen. The reality is it isn’t a ticket and a night in jail for me. But it isn’t for a lot of people, so I still go out.
To be young, gifted and black in this country some days y’all.
I have promised myself as a witness to allow myself to move freely as possible and to bring others with me. I brought two pastors, a young music minister, his partner, and my partner with me the last time I went out.
I think it’s incredibly important to bring people who otherwise wouldn’t see with their own eyes state violence in response to the cry #BlackLivesMatter. Until you witness it yourself, my words may pierce your heart but still will lead not to the freedom of my people.
I have always firmly believed that the act of bearing witness is the most sacred act people of faith can do. To not look away even when tear gas is in your eyes. To not look away while the state liberally spills my blood on the streets of America as an offering to white supremacy.
To not look away from us your siblings in the PDX area, even though it’s been over a hundred days of us facing the PPB, Federal Agents, and Ted Wheelers constant antics, we are still here. Still fighting for the republic many of us are outcast in.
The last time I was on the ground was August 14th at the direct action at Peninsula Park. We watched as folks from all over pulled up in mutual aid vans and set up to start passing out supplies. It struck me sitting there watching protest mom’s passing out wooden shields, helmets, and new filters for gas mask how surreal this had all become. I watched as folks pulled up in cars right from work and started a now nightly ritual of checking gas mask. Putting on armor and bullet proof vest. Checking on nervous new faces and making sure everyone ate. These folks had been battle hardened by their own local, state and federal governments and were now being blamed for that.
The Press and the ACLU and us at PICR had been warned if you are a “neutral” party you must walk on the sidewalks away from protestors or you are fair game. For the record we still walk with the people. I watched as we gathered and marched off.
I of course led some chants as we marched. If you haven’t marched with me, I am typically louder than bullhorns and love teaching new chants to folks. It’s my little part while we walk. After only 15 minutes PPB stopped us and lined up in riot gear. Unprovoked up until that very moment, a peaceful march, we walk into a wall of police and military styule equipment, weapons, and vehicles. This started a 20-30 minute stand off.
Enter PPB. Here is what I think is the best twitter thread explaining what happens next. Or at least where you can get the play by play I typically don’t post.
At this time, we and a mutual aid van are told there are riot cops blocking now two streets from exit and are now aiming for a third. We book down the escape route organizers had laid out and scouted for us. I pulled my team of very green recruits and gave them a no judgement “walk away” chance. I always offer these. There was no more “front line”, we were surrounded, and the trap was closing fast. We had also been declared an “Unlawful Assembly” three times before this attempt to rush folx. That meant things were going to take a turn soon.
We agreed that was the tolerance level for folx and we got everyone back to their cars as we heard the riot declared and heard the first flash bangs and tear gas rise.
So, your field hand report is as follows.
They are still gassing us with an unknown chemical. PPB is still attacking peaceful protesters. Mayor Ted Wheeler has doubled down on white supremacy in the way only a white progressive truly can. With utter confidence in his righteousness.
PS if you are in the PDX and Vancouver WA are join me and Jubilee Collective here-