Portland Protesters Undeterred by Near Triple-Digit Heat

A memorial built by activists Monday calling for justice for Tete Gulley, a Black transfeminine person whose death her family says Portland police wrongly labeled a suicide. (Courthouse News photo / Karina Brown)

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) — Protests large and small continued around Portland, Oregon, in the movement for black lives, even on a Monday with a high temperature of 98 degrees — but they did not resemble the “sick and deranged anarchists and agitators” President Donald Trump described on Twitter that night.

The tactics were many and varied. Protesters gathered to wave signs in half a dozen high-traffic locations around the city, families held a Covid-distanced car parade in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and antiracist book and documentary study groups were open citywide. Silent vigils memorializing the deaths of black people were held in three locations, including one in a northeast Portland park where activists gathered to mourn the death of Tete Gulley, a black transfeminine person whose death they said police quickly — and wrongly — labeled a suicide.

Several people at protests outside the downtown area Monday described feeling compelled to participate in actions against police brutality and systemic racism, but said they were unable to join the large protests downtown that have swelled in recent days with thousands of participants.

“I live with someone who’s immunocompromised,” Jessica Mick, 25, told Courthouse News at an afternoon vigil at the base of a shimmering gold statue of Joan of Arc on horseback. It was held in honor George Floyd, killed by a white Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

During nine minutes of silence, nearly every passing car honked in support.

And Eva Landis, 26, said she’s been avoiding the big downtown protests because she works in retail.

“With the pandemic happening, I don’t want to be at my retail job where I have to remind people to wear their masks all day and then go out and get people sick who are protesting something really important,” Landis said. “I’m just assuming at this point that I’m exposed. But this is something smaller where we can stay apart from everyone, so I definitely wanted to show up for that.”

Monday night at Rocky Butte, a volcanic vent that overlooks the foothills of the Cascade Mountain range, about 300 people held a vigil for Gulley. Attendees set up a memorial, with photos of Gulley surrounded by piles of flowers and dozens of candles. Rose petals were strewn on the crushed granite paths atop the overlook. Gulley’s mother, sister and brother sat in folding chairs near the memorial, dressed in red shirts with her photo on the back, along with the words “Justice for Tete.” Silent supporters surrounded them. In the distance, the sunset streamed lavender, peach and baby blue.

After about an hour’s quiet vigil, Gulley’s sister addressed the crowd.

“Black people don’t hang themselves,” Hinnessey Gulley said. “Y’all know goddamn well that’s true.”

Gulley’s mother, Kenya Robinson, said the memorial on Monday was the first time she’d left her apartment in the year since her child’s death.

“I just want to say, it’s been a hard year,” Robinson said. “When Otie passed away — I called him Otie — every door was shut. I just ask that you all embrace people around you and stop judging. You just never know what somebody’s going through. Everybody doesn’t tell their whole story.”

The crowd erupted into a chant: “Tete Forever!”

A memorial built by activists Monday calling for justice for Tete Gulley, a Black transfeminine person whose death her family says Portland police wrongly labeled a suicide. (Courthouse News photo / Karina Brown)

Downtown, the confrontation between protesters and federal agents continued for the 60th consecutive night. Federal agents once again shot pepper balls and other “less lethal” munitions at protesters gathered in front of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse. The crowd there included the “wall of moms,” dressed in yellow and linking arms, the newer “wall of vets” — military veterans opposed to the federal occupation in Portland, and a group of Portland dads equipped with leaf blowers, ready to blast federal tear gas back the way it came.

Federal agents with the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Control and the U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Protective Service announced Monday that they have so far arrested 83 people in Portland during “Operation Diligent Valor,” including 22 over the past weekend.

The charges range from failure to obey orders to assault on police officers. One man is charged with operating a drone in restricted airspace and another is accused of releasing the personal information of federal agents on his Twitter account.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty on Monday demanded that Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, meet with them immediately “to discuss a cease-fire and removal of heightened federal forces from Portland.”

Wolf briefly visited the federal courthouse in Portland on the afternoon of July 16. Wheeler’s office said at the time that Wolf had not invited him to a meeting, and that he would not have attended one if such a meeting were offered. That was before federal agents tear-gassed Wheeler along with thousands of mostly peaceful protesters on July 23.

Moments after breathing in tear gas fired by federal agents, Wheeler told Courthouse News the experience made him reconsider his reluctance to ban tear gas, which Portland police have routinely deployed against protesters.

“The answer is yes, I would absolutely consider it,” said Wheeler, who is also the city’s police commissioner. “Right now, I’m thinking about my runny nose, my eyes and my lungs. But it’s not a good tactic. It’s indiscriminate.”

Back at Monday’s vigil on Rocky Butte, Hinnessey Gulley had a message for the many people who, at that very moment, were facing off with federal agents downtown.

“Y’all up there getting tear gassed and arrested every night for yelling ‘Black Lives Matter!” Gulley said. “But if they mattered, you wouldn’t have to yell that shit.”

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