Wednesday , December 8 2021

30 years after attackers cross to the death of a skin on Portland street, the city reflects


As a youth, Nkenge Harmon Johnson recalls having the MAX train or bus in Downtown Portland and being careful not to break across the Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Late 1980s or 1990s. Harmon Johnson is black.

"It was not safe for me and my friends," said Harmon Johnson, now president and the CEO of Portland Urban League. "Because Aryans, non-Nazi skin skin are running a court in Pioneer Square, they hang out on the steps and smoke and chat."

Three decades later, downtown does not still feel safe for some African Americans.

Harmon Johnson recalls a recent message that he read on an email list sent among friends. She and other black people warned to stay away that day because the Proud Boys marched through the street. The Western cabinets who own self-announced guns have become known for their violent conflicts.

Harmon Johnson is one of a group of operators, community leaders and policy makers that reflect how Oregon has evolved – or not – since Mulugeta Seraw was murdered 30 years ago on Tuesday.

Seraw, a 28-year-old Ethiopia, had surrounded her and slept to death with three-skin skin bats on the Southeast Portland street on November 13, 1988.

The Harmon Johnson Urban League in Portland is organizing a conference at the University of Portland State this week to focus on the death of Seraw and the future of Oregon. The theme of the conference is "Remember. Learn. Change."


What has changed? "The date on the calendar," said Harmon Johnson.

The enthusiasm of the death of Seraw stimulated many. He was an immigrant fleeing violence from his own country who came to college education and lived in the American dream when he was attacked for any other reason than Ne-Nazis did not like who he was.

It's astonishing white people – "there was no way for people to explain it away," said Harmon Johnson.

But for black people, Harmon Johnson said that it did not seem so amazing because it was fit for Portland's reality that they would know through repetitive experiences with racial assault.

Then, last year, Harmon Johnson saw shock in white people and again surprised by minority communities when the police say that Jeremy Christian throws two men in the neck and almost kills a third on a MAX train. The men interfered as Christian instructed racist and xenophobic rash in two African American beings, witnesses said.

"People say," Gosh. How could this happen in Portland – not loving, innovative Portland, "said Harmon Johnson. "And (no) say … What do you mean how this can happen in Portland? We know that this can happen because supremacists are allowed white go out free in ways that are completely inappropriate. "

Harmon Johnson pointed out as an example that Portland police did not arrest Christian the night before the assault, when an African woman reported that he was giving a warning in full hatred against Jews, Jews and Muslims, then threatened to kill and throw a plastic bottle has been filled by Gatorade in his face. The police responded to the MAX Quarter Rose station but let Christian go. Later, the police announced a statement disagreeing with the woman's account that she had known Christian as her assailant.

The police said she had not done so. Harmon Johnson also pointed out to the Portland Police Office's two-year-old practice of keeping a list of members of suspicions of gangs and related contacts. The Oregon / OregonLive investigation found in 2016 that 81 per cent of the 359 people on the list were racial or ethnic minorities. The office banned the list last year under public criticism, but an inspector later discovered that the police kept a second list of members of the gang suspicions.

Harmon Johnson said that the police were focusing on younger, minority men who think they are in gangs, but they do not pay attention to white gangs with supremacistic links.

The same thing happens to federal authorities, who ignore white superintendents in creating terrorist lists, he says. The New York Times reported this month that the federal government's counterparty strategy had concentrated almost almost 20 years on Islamic militants and not white superintendents and members of the most right – even though they killed much more people since September 11, 2001, than Islamic extremists or other domestic aliens.

"White supremacists are terrorists," said Harmon Johnson.


Kenneth Mieske, the 23-year-old who led briefly on Seraw, was sentenced to death and died in 2011 at 45 and was imprisoned. Kyle H. Brewster met over 13 years before being released in 2002 and the league Steven R. Strasser served more than a decade before going out of prison in 1999.

Although he was never prosecuted, a fourth man – Tom Metzger – had to pay for what was decided by the civil jury of the Multnomah Circuit Court later was his role in the death. Metzger was the founder of the White Aryan Collision of the California group.

The jury awarded $ 12.5 million of Seraw's family after finding that Metzger was responsible for the death of Seraw by sending a recruitor to Portland to mentor a local branch of skinheads, East Side White Bride. The jury agreed that Metzger urged the three members to release violence on non-complaints.

Ultimately, the family collected a fraction of the ruling – after forced Metzger to sell his South Californian house – but it was enough to summarize the Metzger racist organization and provide a nest egg for the 10-year-old son of Seraw. One of the civil lawyers Seraw, James McElroy, adopted the boy. Today, the son of Seraw is a commercial pilot.

Elden Rosenthal, one of the lawyers who represented the family of Seraw, said he saw Metzger and white nations appear on the margins – extreme and rare.

"I think he was with the majority of older people," said Rosenthal, who lost members of a Jewish family to Holocost. "Now we know it was just the ice ice front."

Rosenthal said he believed President Donald Trump had encouraged racial rhetoric progress. Trump has undergone constant persistent criticism for his comments on Latin Americans, the Muslim ban of his administration, calling the immigrant caravan into "assault" and holding "wall building" war enemies.

"This is the same message," said Rosenthal.

Recently, Rosenthal re-read a transcript of Metzger closures during the 1990 civil trial. He said he was surprised to see many of what Metzger says to the jurors seems to reflect the words of Trump and some his fans.

Metzger spoke of his "nice little" neighborhood of California as it was "destroyed" by a "assault" of a Mexican. Metzger said America was getting worse. Metzger was worried about many white Americans and a working class – and he said that many people felt exactly what he did, Rosenthal reported.

"There is an increasing sub-class of white people in this country," said Metzger. "They fall through the skin, they become worse and worse and worse and do not like what's happening in this country."

Given the political success of Trump, Rosenthal said he had acknowledged that such an opinion was part of the mainstream of society.

"These things can happen here, precisely in Portland's intriguing, innovative city, because there are people like this around and we can not ignore it," said Rosenthal, who is still a lawyer working in Portland.

"It can happen here, it happened here and it will happen again if we do not teach our children," he said. "There's growing civilization work to always be on the notice and always erases it when it highlights its head."


Randy Blazak has spent the last three decades studying hate groups and chairman of the Coalition Against Hate Crime Commission. For calls like Rosenthal for surveillance, Blazak also sees promising advances in a fairly white state.

Members of the community have been prepared to talk out increasingly, says Blazak. After Jeremy Christian was arrested, people watched candle lights and wrote messages about love and racial harmony at the MAX Hollywood station, he noted.

"The whole community came out," said Blazak. "That's important for two reasons: It shows the victims that we may not look like you or pray with you, but we stand with you . It also sends a message to the perpetrator, we may look like you, not with you. & # 39; "

Such shows of support have also faced the country's countryside, more conservative countryside, says Blazak.

John Day noted in 2010, when the Aryan Nations expressed an interest in buying a property there for its new national headquarters. The Aryan Nations came to an end giving the idea to the best after hundreds of residents attended the town hall meeting to express their fear.

"It was so inspirational," said Blazak.

The police in Portland have developed plans and training to try to tackle racial profiling and comprehensive prejudice, community groups have worked with the police to increase understanding between LGBTQ officers and people and Prosecutors charge people who target others because of their race, gender identity, religion or other differences, he says.

State lawyers passed laws and state "threat" in the 1980s.

"Part of it is trying to send a message," said Blazak about the prosecutions.

In 2017, a American American man said that he was "in the wrong neighborhood" in North East Portland and he tried football so on. The white man's Mathu Karcher was convicted of a re-scared fever in February and served 16 days in prison.

Also last year, a driver of Portland in a pregnant Muslim woman prompted to get rid of her hijab and then pretended to shoot her and her husband by denoting a gun with fingers. Fredrick Sorrell was convicted of aging a re-graduate in August. He was ordered to take anger control classes and have a meaningful discussion with members of the Portland Muslim community.

"We will not tolerate someone who is attacking someone in any protected district – and if we can prosecute, we will be completely," said Brent Weisberg, spokesman for the Multnomah County District Attorney Office.

"We always want individuals to get in touch with law enforcement when they think they could be a victim of hate crime," said Weisberg. "That's something that's a priority to your office."

Harmon Johnson of the Urban League believes that prosecutions of such people who are harassed who threaten to physically harm others is an exception, not the rule. Too often, the reports are totally transported and people give the best to turn to the police when they are persecuted, he says.

A treacherous Urban League worker described a man with a knife as he praised racist mood. But when the employee of the police name called, officials failed to investigate, Harmon Johnson said.

"These people have taken pride because they are going away," said Harmon Johnson. "And many people do not report it because of their response, they think that police are not going to do anything about it."

However, Blazak believes that there has been a marked increase since the death of Seraw.

"All these reasons are to be skeptical," said Blazak. "There is a lot of organizational racism."

Blazak, who was pregnant, spent his childhood in the 1970s in Georgia, before settling in the North West as an adult.

"I grew up in a town where the copies and Klan were the same people," said Blazak. "But the change I've seen in my life, I'll be encouraged."

Memorable events

Tuesday, November 13 marks 30 years since Mulugeta Seraw was murdered with basketball bats in South East Portland by racial skin. The community marks anniversaries in different ways:

* The Portland Urban League sponsors the "Magnificent Mulugeta Memorial Conference" on Tuesday 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Click here to register.

* Wednesday, 8:50 a.m.: Disclosure of "signs to fans" that will identify street corners around Southeast 31st Avenue and Pine Street, the location where Seraw was beaten short. The "toppers" will be attached to street signs in the surrounding area, and show the picture and name of Seraw.

* Wednesday, 2 p.m. A statement is sent to the Portland City Council to remember Seraw.

– Aimee Green

[email protected]


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