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Peaceful Vancouver protest calls for racial justice

Around 50 people gathered at Vancouver Central Park Monday evening, marking yet another event calling for racial justice as protests across the country show no sign of slowing down.

The rally was organized by Southwest Washington Communities United for Change, a loose coalition of local groups formed to support people of color. The crowd gathered along Fourth Plain Boulevard and Fort Vancouver Way, holding signs calling for justice in the wake of George Floyd’s death and chanting at passing cars.

“Whose lives matter?”

“Black Lives Matter!”

Passing drivers honked their support. A few held fists out the window in a show of solidarity.

Lexi Bongiorno, SWCUC president, addressed the crowd via megaphone. She emphasized that Monday’s event wouldn’t mark the end of the group’s local activism — the organization is planning to keep the momentum going, with more demonstrations throughout the week. She encouraged demonstrators to follow the SWCUC Facebook page for updates.

“This is something that we’re in for the long haul,” Bongiorno said.

She also encouraged protesters to get to know each other. It can be difficult to foster a real community of activists in Vancouver, she said, because so many demonstrators just go into Portland.

But for some attendees, the hyperlocal nature of the protest was part of the draw.

Olivia Mitchell, a 30-year-old Portland resident, came to the event with a group of friends because she wanted to plug into her hometown.

“I grew up in Vancouver, and I’ve been trying to get connected specifically to what’s happening here,” Mitchell said.

Her friend, 35-year-old Kate Giambrone, said it was “time to step out of what feels safe.”

Another protester, Ozzie George, attended as a representative for MAD PDX, an activist group in Portland. He’s looking for tips on organizing peaceful protests, he said.

“I believe that love conquers all. Like Martin Luther King said, darkness can’t drive out darkness,” George said.

Ongoing activism

The Vancouver Central Park event wasn’t the only local demonstration held Monday.

A group of Columbia River High School students — many wearing the caps and gowns that they won’t get to wear to their own graduation ceremonies, canceled due to COVID-19 — gathered at the corner of Northeast Hazel Dell Avenue and Northeast 99th Street.

The group of about 100 students held a protest at the intersection, with chants of “Black Lives Matter.”


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