Out of Hate: Queer Portlanders Come Together in the Face of Violence
By Student Writer, Rose V.
On February 10th 2019, Individuals who are thought to be members of Portland and Vancouver based alt right groups embarked on a string of attacks intent on targeting queer people. These attacks appear to stem from a video posted by Tiny Tusitala, a known provocateur and member of the alt right groups Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer. In this widely shared facebook video, Tusitala called for an “Anti faggot” movement. Two Months Later, Patriot Prayer member Chris Ponte, posted a violent threat to Twitter; which invoked an “open season on all 58 gender identities.” Ponte’s post appears to be the catalyst for the February attacks. Reports indicate that some of the attacks were perpetrated by a group of two to four men in a Maroon Truck or SUV. The attacks happened mainly near freeway off ramps, and took place from E Burnside and 20th, SE Morrison and 15th, Killingsworth and Interstate, the Kenton area, and on PCC’s Cascade Campus. LGBTQI+ organizations have been responding in numbers to the recent acts of hate and calling on Portland to be aware of the threats facing Queer people. Rather than spreading fear, these organizations are promoting unity, and have been focusing on spreading important information and resources.
Since the initial incident on Feb 10th, an estimated 9 to 15 attacks have followed. Ambiguity surrounding an exact number of assaults reflects the lack of police reports filed by victims. Involving PPD in the recent attacks appears to be especially unsafe in light of unsettling text conversations released by The Willamette Week in February. Once made public, these texts documented camaraderie between Lt. Jeff Niya and alt right Proud Boy leader Joey Gibson. Rather than involving the police in any capacity, Portland’s queer communities and adjacent organizations have been responding by spreading resources that promote self reliance and self defense; such as donations of pepper spray, mace, and dog whistles. Notably, the Portland Black Lives Matter chapter is distributing self-defense materials with the intention of prioritizing the safety of queer and trans People of Color. For more information on how to access these materials, visit blackpdx.com
In response to the series of attacks, The Q Center in North Portland called for a “Lgbtq2sia+ Town Hall” on February 24th. After learning that attendees would far exceed the capacity of their N. Mississippi based location; the event was moved to the Pacific Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA). Complete with a volunteer security team stationed around the event, ASL interpretation, and a plethora of advocacy organizations, this event hosted over 200 people. A representative from the Q Center, Cameron Whitten, was present at the event to field the high level of questions asked, at the event’s Q&A, but it was clear that he did not have all the answers. The event directed individuals to organizations like Portland United Against Hate – a hate crime report coalition, Black Lives Matter Portland, USA Pride, Utopia PDX, #SafeRidesPDX* and others.
On March 2nd Popular Mobilization, a Portland based alt right resistance coalition, organized a day of workshops and community building efforts at PICA. This event included self defense training, a “know your rights” discussion, a healing trauma workshop, de-escalation techniques, a situational awareness workshop, and more. Most notably there were two scheduled “Fash 101” presentations, which taught attendees how to identify local fascist groups and their signs. As with the town hall meeting the week prior, their were a number of local anti-oppression organizations in attendance, including; Queer Liberation Front, Black Lives Matter Portland, the Q Center, and Free Lunch PDX. The entire event was ASL interpreted by Fingers Crossed Interpreting.
PCC’s Queer Resource Center (QRC) has been very aware of the effects these attacks have had on PCC’s queer student population; this is especially true for students on Cascade Campus, as one of these incidents took place in the alley just South of their Student Union building on February 17th. Although administration and campus security say that they would like to help and support Queer students, Brandy Cortnik, employee at Cascade Campus’ QRC, notes that their ability to provide assistance is limited to school hours only. Relying on Campus security and the support of the administration is complicated in her mind, as she wants to be mindful not to provoke fear in students, but also doesn’t want students to have a false sense of safety.
To offset some of this feeling of unsafety, Cornik is co-hosting on going self defense workshops with martial arts instructor, Chris Stearns. The class is aimed to provide Queer and Trans folks of all body types and comfortability levels with self defense techniques. For more information regarding when and where these events will take place, email Bcortnik@pcc.edu.
The QRC has wonderful resources for all queer students on all campuses, including drop in counseling, mentorship programs, volunteer opportunities, and more. For a full list of what the QRC has to offer log into “my pcc” and look under the “pcc life” tab; or just come by, eat a snack, and talk to some of their friendly staff.
- #SaferidesPDX contact info: 503-455-7077