On June 2, the Portland Press Herald published an article by Staff Writer Matt Byrne headlined “Portland chief and other officials meet with protest organizers to hear grievances.” The article mischaracterized the purpose of the meeting, and a subheadline prominently displayed in the Press Herald’s online edition attributed previous demonstrations, which turned confrontational, to “protest organizers Hamdia Ahmed and Abdul Ali.” In the online edition, the article was illustrated with a photo of black men who were described in the caption as “clashing” with police.

To set the record straight: Out of concern for the safety of protesters and to question what specific protocols were being used by the police in managing the unprecedentedly large crowds, several community members – including Abdullahi Ahmed, Hamdia Ahmed, Abdul Ali, Xavier Botana, Deqa Dhalac, Safiya Khalid, Regina Phillips, Roberto Rodriguez, Rachel Talbot Ross and Grace A. Valenzuela – participated in an impromptu online discussion with Portland, South Portland and Westbrook public officials June 2.

So it came as a surprise to the community members that within an hour after this discussion, the Press Herald posted an article about it. To the knowledge of the community members, there was no member of the press in attendance. The promotion of this meeting by the city of Portland to the news outlet as some symbol of an agreement with “protesters” falsifies what actually took place.

The steps taken by the city to use this meeting as a tool for public relations and to provide legitimacy for their actions against the public for expressing their First Amendment rights are outrageous. Young people of color do not need your acceptance or permission, nor will they be used as part of the machinery to extinguish their agency.

Let there be no doubt, we stand behind the national Black Lives Matter movement and its main demand: Defund police and invest in our communities. Defund prisons and jails and invest in our communities. Defund our systems that kill and invest in our systems that build.

The city’s actions are a clear example of how white people appropriate power. This is what white supremacy looks like. This is how systemic oppression is perpetuated. This is a clear illustration of why there is no trust.

For far too long, too often, Black, indigenous and people of color have heard from white people:

I did not intend to hurt you.

I did not intend to silence your voice.

I did not intend to take control of your body, mind or soul.

I did not intend to put you at risk.

And yet, your legacy of state-sanctioned violence, the genocide, continues.

Your intent does not absolve you of the impact you have made. Black, indigenous and people of color do not accept, swallow, ignore, pretend, excuse or bear the weight of this atrocity. This is your responsibility.

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