Owning Our Histories, Shaping Our Futures

The ROP network is powerful and has been confronting racism and winning local victories across the state! Over the past year and beyond, groups have been protesting against police brutality, holding elected officials accountable to a high standard of human dignity, and paving the way to an Oregon where every community member feels truly welcomed. And on January 19th, local organizers with the Pendleton Community Action Coalition celebrated the Pendleton City Council’s unanimous vote to stop preserving historic street names that commemorated Confederate leaders! Read on to learn more about the organizing that made it possible! 

What are the ways you and your group are working to make your community safer for everyone? Let us know by emailing Emma@rop.org or by joining our upcoming strategy session Building Rural Communities Safe From State Violence

Building Rural Communities Safe From State Violence 

Wednesday, February 10th, 6:30-8 pm PST

Human dignity groups that make up the ROP network have been hard at work dismantling collaboration between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement for decades. The network has recently been making incredible strides holding rural police and sheriffs accountable to not breaking Oregon’s sanctuary law by using local resources to enforce federal immigration policy while upholding the demands coming from the Movement for Black Lives. Groups are working to create community-based alternatives to policing, successfully ousting corrupt Sheriffs, and are building pressure to meet the demands for justice for those harassed and killed by police. What’s working and where do we go from here? Register here to join the conversation by phone or computer!

Organizing Victory: Pendleton Community Action Coalition

Back in November, the city of Pendleton was repaving a section of SE Byers Avenue and was set to recreate the sidewalk stamps marking the original names of the intersecting streets. These stamps were embedded in the sidewalk in the 19th Century, when the cross streets bore names like Jeff Davis Street after the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. Now, in the removal process, the city bought a stamp machine to make new concrete sidewalk stamps commemorating the historic street names which had ties to prominent Confederate leaders.

Thanks to the network that developed over a summer full of Black Lives Matter rallies, marches, and vigils, folks quickly spread the word about what was happening and called on their elected officials to change course. Not only did the city council agree that re-installing new sidewalk markers memorializing Confederate leaders did not align with Pendleton’s current values, but they also amended the city’s historic preservation ordinance, ensuring that stamps like these would no longer be preserved from here on out. 

This was a major shift in tone from the first comments Pendleton Mayor John Turner made on the matter. When the issue was first brought to Turner’s attention The Eastern Oregonian wrote: When the demand to remove the stamps was first brought to Turner’s attention, he described it, to the Eastern Oregonian, as a “rather disturbing, almost sinister” attempt to “rewrite history,” also claiming that preservation of the stamps did not constitute promotion of the Confederacy or its ideology.”

“Rewriting history” is a complaint that many of us have heard when our movements push back against commemorating racist historical figures or events. That complaint ignores the fact that Confederate monuments themselves were an attempt to rewrite the history of the Civil War. The vast majority of Confederate memorials were put up between 1900 and 1920, a period when the KKK regained considerable power and Jim Crow laws were solidified. The groups that put up these memorials openly admitted that they wanted to advance the “Lost Cause” narrative of the Civil War, which romanticizes the Confederacy and falsely claims that the cause it fought for was “states’ rights,” rather than the maintenance of a violently racist society dependent on the enslavement of Black people.

In city council meetings, Pendleton Community Action Coalition argued that we can discuss racist history without putting it on a pedestal. Briana Spencer, a group leader and enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, shared in her public comment at the December city council meeting:  “If you want to preserve history, this land belongs to my tribe.” Has your group been working on changing the names of monuments, buildings, or other public spaces in your community? How is it going? What opportunities or challenges have you encountered? 

After local organizers made their voices heard and brought these issues to light, Mayor Turner changed his position! At a council meeting on January 19th, 2021, the council voted unanimously to stop preserving historic street names. We’re excited about this win and we know it is just one example of the many ways rural Oregonians are confronting the ongoing legacies of racism within their communities. What is your group working on? Have you had similar success participating in city council or county commission meetings? Where could you use support in your organizing? Give us a shout at emma@rop.org to get in touch with your local organizer!

Upcoming Strategy Sessions: 

Building Rural Communities Safe From State Violence 

Wednesday, February 10th, 6:30-8 pm PST

Human dignity groups that make up the ROP network have been hard at work dismantling collaboration between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement for decades. The network has recently been making incredible strides holding rural police and sheriffs accountable to not breaking Oregon’s sanctuary law by using local resources to enforce federal immigration policy while upholding the demands coming from the Movement for Black Lives. Groups are working to create community-based alternatives to policing, successfully ousting corrupt Sheriffs, and are building pressure to meet the demands for justice for those harassed and killed by police. What’s working and where do we go from here? Register here to join the conversation by phone or computer!

Better Broadband, Basically

Tuesday, February 23rd, 6:30-8 pm PST

Broadband internet has never been more essential than during the pandemic, and many communities are still struggling to get connected because of ridiculously high prices, the lack of physical infrastructure, or both. What can we do to push local and state governments toward truly accessible broadband internet? What grassroots efforts are already gaining traction in rural Oregon? Register here to join the conversation by phone or computer.

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