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News for December 4, 2021

Counterprotesters Deter a “Block Party” in Oregon Town to Discourage RV Campers

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On Friday evening, a post went live through the online social networking platform Nextdoor with a group name “Protect Our Neighborhoods–PDX” announcing an event designed to upset people who live in vehicles, RVs, and other motorhomes in a North Portland street.

The email sent by an individual from the Kenton neighborhood was a flyer from an afternoon Saturday event. She posted it on the Nextdoor group with 303 members.

The flyer was decorated with cartoon balloons and cartoon houses. The brochure said: “Block Party Saturday–make noise and deter the new RVs. 1 pm on Saturday bring snacks, drinks, chairs, loud music, stereos. Let’s be loud and annoying for campers and greet our neighbors as we do it.”

On Saturday, instead, at noon, around 15 counterprotesters in black were present.

The counterprotesters, dressed in clothes usually associated with leftist protests and street battles, arrived at the block party’s address. They were located on North Montana street in the Kenton neighborhood, across from Interstate Fred Meyer and next to the Interstate 5 onramp.

The following two hours, when more counterprotesters poured in, approximately ten residents who supported the protests gathered at different times and occasionally engaged in verbal battles with counterprotesters, as reported by several witnesses who witnessed the exchanges in person.

The protesters in black robes stayed until the late afternoon. They put up speakers that played music and served pizza, ramen noodles, cups, energy bars, and water.

The exchanges showed how heated the debate about visible homelessness has grown. Being left out from City Hall, neighborhood groups periodically organize their protests to camps while left-wing activists meet to block camp sweeps. Sometimes the two groups meet, as they did in October. 16, in Kenton.

One Kenton resident, who was there to show support for the block party and wanted to remain anonymous, but who has worked as a peer support specialist for homeless people, said that some of the protesters made fun of the neighbors who attended.

The resident’s primary worry is that RVs parked on North Montana Street blocked emergency vehicles from securing travel. There’s also human trash that the neighborhood group has removed.

A counterprotester named John states that he was disappointed that it was “framed it as, ‘We need to harass these people, so they feel unwelcome in our neighborhood,’ instead of coming from a place of, ‘Let’s address those issues and support homeless people.'”

Another resident lives just one block away from the RVs. Rebel Sugahbear, who herself lived in a shelter as a child, said she’d heard about the block party in conversations but was not aware of the language the woman had used in the flyer. After that, she noticed another flyer and labeled the residents as fascists. Her understanding of the situation was that neighbors would gather together, discuss the issue, and discuss possible solutions.

However, when Sugahbear approached an anti-protest group to talk in the afternoon of Saturday to inquire what was happening, she claimed they became hostile.

“I felt very marginalized. I felt as if that my opinions were not important,” Sugahbear says.

John, the activist, claims that neighbors were constantly changing their arguments regarding why the RVs needed to move in conversations with the other groups on Saturday.

“Both sides tried to find a solution. What do you think we could do? What are the solutions that residents of the neighborhood could use?’ Residents tended to alter the issues were. They would say, “We should support them, they have to get to somewhere, and the emergency vehicle is blocked and causing delays,'” John says. “Then the problem would the be a crime, and they would change the problem.”

The residents dispersed around 3 pm, claiming they felt like they were outnumbered.

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