US city of Portland marks 100 days of protests against racism

2020-09-05 16:50:51
US city of Portland marks 100 days of protests against racism

Portland marks 100 days since protests erupted in the western US city to denounce police brutality and racism, shining a spotlight on a deeply polarized America as it prepares for high-stakes elections.

The nightly protests, sparked by the killing of George Floyd by white police in Minneapolis in May, escalated sharply in Portland after the President Donald Trump’s administration deployed federal agents to protect federal property from damage.

Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes as he was handcuffed.

Floyd's death triggered protests across the United States, but it is in Portland that activists have remained on the streets practically every night, demanding racial justice and police accountability.

"If we want to change the system, refuse this systematic racism, we need to keep on saying it in the streets at least until the election," a demonstrator who would only identify himself by the letter S, the first initial of his given name, told AFP.

He accused Trump of inflaming racial tensions, saying "the country has never been so divided."

Although the demonstrations in Portland toned down after federal agents withdrew at the end of July, tensions escalated again last weekend after a man identified as a supporter of a right-wing group was shot and killed.

Trump has cast the city as being under siege by "thugs" engaged in "domestic terrorism," even though the demonstrations have been peaceful for the most part.

He has also warned that should his Democratic rival Joe Biden win the presidential election in November, cities like Portland will fall into chaos across America.

Portland, the largest city in Oregon, has been rocked by protests every night for nearly three months. Although Oregon is known as a progressive, left-leaning state, it has a history of institutional racism that is extreme even for the United States.

Oregon was the only state to join the union that explicitly banned Black people from living there, and it once had the largest Ku Klux Klan organization west of the Mississippi River. The state also failed to fully ratify the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which granted citizenship and equal protection under the law to Black people, until 1973.

That history means white supremacy groups and anti-government militias have deep roots in the state, outside of its liberal hubs.

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