Parker was arrested a couple of weeks ago at the encampment for allegedly pulling a gun on protesters during an argument. According to the news reports, he pulled the gun after protesters challenged him for taking unauthorized video. One of the less emphasized elements of the news stories was that some of the protesters called him a racial slur.
In discussions with my editor, we both agreed something didn’t add up about the story. Why would someone pull a gun after he was told not to take video? For that matter, since when did a people’s protest make such a fuss about unauthorized video? Isn’t that what characterized the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and so many other countries?
The Skanner News Group decided to make an inquiry and the police report produced a much more disturbing account.
According to the police report, some protesters began arguing with Parker for taking video. They called him a racial slur and then pulled knives on him. In response, Parker, who is a concealed weapons holder, lifted his shirt to show them he was armed. Instead of arresting the protesters who threatened him, the police put Parker into custody.
He was released the next day and no charges were filed. However, his mugshot was posted online and the incident put a blemish on his otherwise, clean record.
In the midst of this “media war”, this incident was brushed under the rug by many on the left. Conversely, some right wing pundits used it as a way to prove the left is racist.
It is not the fault of Occupy Portland that this unfortunate incident happened or that there are some unsavory elements among the protesters. However, the refusal to fight for a black man who was the victim of injustice will leave a permanent stain on the movement.
Many have complained that occupiers aren’t giving enough attention to issues that face communities of color, even though they profess to be fighting for the “99 percent”. The Jason Parker incident validates the concerns and skepticism among communities of color and helps to explain why there is very little diversity at Occupy Portland.
While unity is an honorable goal, it has to go beyond words.
Communities of color will never accept the rhetoric of unity if well intentioned people choose to defend racists who threaten our people, all for the sake of winning a public relations battle.
The “99 percent” may be getting oppressed by the same powers that be but there are a number of divisions between us that can’t be patched up by words from unofficial spokespeople.
Asking communities of color to accept the racist elements while not challenging these racist elements to do the same and defending their flagrant violations of human decency is neither building unity nor upholding the fight for the world’s oppressed.
In the time I’ve spent at the Occupy Portland camp and my talks with occupiers, I’ve found that the vast majority are committed to making real positive change and standing up to power. They really believe in the power of unity and justice.
Thus, I urge occupiers to not let the wrong done to Jason Parker, or anyone else at Occupy Portland, to go by the wayside. True enemies of the movement would love nothing more than to use this incident to stop Occupy Portland and further their malicious agendas.
At the heart of standing up to power is the need to tell the truth.