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Community Leaders Heartened by Portland Response to Proud Boys Rally

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “My read of the situation is that we wanted these White nationalists and alt-right leaders out of our community. And the police gave them the quickest and most expedient way to get out of our city, and I feel comfortable with that,” Eric K. Ward, executive director of Western States Center, told The Skanner. “We saw a five-hour rally that lasted for less than an hour, and then (protestors) requested to be escorted across the bridge by law enforcement. We have groups who were trying to create the conditions for another Charlottesville…”

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At a press conference prior to Saturday’s rally, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty told the crowd, “I unequivocally support people who stand up against white supremacists, white nationalists, and people who are filled with hate and bile.” (Photo by Saundra Sorensen)

Proud Boys outnumbered by counter-demonstrators in largely peaceful event

By Saundra Sorensen, The Skanner News

Black community leaders found reason to celebrate in the aftermath of Saturday’s gathering of right-wing extremists in Portland.

“My read of the situation is that we wanted these White nationalists and alt-right leaders out of our community. And the police gave them the quickest and most expedient way to get out of our city, and I feel comfortable with that,” Eric K. Ward, executive director of Western States Center, told The Skanner. “We saw a five-hour rally that lasted for less than an hour, and then (protestors) requested to be escorted across the bridge by law enforcement. We have groups who were trying to create the conditions for another Charlottesville. They started coming here looking for fights, and this time they didn’t really get that. And then most couldn’t find their way back to their car. I think that really described the day,” he said.

Members of the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group Proud Boys organized the unpermitted rally at downtown Portland’s waterfront, with the stated purpose of getting antifascist demonstrators in the city denounced as a monolithic domestic terrorist organization by officials.

Police estimates total attendance at the protest and counter-protest at about 1,200, with members of alt-right groups numbering about 500. Local media estimates placed the number of Proud Boys at 200 to 300 and the number of counter-protesters at 1000 to 1,200. Law enforcement officials kept both groups apart, allowing Proud Boys members and supporters to exit east on Hawthorne Bridge after a brief demonstration.

Police said they arrested 13 people during the demonstration, most on charges of disorderly conduct, and seized a small number of weapons including bear spray. Alexander G. Dial, 37, was charged with attempted assault in the second degree and unlawful use of a weapon, and Brandon Howard, 33, was charged with assault in the fourth degree and disorderly conduct in the second degree.

“I think the community came out strong,” Kayse Jama, executive director of Unite Oregon, told The Skanner. “It really became more of a festival celebration mood than a rally. The community outnumbered the White supremacists in large numbers,” he said.

Ward and Jama said they were satisfied with the police response to the rally, and praised city leadership overall. Such commendations did not come easily.

Last week, Mayor Ted Wheeler held a press conference at Pioneer Square in anticipation of the Proud Boy rally, warning of a zero-tolerance policy for violence. The event featured a more than 80-member coalition of supporting agencies, nonprofits and individuals in the community, with brief speeches by legislators and community leaders. Both Ward and Jama spoke, and both took exception to what they saw as “false equivalences” from city officials that White supremacist demonstrators and counter-protestors posed an equal threat of violence.

“Let me speak first to our law enforcement community: There is no neutral ground,” Jama said at Wednesday’s conference, pointing out that White nationalist groups planning to attend the rally “are well-trained, armed militia.”

At the scheduled start time of the rally Saturday, a handful of White nationalist protesters in paramilitary gear milled around the esplanade of Tom McCall Waterfront Park south of Morrison Bridge, where they were outnumbered by photographers and other members of local and national press. North of the bridge, a larger group of counter-protestors assembled for an adapted Shabbat service led by Rabbi Debra Kolodny in front of the Battleship Oregon Memorial. At one point, Kolodny, of Portland United Against Hate, showed the crowd where she’d written the number of the National Lawyers Guild on her forearm.

“My great aunts and uncles had numbers of death written on their arms, and I have numbers of solidarity and support written on mine,” Kolodny said. “While many of us might have our epigenetic trauma triggered by what’s happening right now, I want to assure everyone that what happened before is not going to happen again.”

Portland NAACP President Rev. E.D. Mondainé followed, telling the crowd, “It is time to rally our allies and quickly recruit them as accomplices that will stand with the disenfranchised and those who are marginalized in our cities across America in our fight for freedom.”

Kolodny told The Skanner that the event was part of The Spectacle, Portland Popular Mobilization’s counter-protest, which aimed to distract from White supremacist demonstrators.

“I went to an organizing meeting of Pop Mob, and I learned of their desire to create a counter presence that they called ‘The Spectacle’ that would be filled with song and dance and music and juggling and satire and humor, to create a unifying community experience that was joyful and connecting, and just counterbalancing,” Kolodny said.

Groups involved in The Spectacle included NAACP Portland, Portland Jobs with Justice, Rose City Antifa, Portland Democratic Socialists of America, the Interfaith Clergy Resistance, Portland Industrial Workers of the World, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and the Queer Liberation Front.

In practice, The Spectacle encouraged a gathering of not just masked protestors often associated with the Antifa movement, but also colorfully dressed and costumed demonstrators.

Ward praised Pop Mob’s “commitment to providing alternatives to toxic masculinity” in the protest.

“It was really overshadowing of the White nationalist movement,” Ward said. “Pop Mob has really engaged in a new set of tactics that were creative and celebratory, and I want to acknowledge that, and acknowledge that leadership.”

“They might come back,” Ward said in response to Proud Boys organizer Joe Biggs’ threat that his group would return for monthly rallies. “Every dollar spent when they come back that continues to strengthen the unity of Portlanders, is a dollar well spent. And if they want to give us the opportunity to do so again, we should be joyful about the opportunity to celebrate Portland.”

Ward added, “I’ve been in many a protest. I’ve been in some amazing community mobilizations against bigotry. I’ve not in my 30 years seen such an organic alignment, that was so celebratory, as Saturday. People felt empowered and not disempowered. And the fact that Joey Gibson and Joe Biggs are spending Monday working so hard to convince media and their followers that they were successful tells me how much they’re scrambling. They’ve never had to scramble to declare a win before. They ran out of gas in Portland. And I think it’s significant and I think other cities should take note of it.”

 

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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Children’s Defense Fund: State of America’s Children Reveals that 71 Percent of Children of Color Live in Poverty

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Part One of an ongoing series on this impactful and informative report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The child population in America is the most diverse in history, but children remain the poorest age group in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The comprehensive report is eye-opening.

It highlights how children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. For instance, of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, approximately 71 percent were those of color.

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality are growing and harming children in low-income, Black and Brown families.

While the share of all wealth held by the top one percent of Americans grew from 30 percent to 37 percent, the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent between 1989 and 2019.

Today, a member of the top 10 percent of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90 percent.

The median family income of White households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900), and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, and 74 percent of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year were living temporarily with family or friends.

Millions of children live in food-insecure households, lacking reliable access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and more than 1 in 7 children – 10.7 million – were food insecure, meaning they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat.

Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White children.

The report further found that America’s schools have continued to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps.

For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and more than 26 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native school students did not graduate on time compared with only 11 percent of White students.

More than 77 percent of Hispanic and more than 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 60 percent of White students.

“We find that in the course of the last year, we’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice has really met a point of intersection, and so we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice and quite frankly you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

Some more of the startling statistics found in the report include:

  • A White public school student is suspended every six seconds, while students of color and non-White students are suspended every two seconds.
  • Conditions leading to a person dropping out of high school occur with white students every 19 seconds, while it occurs every nine seconds for non-White and students of color.
  • A White child is arrested every 1 minute and 12 seconds, while students of color and non-whites are arrested every 45 seconds.
  • A White student in public school is corporally punished every two minutes, while students of color and non-Whites face such action every 49 seconds.

Dr. Wilson asserted that federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities.”

In the report, he notes that children are not receiving the investment they need to thrive, and despite making up such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5 percent of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

Despite Congress raising statutory caps on discretionary spending in fiscal years 2018 to 2020, children did not receive their fair share of those increases and children’s share of total federal spending has continued to decline.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population,” Dr. Wilson demanded. “We are headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine.”

Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children.

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contained $1,400 checks for individuals, it includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty.

The President’s plan expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and is presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“The American Rescue Plan carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” Dr. Wilson declared.

“The Children’s Defense Fund was quick to applaud the efforts of the President. We have worked with partners, including leading a child poverty coalition, to advance the ideas of that investment,” he continued.

“Most notably, the expansion of the child tax credit which has the impact of reducing poverty, lifting more than 50 percent of African American children out of poverty, 81 percent of Indigenous children, 45 percent of Hispanic children. It’s not only good policy, but it’s specifically good policy for Black and Brown children.”

Click here to view the full report.

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She Bought Freedom for Herself and Other Slaves Today a Park is Named in Her Honor

Alethia Browning Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised. 

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Alethia Browning Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

In her early years, Alethia Browning Tanner sold vegetables in a produce stall near President’s Square – now known as Lafayette Square – in what is now Northwest Washington, D.C.

According to the D.C. Genealogy Research, Resources, and Records, Tanner bought her freedom in 1810 and later purchased several relatives’ release.

She was the first woman on the Roll of Members of the Union Bethel AME Church (now Metropolitan AME Church on M Street), and Turner owned land and a store at 14th and H Streets, which she left to her nephews – one of whom later sold the property for $100,000.

Named in her honor, the Alethia Tanner Park is located at 227 Harry Thomas Way in Northeast DC.

The park sits near the corner of Harry Thomas Way and Q Street and is accessible by foot or bike via the Metropolitan Branch Trail, just north of the Florida Ave entrances.

“The first Council legislative meeting of Black History Month, the Council took a second and final vote on naming the new park for Alethia Tanner, an amazing woman who is more than worthy of this long-delayed recognition,” Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie said in 2020 ahead of the park’s naming ceremony.

“[Her upbringing] itself would be a remarkable legacy, but Ms. Tanner was also active in founding and supporting many educational, religious, and civic institutions,” McDuffie remarked.

“She contributed funds to start the first school for free Black children in Washington, the Bell School. Feeling unwelcome at her predominately segregated church, she & other church members founded the Israel Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. When the church fell on hard times and was sold at auction by creditors, she and her family stepped in and repurchased the church.”

Born in 1781 on a plantation owned by Tobias and Mary Belt in Prince George’s County, Maryland, historians noted that Tanner had two sisters, Sophia Bell and Laurena Cook.

“Upon the death of Mary Pratt (Tobias had predeceased his wife) in 1795, the plantation, known as Chelsea Plantation, was inherited by their daughter Rachel Belt Pratt,” historians wrote.

“Mary Belt’s will stipulated that Laurena be sent to live with a sibling of Rachel Pratt’s while Sophia and Alethia were to stay at the Chelsea Plantation.”

Tanner sold vegetables at the well-known market just north of the White House in Presidents Park. It is possible – and probable – she met Thomas Jefferson there as he was known to frequent the vegetable markets there along with other prominent early Washingtonians, according to historians at attacksadams.com. 

“There are also White House records suggesting she worked for Thomas Jefferson in some capacity, likely doing various housework tasks,” the researchers determined.

Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised.

“Self-emancipation was not an option for all enslaved peoples, but both Alethia and her sister Sophia were able to accomplish this, almost entirely through selling vegetables at the market,” the researchers continued.

“Alethia Tanner moved to D.C. and became one of a significant and growing number of free Black people in the District. In 1800, 793 free Black people were living in D.C.

By 1810, there were 2,549, and by 1860, 11,131 free Black people lived in D.C., more than the number of enslaved peoples.”

Historians wrote that beginning at about 15 years after securing her manumission, Alethia Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

All in all, Tanner would have paid the Pratt family well over $5,000. All accomplished with proceeds from her own vegetable market business, they concluded.

“Alethia Tanner, it’s an amazing story of resilience, hard work, and perseverance,” D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation Director Delano Hunter said at the park’s dedication.

“I just learned about this history through this, so it shows how when you name a park, you really educate people on the historical significance.”

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