Portland responds to racism

Portland’s reaction to a racist group’s announcement that they will hold a demonstration this weekend continued to grow this week, as the City Council passed an anti-hate resolution in its first meeting of the year, Wednesday.

City councilors voted unanimously in favor of a resolution proposed by Commissioner Randy Leonard to "promote racial justice and denounce acts of hate in the City of Portland," in response to reports of a local racist and homophobic group’s plans to rally in Gabriel Park in southwest Portland this Saturday.

Though their name was not mentioned at the meeting, the group in question is assumedly the Tualatin Valley Skins, a group that made headlines in recent weeks for their claimed plan to disperse racist literature in the park this weekend.

In response to the group’s plans, citizens of Portland are coming together to throw a unity rally on Saturday, Jan. 8, at 1 p.m. in the Multnomah Center, located at 7688 S.W. Capitol Hwy.

Emily Gottfried of the Portland Chapter of the American Jewish Committee, just one of the community organizations sponsoring and endorsing the rally, spoke at the council meeting, urging the councilors to approve the resolution and citizens to attend the rally.

"This important resolution in front of the council today is a fine example of how all of us can and must strive to be human in a world where wholesale haters try to spread their venom," Gottfried said.

In addition, Willamette Week reported on Wednesday that a local group, Punks and Psychos Against Racism, is planning to infiltrate the rally at Gabriel Park and non-violently confront the racist group.

Each of the five city councilors voted in favor of the resolution and expressed their belief in the appropriateness of the resolution, while acknowledging the group’s right to free speech.

"While the current city council may have issues that we disagree on," Leonard said, "I will predict to that this resolution and its stated purposes are not going to be one of them, nor would these kinds of sentiments be apposed by the prior council."

"I want people in our community to clearly understand what the council stands for," newly inaugurated mayor Tom Potter said, "and we do stand for human rights, we do stand for protecting all people, we do stand for protecting the people that we don’t agree with."

"Even though we will be out there denouncing what these folks stand for, there will be a contingent of police to protect those folks, on both sides, from any harm and from anyone that would want to deprive them of any of their rights."

The Tualatin Valley Skins plan to hold a "flyer outreach contest" in which members will disperse racist and homophobic literature and attempt to recruit members.

Though the group could not be reached before press time, information about the group is available on the internet.

According to the group’s web site, members are forbidden from committing crimes because "the American Judicial system is highly biased against White Patriots."

Members of the sometimes refer to themselves as the "ghost skins," for their ability to blend in with the general populace, by not committing crimes, shaving their heads, or sporting racist paraphernalia.

At the council meeting, Lilly Mendel, a concerned local resident, called on Portlanders to stand up against the kind of intolerance she experienced as a young child in Nazi Vienna, Austria.

"I call on all Portlanders," Mendel said, "to speak up and join the protest against hate, so what has happened in Nazi Vienna can never ever, ever happen here."