Looting and Rioting: The Media’s Image

We went from window shopping to shopping with the windows boarded up. Went from being called peaceful protesters to uncivilized monkeys. First night here in Portland, May 29 stores such as Gucci and Apple were broken into. This caused so much media attention not just for Portland but for the image of the BLM movement at large. That first night, officers used tear gas, and continued to for months on end. One question that remains wandering through the streets of Portland and through the rest of the nation is who is causing all of this?

I never thought I would see the day of real havoc in this city. I used to see it only in textbooks and on TV in other states, but never thought I would see it here in Portland. Am I surprised? No, not in the slightest. Police light a fire when there is no need for it and yet get confused when it continues to burn down a whole city. There is always going to be an effect to people’s decisions that usually end up hurting a whole community. When people get upset they can be pulled towards destruction, a simple “ you take from me, I’m going to ruin something of yours.” That is what has been happening since the start of the protest going back to the 60’s. Broken in cars, stores, fires everywhere, A whole ton of anger being released not just from protesters but from the police as well. The thing that hurts the most is seeing kids, yes kids, getting caught up in all of it and getting tear gassed as young as nine. Imagine bringing your child to a peaceful protest just to end up having to wash their eyes out with milk because an officer didn’t care who they were hurting. 

Billion dollar companies that had been broken into seem to really upset the news anchors more than the companies. They know they’ll be okay, because they have the money to rebuild. Certain Black owned businesses don’t, as they have to rebuild on something that took so long to create in the first place. They didn’t have that help and still don’t have that help. News reporters make it seem as if it’s just the BLM protesters in the wrong when there are other people, outside sources, that are making the image of BLM look worse, making it seem as if the peaceful protesters are the bad guys. I took the time to read an article from the OPB,“ In America’s whitest city, Black activists struggle to separate themselves from anarchists ,” by authors Jonathan Levinson and Sergio Olmos, about anarchist groups here in Portland who protest with the goal of being violent. It’s not even a group mainly composed of Black people, it’s mostly white people. Darren Golden, one of the founders of Rose City Justice, is quoted in the article as saying, “Black folks that get in power or have a voice are somehow squashed or quelled by a white political leadership or white organization.” 

“I feel like, yes, protesters are causing the damage, but at the same time I feel like a big problem is that it’s a lot of people that aren’t there for the right reasons,” said Franklin student Kaitlyn Molina who has attended protests during the summer. There are people that have been at the protest just for themselves, especially when it came down to looting stores and causing destruction. Many times, that’s what the media has chosen to focus on such as the false accusations that the BLM protesters had vandalized the 9/11 memorial. Instead of the main priority of the BLM movement, this misdirected focus is negatively impacting the image of the BLM movement. “It’s making more corporations notice it even though it’s been around for a couple years now and that I believe people are actually being heard for their voices,” said Thaila Nguyen, a Franklin student who also attended protests. That really touched base with me because the fact that it really has taken this long for people to listen to the experience of Black lives at all is upsetting. Kids, teens and adults are just now getting educated on a topic they should have been getting taught about in middle school. But it’s not the positive change that is getting shown on the news, it’s always been the destruction and looting. Unfortunately, sometimes the destruction and looting is what’s getting people to listen, especially the police. When you feel power is getting taken away from you, you are going to try everything to get it back no matter who’s getting hurt. That’s where I feel the police are at in this whole movement and the rioting is giving them a supposedly legal excuse to cause and escalate violence. 

I wish that people would see the real reasons on why people chose to riot instead of what the media and news portrays. Peaceful protesters are getting the blame and they are also getting the hurt that comes with it, either physical or mental. Many Black folks are having to live in a time where their child is getting that same physical hurt they were getting from an officer all the way back to the 70’s. I know there is no time soon things are going to be fixed, but I do hope to see more protests in the future. BLM protests and protesters are not as violent as they are made out to be on TV, but when they are, there is always a reason. Nobody is hearing us Black folks, so we have to go above and beyond, always had to and still having to protest against the injustice and violence that has been going on for centuries. I want that change letting people know the fight isn’t over. 

Protesters holding up fist as they march from Clackamas High School into the streets of the Clackamas. This was the end of the first week of protesting in Oregon. Photo via Jazmine Carter. 

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