PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – The Portland City Council is expected to hear a resolution next week aimed at condemning white supremacy and alt-right groups in the City of Roses.
Mayor Ted Wheeler says the resolution is a clear and hard stance against white supremacist and alt-right groups who he says feel empowered to attack people of color, immigrants and other targeted groups.
“We have a moral obligation to lead on this issue,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler says in a time where there’s a significant increase in hate crimes, it’s time for the City of Portland to step up.
“People in the community expect us to have a strong voice. They expect us to help protect them at a time when white supremacists, white nationalists feel empowered to speak up against people of color, against people of different religious backgrounds of people who are frankly not like them,” Wheeler said. “There are a number of groups and I'll defer to the FBI to specifically name groups but you certainly see manifestations of that in the Proud Boys and other groups.”
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, the first African American woman to serve on the Portland City Council, says Portland is blind to racism.
“I think Portland thinks that it's very progressive and we're just like a hipster paradise, but in reality the systems that we have if you look all across the board at every social determinant of health, whether it's education, home ownership, business ownership, no matter what you look at what you find are people of color are at the very bottom of those measures,” Hardesty said.
Hardesty says it’s crucial that Portland be vocal on these issues.
“It's really getting to the point where as I believe as a city, as a state, we have to be very clear that we will not tolerate hate and hatred against anybody,” Hardesty said.
Looking back on the history in Oregon, the state has a deep-rooted history of racial tension.
Randy Blazak, the chair of the Coalition Against Hate Crimes says Oregon’s history at its core was founded on these types of principles, which is why he says Oregon is such a white state even to this day.
The state passed a law in the 1800s that prevented free people of color from entering Oregon and it wasn’t repealed until 1926.
Blazak says the state has been faced with changing demographics and a wave of hate groups.
“In the 1980s when we had a wave of skinhead violence, the city was finally kind of pushed to actually do something about white supremacism activism instead of sort of mildly supporting it, it had to kind of get out in front of the other side,” Blazak said.
He says as the demographics change across the country, Portland is setting the stage for the future.
“We're really at this moment of change, and Portland is kind of the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the country,” he said.
As Portland remains in the spotlight, Wheeler says this resolution isn’t just words, as the city plans to take action and make changes that would back the resolution.
The city would train all of its employees giving them a history of white supremacy to combat these types of groups.
Portland City Council will hear the resolution on Thursday, February 7 at 2 p.m.
A spokeswoman from Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office tells FOX 12 an hour and a half is reserved for invited and public testimony.
The council will then vote on whether to adopt the resolution.
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