Late Sunday, Portland saw its statues of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt fall during the city’s “Day of Rage.” Declared a riot by Portland Police, a group of protesters toppled statues, dubbing “Columbus Day” as “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage.”
While many states have swapped Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous People’s Day, rioters in Portland took the day to escalate their gridlock presence on the street that is now well exceeding the 100 days of summer.
As Oregon Live reports, rioters took measures not to curtail violence, but to ensure their actions were not documented by either the press or members of the public.
“People in the crowd were repeatedly admonished not to film. Passersby who happened upon the group were ordered by demonstrators to stop filming or delete photographs, including an apartment resident who had lasers shined at his eyes and a liquid thrown in his face as he appeared to shoot video of the scene from his terrace.
The group, about 200 strong, marched through downtown Portland, at one point occupying all four lanes of West Burnside Street. Most dressed head-to-toe in black (black bloc). Many wore body armor, carried shields or wielded night sticks and other weapons.”
Indian Country Today detailed the history of Theodore Roosevelt’s “long legacy of animosity toward American Indians,” which, they charged, included absorption of Native American identity into the broader fabric of homogenized America.
What was Abraham Lincoln’s crime in the eyes of the mob? Lincoln ordered the execution of 38 Dakota (Sioux) men convicted of perpetrating massacres and/or rape of settlers by a military tribunal. (The tribunal had given the death sentence to 303 Dakota men, but Lincoln commuted the sentence of the 265 others despite intense political opposition.)
While the reactions of indigenous people cannot, of course, be summarized with a broad stroke given the complex and unique histories, tribes and legacies, one Portland resident and member of the Portland Indian Leaders Roundtable offered his perspective.
Paul Lumley of the Yakama Nation, and executive director of Naya Family Center, reflects how he felt when the city recognized Indigenous People’s Day five years ago, and then to the scene he woke up to Monday morning in downtown Portland.
Speaking to local TV station KOIN6 about how he felt when Indigenous People’s Day was recognized, Lumley said, “It felt so good. It felt like finally, I didn’t have to keep fighting so hard for tribal rights. That we were going to be embraced by the city, and it felt so warm and welcoming.” When he woke up to the news on Monday about what had happened in downtown Portland, he felt “disappointed” and “insulted.”
“I felt like I was vandalized by another group taking what should be a day of celebration of our vibrant culture to one of the ‘Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage,’ which I do not support at all.” – Paul Lumley, Yakama Nation
Portland’s Day of Rage is not unique in its attempt to take the kaleidoscope of human experience (which also allows individuals like Lumley to celebrate the good while acknowledging the bad) and apply a homogenized experience to it — in the case of Portland, the same homogeneity they accuse Roosevelt of.
In contrast to those who are interested in building the world, extremist groups use rage as an expression of and a metaphor for its destruction. In the last four years, as our culture has seen a rise in extremist groups, we have also seen an explosion of rage on our streets.
These groups see rage as a powerful statement. Yet, many who have long studied the rise of extremism see rage as the annihilation of nuance as well as the negation of the individual, making an entire generation easy prey for these extremist movements.