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Black Lives Matter Confronts Black Friday in Portland

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Black Friday has long been correlated with post-Thanksgiving political actions, often labor focused, meant to target what many say are consumerist priorities and the exploitation of low-wage workers forced to leave their families over the holiday weekend.  Of course many working class families have to use Black Friday sales simply to afford gifts for their families, yet it is still a good opportunity to highlight many labor and social abuses.  This includes the white washing of the murder of African American’s in the U.S., which public outcry is bringing together a movement threatening the current order in fundamental ways.

Starting in 2014, the Black Lives Matter movement moved into using Black Friday as a way of highlighting the growing movement and linking it up with existing labor struggles like $15Now and Our Walmart.  This year, 2015, saw this Black Friday becoming an annual one as cities across the country reported rallies, marches, and disruptions at consumer centers.  In Portland, Oregon, Don’t Shoot PDX and Black Lives Matter Portland organized a mass action that would highlight voices of color and mobilize people to keep their voices heard even through the dense fog of holiday shopping.

Around 400 people packed Holladay Park across the street from Oregon’s oldest mall, Lloyd Center.  Amid speeches that discussed the disparity in rates of police violence against black and brown people, the name Laquan McDonald rang loud as people sadly remember his recent death.  McDonald was shot in Chicago in a shocking sixteen time in a matter of seconds by police, showing the veracity at which police address black suspects.  There was also an climate of suspicion as it was recently revealed that the Black Lives Matter movement locally had been spied on by Oregon law enforcement, as well as the general fear after the white nationalist attack on BLM protesters in Minneapolis-St.Paul.  There were a small handful of counter protesters at Holladay park, but they were sandwich board wearing fundamentalist Christians yelling obvious attacks at protesters.  This was until several white men were apprehended by police in the mall carrying airsoft guns and heading in the direction of the BLM rally.

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After an hour of speeches where organizers had white allies create a locked-arms line to protect people of color, the march hit the streets and weaved up and down Northeast Portland.  This often came in direct contact with the police, who would often attempt to block the path before backing down and breaking their line.  The route took protesters through neighborhoods that had been gentrified, new commercial space that is getting frightening rent increases, and parts of town that used to have a vibrant African American community before developers changed the demographics.

The march led back to Lloyd Center to go inside and continue the messaging, just as they were doing in cities around the country.  This meant showing the banners and providing the known chants.  Cross-issue organizing was incredibly apparent here, where Portland State University students were also trying to highlight the arming of security officers on their campus and the project to undo that decision.

Below is a large image gallery of the rally, march, and Lloyd Center action giving a cross section of how this diverse movement came together to highlight the ongoing anti-black racism that defines America.

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