Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty Responds to the Death of George Floyd: “This Is the Reality of Being Black in America”

Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a statement, “Enough is enough.”

Jo Ann Hardesty (Abby Gordon)

Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty was visibly overcome by emotion this afternoon at a rally to eulogize George Floyd, a black man whose killing by Minneapolis police has horrified the nation.

During a rally across from Portland City Hall on Friday, held by Portland's NAACP chapter, Hardesty condemned the death of Floyd and called out police brutality against black people.

"This is the reality of being black in America," Hardesty told the crowd. "Over and over and over again, black people have been killed, and there has been silence from the majority community.…Black people are tired. Black people are exhausted by racism."

"The reality is," Hardesty continued, "that white America has accepted the fact that black and brown bodies are expendable."

Her comments were first posted by The Oregonian. WW's news partner KATU-TV compiled footage from the rally, which the NAACP called a "Eulogy for Black America."

Several speakers addressed the hundred or so rally attendees, sometimes singing gospel hymns. Onlookers sat on the surrounding plaza steps, and nearly every speaker and attendee wore face coverings on the sunny Friday afternoon—one of the hottest days of the year in Portland so far.

The rally came a day after about a hundred demonstrators gathered in downtown Portland and marched through the streets to protest Floyd's death. At one point, demonstrators blocked the intersection on Southwest 3rd Avenue outside the Multnomah County Justice Center. Portland police didn't make an appearance at the protests, Portland journalist Sergio Olmos tweeted.

Floyd, 46, died in Minneapolis on Monday as a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee into Floyd's neck. Floyd pleaded with Chuavin that he couldn't breathe and eventually fell unconscious. Shortly thereafter, he was pronounced dead.

Chauvin was arrested Friday afternoon and charged with manslaughter and murder in the third degree, CNN reported. Shortly after Chauvin's arrest, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler issued a statement condemning Floyd's death.

"I have spent time this week reflecting on and mourning the murder of Mr. Floyd and what we continue to witness around this nation. George Floyd's murder has weighed heavily on my thoughts. So has the death of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Atatiana Jefferson," Wheeler said in a May 29 statement.  "Enough is enough. Portland, let's move forward together, and not one step back. We will rise through this stronger together."

Wheeler's statement was read aloud at the rally. He is out of the city on what his office described as a trip to visit an ailing family member.

In her remarks, Hardesty expressed hope that the crowd wouldn't accept the status quo.

“I see that you’re not going to take this anymore,” she said. “I see that we no longer will have to wait for black people to talk about the value of black lives.”

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