This country was established on centuries of violence against Black and Indigenous people, and has been a violent place for them and for other oppressed communities ever since. 350PDX will always use nonviolent tactics in our campaigns, but we’re not here to criminalize or condemn those who use property destruction when they see it as their only way to push back against oppression. The real violence comes with the brutal police backlash, of tear gas and impact munitions, and the use of weapons of war on its citizens based on their own subjective biases.
350PDX’s organizing model is nonviolence – we engage in nonviolent tactics, and we remain committed to nonviolent tactics, and condemn the violence done to protestors by the police. What we don’t do is condemn those fighting for their own liberation for the methods of protest they believe are right. We recognize that during times of unrest, the police by and large exist to serve wealthier and whiter neighborhoods while pushing the chaos towards poorer communities of color to burn.
We also recognize the dramatically different ways that conservative protesters have been treated by police, as opposed to those protesting for racial justice. As we have seen again and again, such as in the State Capitol in Salem in December 2020 and the US Capitol siege in D.C. in January 2021, property that is damaged even while being occupied by lawmakers, is not immediately looked upon as arrestable offenses or as justifying the deployment of police force if the perpetrators are also mostly white and conservative.
It is an oppressive tactic to try to split protesters into good ones and bad ones, and we refuse to take part in it. When we condemn “bad protesters” it makes us complicit in the punitive and incarceral state and makes it easier for those in power to throw those people into jail for a long time.
“Civil unrest is the voice of the people when they can no longer tolerate being overlooked and silenced. We reject the “good protestor vs. bad protestor” wedge. The police will not dictate the terms nor the pace of change; our community united together, will. We, an organization of people from the African Diaspora in Portland, do not accept the narrative that protesters are the instigators of violence, nor that the federal agencies now in our streets are the primary problem. We reject these false narratives. We are clear that the police incite violence, and show up to do so; furthermore, they have been violently harming our communities since the PPB was founded in 1870, without a just process for accountability.” – “Defund Portland Police & Protect Communities: Imagine Black (formerly Portland African American Leadership Forum/PAALF) Action Fund Statement”
Finally, we should question the media or police report language and their descriptions of violence at these protests. Words like “riots” and “projectiles” paint a different picture than what may be happening on the ground, which are generally nonviolent gatherings.
Whether or not you personally agree with the tactics being used during a protest, we at 350PDX believe it is important to reflect and recognize the implications of white privileged folks criticizing the protests of Black and other oppressed people, as called out in Martin Luther King Jr.’s important ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail:’
“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”