The Portland City Council voted unanimously Thursday afternoon to reject white nationalism, white supremacy, and alt-right hate groups.
“I am extremely proud of this city council,” Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said before voting in favor of the resolution. “Anybody that grew up during the civil rights movement understands what happens when we are silent in the face of hate, organized hate groups taking over the community."
In addition to denouncing hate groups, the resolution acknowledged Portland’s distinctly racist history, and requested that all city staff attend a training to learn about white supremacy in Portland.
Portland City Council's resolution condemning white nationalism and white supremacy has passed unanimously. @tedwheeler says that while it's not a "silver bullet," it is significant. "Yes, words do matter. But words that are never spoken also matter.”
— Blair Stenvick (@BlairStenvick) February 7, 2019
Nicole Grant, a senior policy advisor for Mayor Ted Wheeler, introduced the resolution at Thursday's meeting. Grant, a Black woman, told a personal story about facing racism while dining out with her family in Portland to highlight the importance of the resolution.
“This resolution is not about white people. It is about all people, with a dedicated focus on those who are targeted because of their skin color," she said. "This goes beyond public safety, and speaks to a need for a cultural shift within this city.”
Hardesty thanked Grant for sharing her personal experiences, adding, “just know that you are not alone in having those experiences in Portland, Oregon.”
Representatives from several advocacy groups who supported the resolution, including CAIR-Oregon, the Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC), and the Western States Center, also spoke at the meeting.
“We’re currently involved in a ruthless fight locally and nationally over what is America, and who are Americans,” said Bobbin Singh, executive director of the OJRC. “We must not remain silent in this fight.”
Wajdi Said, president and co-founder of the Muslim Educational Trust, praised the council for taking a stand against white supremacy—but noted that given the city’s long history of racism, the words needed to be followed up with action.
“If you stick nine inches in my back, and pull it out three inches, that is not progress,” he said. “Progress is healing the wound, and America has not even pulled out the knife.”
A few members of Vancouver's far-right group Patriot Prayer spoke out against the resolution during the public comment period—including founder Joey Gibson. Their main concern was that their alt-right group was being unfairly targeted. Patriot Prayer members in attendance also audibly protested when the group was called out by name by someone speaking in favor of the resolution.
“I want to thank everyone—well, almost everyone—for testifying today,” Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said before voting in favor of the resolution.
Before casting the final “aye” vote, Wheeler noted that racism in Portland, and around the country, isn’t a thing of the past. He cited data that last year was the fourth deadliest for domestic violent extremists since 1970, before ominously wondering what 2019 would bring.
Wheeler said that while the resolution won’t be a “silver bullet” in fixing racism in Portland, he hopes it will be a launching pad for future actions. Hardesty shared that sentiment.
“Today’s resolution,” she said, “is the beginning, not the end, of a process.”