9:23 a.m. PST November 20, 2015
Abraham Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address, spoke of a “new nation,” one that was “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Exactly 152 years later, students and community members gathered at the Oregon Capitol demanding this promise be fulfilled.
More than 50 people went to the Capitol on Thursday to speak to the Governor about racism in the United States, especially concerning current events in Oregon dealing with discrimination against people of color.
Earlier in the week, some people at Lewis & Clark College anonymously posted threats targeting black students, using the location-based smartphone app Yik Yak, and attempted to introduce the hashtag #BringBackSlavery.
Other students from the college refused to stand by.
“This is not an isolated occurrence,” said Lewis & Clark Black Lives Matter representatives in a prepared statement. “We believe that racism, in all its forms, is exacerbated by federal and state constitutions. Racist threats like Tuesday’s create a campus environment that is unsafe for black members of the community and it is time for the government to actively work to resolve enduring state-sanctioned racism.”
They argued that the threats made against the black students were a direct violation of Title 42 of the United States Public Health and Welfare mandate, in which Sections 1-102 state that “no individual, on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, disability, religion, age, sexual orientation, or status as a parent, shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination in, a Federally conducted education or training program or activity.”
Ryan Seed, a junior at the college, said students shouldn’t have to be at the Capitol demanding these things, that this is progress that should have already been made.
“This is not just my struggle,” he said, when addressing the protesters. “We need to make a large, systemic change.”
In addition to calling on United States and Oregon governments to “recognize a responsibility to eradicate racist threats on campuses across the nation,” the group also called for the governor, a Lewis and Clark law school alumna, to remove the Mississippi flag from the Oregon Capitol grounds.
“It is possible for change to happen,” said Richard Davis, a reverend at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Salem. “Why should we wait for Mississippi to take their flag down? What if they don’t?”
The protesters presented the Governor’s office with a petition to take the flag down, along with a letter addressed to the Governor and many other Oregon law makers and officials.
“The flag is an exclusive symbol of racism and exclusivity,” Davis said. He added that while there are many other racist symbols still present today, this is one officials can address now.
The group walked to the flag and then made their way inside the Capitol, chanting around the rotunda, their words echoing loudly throughout the building.
Capitol workers came out to see what was going on. The protesters chanted, “The flag is racist; take it down! The flag is hateful; take it down! The flag is not welcome; take it down!”
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For more information or to read the open letter, get general updates and follow news coverage of the Lewis and Clark College Black Lives Matter group, go to http://www.barryglassdoor.com