PORTLAND — Several hundred people in Monument Square Sunday evening urged action against bigotry following a violent weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“We need consistent action so tragedy does not happen,” Adaline Lining said at the base of the Civil War monument.
Events near a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee about 650 miles south in Charlottesville Aug. 11-13 were the focal point of the city rally against racism, which also honored the memory of Virginia resident Heather Heyer.
Heyer, 32, was killed Aug. 12 in Charlottesville when she was struck by a car allegedly driven by James A. Fields Jr.
Fields is charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and a count of hit-and-run after authorities said he drove his Dodge Charger into a crowd protesting the presence of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Nineteen others were injured in the incident.
Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates of the Virginia State Police were also killed Aug. 12 when their helicopter crashed while circling Charlottesville.
“(President Donald) Trump needs to resign right now because he is not calling out white supremacy,” Hamdia Ahmed the Portland rally. She is the founder and president of the Refugee Relief Foundation.
In Trump’s Aug. 12 response to the violence that began as white nationalists, Confederate sympathizers and neo-Nazis objected to the planned removal of Lee’s statue from a Charlottesville park, the president said “many sides” were responsible for the fighting, injuries and death.
But for the people in downtown Portland, there were not two sides to be considered, only a growing presence of intolerance abetted by the Trump administration that could only be confronted at the most basic levels.
At the White House on Monday, Trump eventually said “those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
Lining, who grew up in Portland, and was visiting from Cambridge, Massachusetts, said people should must go beyond speaking out. She urged voting for candidates who promote tolerance and social justice.
Carterin Smith-Monahan of the local International Socialist Organization said those votes are especially important locally, to protect health care and housing for everyong in Portland. She said the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville was emblematic of the American history of exploitation.
“We must dismantle their politics with our politics,” she said.
Dorcas Ngaliema said silence in the face of racism is unacceptable.
“Never keep quiet because you are uncomfortable; people’s lives are in danger,” she said.
City and state elected officials, including Mayor Ethan Strimling, City Councilors Jill Duson and Pious Ali, and state Rep. Richard Farnsworth, D-Portland, were in attendance.
Duson said she took comfort in the turnout as a “woman of color, mom of color and grandmother of color.
“It is important my neighbors care about what is in front of them,” she said. “It matters you are here to support my grandbabies.”
Hundreds listen to Carterin Smith-Monahan speak in Monument Square during an Aug. 13 rally denouncing racism and the violence and deaths in Charlottesville, Virginia.
A Portland poster Aug. 13 rejects President Donald Trump’s claim “many sides” were responsible for racial violence in Virginia.
While protesting on Aug. 13 in Monument Square against racism, Adaline Lining, who grew up in Portland, called for “consistent action, so tragedy does not happen.”