Sandy Hudson, speaking at a Monday press conference.
Sandy Hudson, speaking at a Monday press conference. Alex Zielinski

For national leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement, Portland has become "ground zero" for the uprising against racist policing.

"This is a revolution moment," said Sandy Hudson, a Black Lives Matter organizer based in Los Angeles, speaking at an afternoon press conference in downtown Portland. "You folks have inspired people across the country. Because they tried to break you."

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Hudson has spent the past three days in Portland with Janaya Khan, an international ambassador for Black Lives Matter. At the Monday event hosted by the local group Moms United for Black Lives, they shared their experiences protesting alongside Portlanders and expressed their support of the local movement.

"I was standing out there [yesterday], I was chanting, and I was singing with ya'll, and I see them attack you for it," said Hudson. "Is it any wonder that we have to come out here night after night and say that Black Lives Matter?"

Hudson has attended countless Black Lives Matter protests across the US, and said she wasn't surprised by the tactics used by Portland police officers against protesters. But she was shocked to see those tactics used against such a small group of people with no provocation, especially in residential neighborhoods.

"It was unbelievable," she told the Mercury. "It's clear that they want chaos."

Khan told reporters and fellow organizers Monday that it's critical for Portlanders to continue to engage in the local demonstrations, which have lasted nearly 75 days.

"Local fights and local discourse change what's possible at the national scale," they said. "Justice has never been given. It's been won."

Khan said the Black Lives Matter movement supports defunding police departments, a call that local protesters have carried from the start. The two organizers said they came to Portland to help amplify the work of local leaders after watching the city became a target for the federal government.

"We also knew that this is a region of deeply entrenched white supremacy, and that cause is directly connected to law enforcement," said Khan.

Khan and Hudson were joined by local Black leaders who've helped organized recent protests, including Demetria Hester and Danialle James. Hester was arrested for disorderly conduct Sunday evening while participating in non-violent protest in front of the Portland Police Association (PPA) headquarters. She had been released from jail an hour before the press conference.

"Thank you for being...able to show the world that we are united and we stand together as one," said Hester. "You don't have to settle. We're not going to settle."

Hester has been involved in local organizing for police accountability since her involvement in the criminal case against Jeremey Christian, the man convicted for killing two men during a racist diatribe on a MAX train in 2017. Hester had encountered Christian on a MAX train the day before the murders, where he had harassed her with racist hate speech and threw a bottle at her face. While Hester reported the incident to the police that day, officers did not meaningfully pursue the claim until after Christian became the focus of a murder investigation. Hester believed the murders could have been prevented if police had responded to her report.

Hester said she felt targeted by Portland police Sunday evening for her activism. The Multnomah County District Attorney's office has since dismissed Hester's charges.

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Khan and Hudson's visit to Portland comes after Mayor Ted Wheeler and Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell asked Portlanders to stop attending the ongoing nightly protests, claiming that they are no longer about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Hudson challenged that assessment.

"I'm seeing Black leaders in the streets, being assaulted by police, asking to be heard," Hudson told the Mercury. "Don't tell me this isn't about Black lives."

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