Anatomy of a protest movement

A three-part reported series identifying the infrastructure, challenges, and successes of Portland’s sustained protests in defense of Black lives.

SOURCEYes! Magazine
Demonstrators hold their cellphone lights in the air as they gather outside the Justice Center during a night of protest against police brutality and the deployment of federal troops to US cities on July 29, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. - Protests in the US city of Portland have continued for more than 60 days. President Donald Trump's administration on July 29 agreed to a deal to defuse weeks of clashes with the withdrawal of federal forces whose presence enraged protesters, but the timing remained in dispute. (Photo by Alisha JUCEVIC / AFP) (Photo by ALISHA JUCEVIC/AFP via Getty Images)

The uprising that occurred after George Floyd, a Black Minneapolis resident, was killed in May by Derek Chauvin, a White Minneapolis police officer, touched every U.S. state and numerous cities worldwide. Demonstrators who took to the streets in support of Black lives were more often than not met with first-hand experiences of the police brutality they were protesting. And while many cities saw ongoing demonstrations throughout the summer, protesters in Portland, Oregon, sustained more than 100 days of continuous demonstrations, pausing only when wildfires statewide created toxic air conditions in the city.

Sustaining a movement at such scale and duration requires substantial infrastructure, which in Portland emerged from autonomous organizing, deep networks of mutual aid, and a collective commitment to redefining and prioritizing community safety. As Portland’s protests evolved, YES! sought to document this infrastructure, and the challenges of organizing the nation’s Whitest big city around demands for justice being led by Black people. YES! solutions reporter Isabella Garcia, a resident of Portland, spent months on the ground with protesters, organizers, and community members to understand how the movement emerged and sustained itself, how local and federal law enforcement responded, and what Portlanders hope to accomplish going forward. 

Inside Portland’s Autonomous Protest Movement

Portland, Oregon’s five months of ongoing protests in support of Black lives are sustained by a vast, multifaceted, and ever-evolving network of activists, organizers, and mutual aid.

How Portland Protesters Keep Each Other Safe

“Protesting ultimately isn’t safe and we’re not trying to say that it is,” says one Portland street medic. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t take care of each other.”

What Comes Next For Portland’s Protests?

After more than 100 days of continual demonstrations, protesters in Portland are looking to the future—and each other—for ways to sustain their movement for Black lives.


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