Statement on Police Accountability

Posted by on Jul 30, 2019

Spirit Led Justice Alliance Statement on Police Accountability during White Nationalist Rallies and Counter Rallies

The Portland Spirit Led Justice Alliance is a consortium of interfaith coalitions in the Portland Metropolitan area.  We work with secular organizations to advocate for specific equity and justice goals through campaigns in a variety of arenas, including Immigration Rights, Worker Justice, Environmental Protection, Racial Justice and Eliminating Poverty and Houselessness.

As an anti-racism coalition, the threat that White Nationalism poses to our public safety requires us to speak at this moment.

Over the past two years many of our leaders and constituents have participated in counter rallies to speak out against hate, White Nationalism, fascism, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny etc. when White Nationalists have come to Portland.

We have seen some practices by the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) that increased our sense of safety and appreciate the collaboration at the Interfaith Peace and Action Collaborative that resulted in more peaceful protests in the summer and fall of 2017.

We understand that police are in the line of fire and would like to see significantly more training, spiritual direction, counseling and other support for them during work hours to address PTSD, exhaustion, implicit bias and other impediments to effectively and safely de-escalating violence in our city.

But we have also seen practices that cause us grave concern. These include PPB’s choices to:

  • Use military weapons like chemical weapons and flash bangs, some of which are         banned by the Geneva Convention
  • Line up facing counter protestors with their backs to the Patriot Prayer and White Nationalists
  • Arrest counter protestors who did not engage in any acts of violence or disruption (including 68 year old Betsy Toll on August 4)
  • Use of physical force against peaceful protestors to enforce disperse orders
  • Abandon the strategy of non-violently separating protest factions to ensure that none are hurt
  • Allowing a motorist to drive into peaceful counter protestors on August 4
  • Surveilling and criminalizing justice activists who seek an end to racism, misogyny, hate and the criminalization of houselessness etc.

Since our meeting with Police Chief Outlaw, we were very concerned to hear of:

  • Texts between Lieutenant Niyya and a member of a White Nationalist group about    ignoring outstanding warrants for one of the group’s members, despite the post media exposure indictment of members of that group
  • The District Attorney’s refusal to prosecute White Nationalists on the basis of a ‘mutual combat’ rubric found to be baseless, despite the post media exposure    indictment of two White Nationalists

The coalitions and organizations represented by the Portland Spirit Led Justice Alliance support:

  • Safety for all Portland and Oregon residents and visitors
  • Non-violent protest
  • Those willing to stand up to White Nationalist violence
  • A police force that does not use military grade/military provided weapons that is skilled at de-escalation with a goal of zero tolerance for the use of lethal force while             keeping its officers safe
  • Criminal justice pursuit of White Nationalist organizations and leaders as domestic terrorists as discussed with Chief Outlaw in our initial meeting
  • Strengthening legislation addressing Oregon Hate Crimes
  • Learning from other cities in Oregon with better records on these issues
  • The work of Portland United Against Hate

We are committed to the following actions in support of these concerns and goals:

  • Ongoing attention to/vigilance about and information sharing about the Portland Police Bureau’s actions regarding White Nationalists and counter protests
  • Ongoing conversation with the Portland Chief of Police, District Attorney, Mayor and City Council; the Multnomah County Council and State Attorney General
  • Involvement with future agreed upon campaigns regarding the above

Signed by: Community of Welcoming Congregations, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, Faith and Labor Committee of Jobs with Justice, Farm Worker Ministry Northwest, Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, Interfaith Peace and Action Collaborative, NAACP, Oregon Board of Rabbis, Portland Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Portland Interfaith Clergy Resistance and Oregon Unitarian Universalist Voices for Justice

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