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Signs of A Movement: The Personal Messages Protesters Carry

Thousands of protesters march down MLK Jr. Boulevard and onto the Hawthorne bridge on June 5 in Portland.(Matt Fields/The Indy)
Thousands of protesters march down MLK Jr. Boulevard and onto the Hawthorne bridge on June 5 in Portland.(Matt Fields/The Indy)

Editor’s note: Due to privacy and safety concerns, most sources opted not to share their last names. The audio interviews embedded throughout the article may have explicit language. 

In Portland, protests and demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice have continued for 21 days now, with no end in sight. Every day thousands of protesters come equipped with food and water, protective equipment, and of course, signs. Most days, it appears as if the number of protesters just barely exceeds the number of cardboard signs that float above their heads. 

Most signs carry often repeated phrases such as ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘I can’t breathe,’ and ‘silence is violence.’ However, some individuals go a little farther to make a sign with a powerful message, a unique perspective, or even a work of art depicting influential Black leaders. 

The variety of signs at these protests displays the passion, focus, and humanity of the individuals that make up these diverse crowds. 

 

Eden holds a sign that pays tribute to victims of police brutality over the years, “I want them to rest in power and in peace” (Matt Fields/The Indy)
Eden holds a sign that pays tribute to victims of police brutality over the years, “I want them to rest in power and in peace” (Matt Fields/The Indy)

“I want their names to be known, and I want them to rest in power, and in peace.” -Eden

Eden, 21, shared that her experience protesting in Portland had been peaceful and that she noticed a lot of the protesters were young people around her age. She expected the crowd to be full of young people, but wishes older generations were also there to support.

 

Eric and Kate display their signs at Revolution Hall on June 2 in Portland. (Matt Fields/The Indy)
Eric and Kate display their signs at Revolution Hall on June 2 in Portland. (Matt Fields/The Indy)

“I have never known police brutality in my life, and to see that it’s just become so commonplace in our society that we’re almost at a point of desensitization,  the absolute least we can do is show up, be here and show solidarity.” -Eric

Eric and Kate spoke with us outside Revolution Hall in SE Portland before the day’s march started. Revolution Hall has become the main meeting point for the multiple demonstrations over the last few weeks. Every day, protesters gather in the open field behind the building, listen to a few activists speak, and then march through the city.

Before meeting up with a group of friends, Eric and Kate shared their thoughts on the best ways to support the movement. Eric takes solace in the fact that the large crowds at these demonstrations show he is not the only one outraged right now.

 

Tony holds a sign that unifies Mexican-Americans with the Black Live Matter movement on June 3 at Revolution Hall.
Tony holds a sign that unifies Mexican-Americans with the Black Lives Matter movement on June 3 at Revolution Hall.

“Today we fight for them, tomorrow we’re going to fight for us.” – Tony

Tony, 25, is a first generation Mexican-American from Long Beach, CA. We spoke on his fifth day of protesting in a row, as the crowd listened to activists speak over a PA system at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. He sees his experience growing up in a diverse community like Long Beach as an asset in helping others understand how to best show solidarity with people of color and the Black community. He’s excited to see the passion for this movement feed into on-going movements to abolish ICE and the fight to get rid of private prisons. 

 

Violet, a Portland resident, holds a sign that focuses on the distortion of history to depict The Civil Rights Movement as longer ago than it actually was. She elaborates on this topic in her accompanied audio. (Matt Fields/The Indy)
Violet, a Portland resident, holds a sign that focuses on the distortion of history to depict The Civil Rights Movement as longer ago than it actually was. She elaborates on this topic in her accompanied audio. (Matt Fields/The Indy)

“There’s a reason we’re out here, and it’s not just bullshit. There’s a reason we’re out here 60 years after we tried, it’s still happening.” – Violet

Violet is a Portland resident currently working two jobs,who still made time to support the movement in person. Like many protesters, Violet specifically addressed her anger with the systemic oppression and prejudice that has persisted for generations here in America. 

 

Ramonia holds her sign while masked at Chapman Square on June 4. She has been to many protests in Portland but feels the tone of those following the death of George Floyd are different. (Matt Fields/The Indy)
Ramonia holds her sign while masked at Chapman Square on June 4. She has been to many protests in Portland but feels the tone of those following the death of George Floyd are different. (Matt Fields/The Indy)

“People are tired and they just really want change.” – Ramonia

Ramonia is a mother from Hillsboro, OR. She spoke with us about her experiences with racism in the South, her experiences with previous protests, and the conversations she has with her son. Ramonia feels like these demonstrations are different than similar ones in the past, and that they will bring about change if they continue. 

 

(Matt Fields/The Indy)
(Matt Fields/The Indy)

“Look everybody is trying to do their best. They’re trying to make a difference and you know what we may not do it perfect, we may not do it right. We’re just trying to make change and we’re all going to make mistakes.” – Steve

On Tuesday, June 2, we spoke with five friends from Vancouver, WA as thousands of protesters peacefully gathered in Pioneer Square in downtown Portland.

Earlier that day, ‘Blackout Tuesday,’ a virtual demonstration meant to draw attention to the inequalities in the music industry, took social media by storm. The blackout quickly gained traction, and broadened in scope and focus, as users across the world posted plain black boxes to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The digital protest faced criticism from those who believe now is not a time for silence, and for overloading the hashtag #blacklivesmatter with the empty posts.

Suzie, Steve, Taylor, Carson, and Blen addressed those criticisms, shared their varying opinions on the best ways to support, and discussed their frustrations with how the protests were being portrayed. 

In order of appearance, the individuals speaking are Suzie, Steve, Taylor, Carson, and Blen. 

 

(Matt Fields/The Indy)
(Matt Fields/The Indy)
Taylor, a Vancouver Washington Resident, Holds her sign while protesting on June 2 at Pioneer Square. (Matt Fields/The Indy)
Taylor, a Vancouver Washington Resident, Holds her sign while protesting on June 2 at Pioneer Square. (Matt Fields/The Indy)

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