Kenton Waltz

At 6:15 pm on a 90-degree Saturday, the Hollywood Transit Center already felt full to the brim. The square lawn of grass, facing NE Halsey, overflowed with mourners, filling the bus channels behind it and the tiers of stairs connecting to the MAX train platform. Hundreds sat or stood in a wide circle—there were likely a thousand people in the crowd—with representatives of various government and community organizations, as well as family members of Friday’s slain heroes.

Impromptu monuments were piled high with flowers. The store-bought bundles were wrapped in plastic, but many bouquets seemed fresh from home gardens, the roots wrapped in damp paper. These were the gestures of thoughtful neighbors assembling to pay their respects to the three heroes who were stabbed Friday, after they stood up in defense of two Black teenage girls—one of whom was Muslim.

Kenton Waltz

Without much hierarchy, the memorial circle took turns with testimonials. A woman introduced herself as a neighbor and declared, “I am here because my heart is broken.” Another addressed the family of Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, calling attention to his heroism. There were people who worked nearby and just missed the attack, expressing their feelings. Another neighbor reminded the crowd to “not let fear conquer.”

It was difficult to hear almost all the speakers. The small PA system was no match for the size of the crowd. Anti-Nazi leaflets were passed around. Isolated shouts interrupted some testimonials, but the prevailing behavior was of quiet reverence and sorrow. One woman stood up and tried to talk about freedom of speech and how—in order to have such a right—we need to allow all kinds of speech. The crowd booed her and a moment of silence was called to settle things down.

Kenton Waltz

Other things that happened, whether important, funny, or beautiful: Mayor Ted Wheeler left the memorial abruptly after a woman brought up the recent shooting of Terrell Kyreem Johnson by transit police. When Meche’s family retired from the crowd, everyone sang to them, “We Shall Overcome.” A man asked everyone from Portland to raise their hand—I momentarily forgot that I’m not from Portland and raised my hand. A woman said “fashionism” instead of fascism, and people were very nice about it. A man who recently moved here from Poland encouraged everyone to read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. A woman sang Violeta Parra’s “Gracias à la Vida” and it was WONDERFUL.

It didn’t bury the sorrow—but it was a step forward.

Rian Nielsen

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