As the movement to Defend Black Lives, Defund Police, and invest in and transform our communities gains momentum, violent repressive responses from the state are also on the rise. And, as always, Black/Indigenous/people of color communities, queer and trans people, and other frontline groups are being most directly targeted.
In Portland, a broad, loose coalition of people have taken to the streets to confront the violence of U.S. police, paramilitary, and surveillance forces: Black Lives Matter Portland, Young Black Collective, Wall of Moms, the Portland Protest Bureau, Don’t Shoot Portland, Portland United Against Hate, interfaith clergy groups and many others. Many members of our Portland UU congregations are taking to the streets; hundreds more are pressuring elected officials to take action. And the First Unitarian Church of Portland is one of the plaintiffs in the Western States legal observer lawsuit against federal law enforcement.
Dana Buhl, Social Justice Director at The First Unitarian Church of Portland, has been out on the streets, in the coalition meetings, and organizing her congregation. She says, “What’s happening in Portland is a flashpoint that demonstrates where we are locally and as a nation. We're at a crossroads. Are we going to increase the violent militarized police state, and consolidate authoritarianism and fascism in this country, or are we going to dismantle these systems of white supremacy? Are we going to continue locking up and locking out millions of people, or are we going to decolonize our culture and transform our economy to meet people's needs, create racial equity, and stop the devastation of our planet?”
What we’re witnessing on the streets of Portland and other cities is brutal. People are being shot at with munitions projectiles, gassed, and abducted off the streets by unidentified federal agents into unmarked vehicles and detained without due process. Surveillance is intense, provocateurs are clearly in the mix, and infiltration is a constant problem. Meanwhile the border patrol shock troops that have been brought into our cities to terrorize protestors are also detaining immigrants and feeding the mass deportation machine.
The Trump administration clearly has a political and electoral strategy of framing the choices before our country as “law and order” vs. “anarchy by radicals.” This is not just ‘politics:’ this is a dangerous attack on the liberation movement that has grown by leaps and bounds since this spring. While Trump and his enforcers are intent on terrorizing all who want to seize this moment for transformation, the administration’s fear of this movement is clear. Led by organizers from Black & Brown communities who have always known that policing and prisons are tools of oppression and violence, millions of people are now joining in motion to abolish the whole criminal legal system with their eyes set on liberation. Millions more are awakening to the brutal violence of the state and the systemic racism in policing, in education, in housing, and our economic structures. Our response must be to grow our courage, increase our willingness to take risks, and show up in solidarity with the calls for abolition, liberation, and transformation.
This is the mandate of our faith. From our history of anti-slavery abolition to our actions to abolish ICE to the passage at our 2020 General Assembly in June of two Actions of Immediate Witness that explicitly urge UUs to join the movement to defund the police, the call to us is clear: to side with the oppressed, to oppose forces of oppression, to cut through the false narrative of ‘good’ protestors and ‘bad’ protestors and stop the criminalization of resistance.
Portland is just one place in which this violence and repression is on the rise. Federal agents have also been sent to Chicago and Kansas City, Missouri, under the pretext of fighting “urban crime”--a cover for legitimizing the invasion of Black neighborhoods, specifically. Trump is threatening to send more agents to Albuquerque, Baltimore, Detroit, Oakland, Philadelphia, and possibly other cities.
What we need now is to follow movement leaders organizing to remove these agents and continue efforts to defund policing and fight systemic racism. From joining protests, to demanding those in government act, to helping people turnout in the elections, we must act with courage and with spiritual care. If you can demand justice in the streets, don’t go alone, and follow movement leadership. If you can’t be on the streets there’s lots you can do.
What we can do:
- Call on your Mayors, City Council members, State representatives, Governors, federal representatives to ‘be with your people’ and take a public stand against federal agents overtaking U.S. cities.
- Support Local Bail Funds - see National Bail Fund Directory
- Support the Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America’s Streets Act federal legislation being introduced in Congress by Oregon representatives and others.
- If you are not already connected with the movement, get on Facebook and on Twitter and find out who is organizing locally and what they are asking people to do.
- See Love Resists Guide on finding partners for your congregation
- See UUSC Right to Resist Toolkit
Rev. Ashley Horan, UUA Organizing Strategy Director reminds us that we all need to take our shifts for the revolution. What will be yours? Who will you plan that with? Who will you ask to join you?