Portland Oregon in the Wake of Trumps Presidency
By Gabrielle Kynoch
Across the Pond, is a country in disbelief. A man with outlandish ideas, questionable (at best) morals and who has little experience for the role, got one of the highest positions in all power: The Presidency of America.
Throughout the election process each statement made by Trump out did the last, if it’s not his architectural prowess along the Mexican border it’s the ability for him to sleep with any women he desires (with the obvious age, beauty and weight restrictions). Including unwanted comments about his own daughter that none of us needed to hear let alone Ivanka. However, before the result people would scoff at the idea that “America could be so dumb to elect him” or “I’m voting for Hilary because she’s the lesser of two evils”. Speaking to Americans in the liberal state of Oregon, they described the day following the election as a day of mourning. People who had planned celebration parties for their first female president told everyone to go home, phone calls were made to loved ones in faraway states and people had to think of how they could survive four years living like it was the 1950’s again. America wanted change, and they got it.
Portland, however wasn’t going to take it lying down. On the 11th of November, 4,000 people took to the streets of the city. Stopping traffic, calling for rallies and creating discussion within the procession was Portland’s way of letting Trump and the World know that they weren’t happy. As the media reported the protest as a riot, the shards of glass and a fatal shooting illustrated the act as a bunch of far-left radicals who couldn’t handle democracy. Yet, from an un-orchestrated event sprouted groups that offered refuge and community. A commanding voice of hope came from a group called Portland Resistance, who’s “major concern is that civil rights will be reset” as stated in their Facebook videos explaining that they, as a community, need to be strong and have stamina for the next four years. They have also condemned the acts of violence during the protest and have raised funds for the property damaged. It seems easy to blame a group based on an individual’s acts, the media in fact revel in doing so…
Traveling to Portland’s Pearl District and Downtown area a month on I had hoped to speak to people about how they are feeling after the dust had settled but in reality, the dust had cemented. I travelled to the inner city the day after the electoral college vote on the 20th December, which is a final vote each state takes part in after the initial vote. The system seems outdated and is criticized by many in America. This had made it all real, there were no more take-backsies, Trump had done it. I wanted to get a real experience of what it was like during the protests so I met 30-year-old Portland resident, Jen Martin.
So let’s start with your initial reactions from the result, how did you feel? Shocked, maybe a little let down?
Yeah, I mean it was a no brainer, all the poles suggested that Hilary was a clear win. We had a few people round to watch the results come in from the different states, everyone was in good spirits but at 6pm the mood shifted. The states were turning red and everyone was just stunned.
I woke up to the news and I couldn’t believe it, everything I had read and the people I had spoken to made you feel like Hilary was just an obvious win.
Right, the poles had gotten it so wrong and no one expected it. People kept saying how out of touch the poles had been up to this date, everyone was shocked.
What was the mood of the city after it had sunk in?
It seemed like everyone I knew [who had voted for Hilary] was in mourning. Portland is community centric and very social justice minded. We’re progressive here, a community for everyone so everyone was just licking their wounds after the first day.
So, there were no protests the first night?
Yeah, people were out protesting the first night but I didn’t because I was depressed by the result. As a queer woman who hopes to marry my transgender partner someday, I was scared for the future. I can pass as a straight woman but I was scared for my partner and my friends too. So, on the second night, we were at an LGBT vigil, thinking “what do we do now as a community”.
So, all in all, it was peaceful and community building? Did you see any of the anarchist behavior?
Well, we were moving along with the protest and when we hit an area with vandalisation in the Pearl district we knew it was time to leave, we saw riot cops and didn’t want to be a part of any anarchy.
Doing some research before hand, I can see a major group is the Portland Resistance. That they condemn the anarchist behavior and are raising money to fix property damage, did you meet anyone from this group?
Well, I did see someone who associated with this group and feel like they’re actions are probably more aggressive, I overheard someone say “there is no censor for protest” which sounds ridiculous to me because I don’t want to be labelled as a far-left radical, protest should remain peaceful in order to be taken seriously. I think everyone got a bit caught up.
Oh really? Yeah, I didn’t get that from their online messages. But I guess in the moment things tend to get out of hand and it just takes a few people to take it too far.
Yeah, on the most part it was really tame, I met a few different groups who were just peaceful. One was SURJ which stands for Showing Up for Racial Justice. I think there were six different protests that joined Portland Resistance.
Do you feel a greater sense of community after protesting and talking to like minded people?
Yeah I do, the protesting has dispersed but it’s made me realise that I need that sense of community within my friendship group. Before, I didn’t really do enough in my friendship group but after I heard the results I phoned people just to check on them. Before, I just rolled with it not expecting anything so bad to happen. A similar event happened in the UK in the sense that it was a shock; when the nation had voted to leave the EU, me and my friends were just shocked. Before, we didn’t take much notice of politics because nothing directly affected us but sometimes it takes a massive event like this to make you realise that you should contribute if you’re going to be disappointed with the results. Exactly, before I took minimal interest in it, nothing major happens so I didn’t have very strong opinions but no one incited such strong feelings like Trump. But now from this I know to be involved more, to vote local. It shouldn’t have been like this, I waited for the breaking point, the devil had to be elected for me to take notice.
Wow, so it was like an actual death you were mourning, almost mourning for the future about what rights could be taken away?
Definitely! The mood of the vigil started depressed, as a community we couldn’t take the news but towards the end of the march we were talking to loads of different people and just thinking about what has to be done within this community. But as our vigil moved we kind of merged with other groups out protesting so it all become this one giant thing! We were walking down the middle of streets, Hawthorne bridge was completely taken over, we stopped traffic. The media’s response to the protest is that it was a menace and things were getting heated between drivers and protestors. Not really, from what I saw. Cars were honking but in support, they shouted support to us and were just overwhelmed. That’s what I saw anyway, I’m sure in other parts drivers probably got angry just because the city was literally overrun with people on the streets.
What was the tone of the protest?
There were mixed reactions really, it started slow and somber but some people started getting rowdy. There were two halves really, the pissed off anarchists and the people who were peacefully protesting. But overall, it was peaceful, some people stopped at an intersection to sit down and take note of the people who had died from prejudice. I joined friends and strangers over discussion. That’s what was good, the sense of community building from such a horrible event.
So, how do you feel about the Electoral College result? Now that it’s been confirmed he is the next president.
It’s cemented the feeling of dread that it’s not a bad dream. It shows you that the popular vote doesn’t matter, which is a kind of fucked up system. So, everyone voted and that gets overruled by some states? Makes you think: does my vote even matter? That’s why people think it’s outdated. It helps rural states because it evens out the votes more but it negatively affects highly populated states.
Other people I’ve spoken to, said that America needed change, do you believe that?
Yeah, it definitely did! Obama was progressive but there was a lot of things I disagreed with. There was a lot of police aggression under him. A massive issue I had was with the Access Pipeline protests, he flew in the national guard which is an act of aggression to me, they caused a lot of violence against the citizens.
When Trump says that America needs to be run like a business, how does that make you feel?
Sick, a business is about survival of the fittest and capitalism. What will happen to social services? The handicapped, health benefits for women etc. Plus, he’s terrible at business.
What will you do as a part of the community now all of this has opened your eyes? What’s the feeling now in the community?
There are more knowing nods from people in the street, an understanding between members of the community. I check in more with friends now. The community is just really coming together, group projects and discussions of what we can do now to keep the stamina. In a way it’s a good thing that sprouted from such a horrible situation. If all the minorities come together we’re going to outweigh the privileged white males.
Sometimes, it takes a tragedy to make you stand up and contribute to your community.
Right, open discussion creates further discussion and I think change is happening, people just need to stop reacting out of fear. Just like Brexit for you and Trump for us. We can’t alienate or demonize minorities. When I heard the result, I cried, I mean a lot. But when we feel like “what else can we do” we’ve lost. There’s a lot we ca do; volunteer, protest and donate. Now is a time to act, peacefully.
Despite the feeling of mourning and perhaps betrayal by an outdated system, to find security within a community can bring about the change desired by so many. Portland has proven that they aren’t going to idly stand by as their social rights get exchanged for more money in the pockets of Billionaires. A community can be the lifeline in a time of confusion and disbelief. The importance of staying a community when people want to make minorities feel alone is a pattern that history cannot repeat.