A number of civil rights leaders, including the head of Portland, Oregon’s local branch of the NAACP, Rev. E.D. Mondainé, are calling out the mostly white demonstrations in the city — increasingly violent protests that have now gone on for nearly two months.
“The focus has been moved from where it is supposed to be and made to be a spectacle, a debacle,” Mondainé told a group of protesters late last week, according to NBC News, pointing out that Portland’s demonstrations have long since left “Black Lives Matter” behind.
Mondainé even accused protesters of leaving black Americans behind by shifting the focus to themselves and their confrontation with the Trump administration over the White House’s decision to deploy federal officials to help control the city’s nightly violence.
“This is no new thing we’re experiencing. We have seen this from the beginning of time,” Mondainé said. “Four hundred years we have struggled as Black people in this nation. We have been made to be the last that were informed but the first that were affected.”
Mondainé has been vocal on the subject of Portland’s protests of late, even penning an op-ed in Saturday’s Washington Post denouncing the “white spectacle” of the city’s nightly riots.
“Unfortunately, ‘spectacle’ is now the best way to describe Portland’s protests,” Mondainé wrote. “Vandalizing government buildings and hurling projectiles at law enforcement draw attention — but how do these actions stop police from killing black people? What are Antifa and other leftist agitators achieving for the cause of black equality?”
He pointed specifically to photos of a naked, white woman doing yoga poses in front of a line of police, and of the Portland “Wall of Moms” that was, largely, a group of white women, scenes he said did little to move the ball forward on racial equality.
NBC News notes that most of the protesters squaring off with police and other law enforcement officials are, themselves, struggling with whether the demonstrations themselves are experiencing mission creep.
“The ongoing unrest, which started at the end of May following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, initially began as a series of demonstrations against racism and police brutality. After federal officers under the command of the Department of Homeland Security arrived to defend the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, they became the focus of protests,” the outlet notes.
Lakayana Drury, the head of a Portland non-profit also told the mostly white protesters that they need to regroup and, perhaps, consider their own role in oppression.
“I want us to remember why we’re here,” she said in a speech Thursday. “What’s happening downtown is not a Black issue. This is a battle between two white supremacy entities: the Trump administration and the local city of Portland.”
Activists, of course, contend that they’re drawing attention to the Black Lives Matter cause, which is a step in the right direction. Regardless of criticism, it does not appear Portland’s protesters intend to end their demonstrations. Saturday night, police declared the scene a riot and deployed smoke bombs and other non-lethal methods of force to disperse the angry crowd.
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