OH, BLACK BLOC protesters. How I pity you. Once again last Thursday evening, April 8, you staged a woefully limp protest at the corner of NW 13th and Everett, the street corner where James Chasse Jr. was beaten by Portland cops in 2006. This followed your effort on March 29, to riot by... throwing a brick through the window of the Bank of America building. Black bloc? More like "bland crock."
Granted, that insult was a long walk. But at the same time, it was wittier than most of your efforts to call for police reform. Turning dumpsters over in the street? Ooooh. And screaming at a KOIN TV reporter, "You're a media whore!"
James Chasse, as well as being a man suffering with schizophrenia who was beaten to death by Portland police, was a poet and a musician. So if you're going to protest in his name, at least be a little more original about it. You're just giving anarchy a bad name, and I doubt he'd be proud of your efforts.
Having said all that, I was impressed with one thing y'all did last week: Painting over the sign for 13th Avenue with the words "James Ave." Now that's a good idea: City code says any individual or organization—even the black bloc, presumably—may apply to the city to rename a city street. City streets may only be renamed after a prominent person who has been dead for at least five years. Chasse died on September 17, 2006—so we're on course for a rename to occur next September.
Prominence occurs as a result of a person's "significant, positive contribution to the United States of America, and/or the local community." Well, in Chasse's case I would argue that his contribution to the local community has been made by dying at the hands of a broken mental health system, and highlighting just how broken that system has become.
"No crisis has focused my administration more than the death of James Chasse," said former Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler in his address to City Club on February 12.
I rest my case. And since we still seem to be doing such a terrible job of addressing the root causes of Chasse's death, I think the very least we can do is honor him by renaming a street until we can summon the political backbone to make funding mental health a priority.
Anyone can call the city auditor's office to get this ball rolling: 503-823-6964. You're welcome.