Our Streets: Portland’s George Floyd Protests

By David Krogh

100 days of protests in Portland is what was reported by both local and national media over the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by police in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. These protests commenced on May 28, 2020, and lasted the entire summer, finally diminishing by October.
The New Yorker called the protests in Portland a “summer of rage.” Many of the protests were peaceful and orderly, like the march on June 4 which former Trail Blazer Damian Lillard helped lead across the Morrison Bridge to Waterfront Park. But emotions and tempers were high. A riot on May 29 influenced Mayor Wheeler’s decision to declare a state of emergency.
That and multiple protests fed massive crowd sizes (10,000 or more protesters estimated during the first week of June) and fueled small acts of vandalism which expanded into massive looting and violence, especially in the vicinity of the Multnomah County Justice Center. The riots became so intense that federal marshals were deployed by the Trump administration to Portland on July 2. The feds were especially aggressive after protesters used fireworks on both the Justice Center and the Federal Courthouse on July 4.
Mayor Wheeler tried to speak to protesters on July 22 and suffered tear gassing along with the protesters. Federal officers were finally withdrawn from downtown on July 30 to be replaced by state and local police officers. By August, new groups of broadly divergent and opposing political interests were violently provoking other groups. And by the 100th day of protests (September 5), protests were no longer focused just in downtown but at a variety of other locations all over the city. Into September the streak of protests wound down as demonstrations became scarcer and wildfire smoke deteriorated air quality.
At the protests was Sai (Sadiki) Stone, a Portland-based Black photographer. He recently compiled a collection of both black and white and color photos of one of the Floyd protest marches in Portland. Stone marched with the protesters and took all of the photos himself. These are self-published in a small book printed by and available online from Amazon entitled, Our Streets: Portland’s George Floyd Protests.
In describing his work, the photographer/author stated, “I do other work, but I find myself drawn to street photography. I enjoy capturing life unfolding as an observer.”
Stone was asked why the book has no text explanations. “Yes, that was a deliberate choice. I believe that art should be open to interpretation. Personally, I dislike it when movie directors dictate how I should perceive their work. I want to give people the freedom to experience whatever emotions the images evoke in them.”
And that emotion is clear to see in many of the photos within his book. Especially noteworthy is the image on page four of the woman carrying a poster which states “Say their names.” Her expression is extremely haunting and sensitive.
The photos in this book only cover one particular protest march. “These photos are from a march on June 4, 2020. We began on the eastside, marched over the Hawthorne Bridge and concluded with a rally at the waterfront. After the rally, I went to the park across the street from the Justice Center, where I captured the photos of police officers. I was given a lot of grace because I was marching alongside the subjects in my photos. At the same time, several people declined to have their photos taken, and I respected their wishes.”
Stone said that other than minor training and YouTube tutorials, he is self-taught as a photographer and relies on trial and error as the best teacher. As to the camera used, “I shot the photos in the book with a Canon 6D Mark II paired with a nifty 50 lens.”
When asked why it’s important to show Portland’s protests and what messages they convey, Stone stated, “It’s important for me to show Portland’s protests because of my own experiences with the Portland police. I understand the feeling of powerlessness that Floyd and many others have felt. The media coverage didn’t accurately reflect the love and pain I experienced at the protests.”
And just how is Portland responding to all this? “While it might be easy to say that Portland is changing for the worse, I don’t mind us shedding the ‘Portlandia’ reputation to show that we are far from perfect as a city. But we do have the opportunity to transform the town into a place that truly welcomes everyone.”
In addition to photographic work, Stone manages a blog site promoting local hip hop artists. The site also showcases his own photographic work and book. Regarding his efforts, “I’d like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to my village for their unwavering belief in me, even during times when I lacked faith in myself. To those who are just discovering my work, I extend a warm welcome—sit back, enjoy the show, it’s up and it’s stuck!”
The author is in the process of getting Our Streets: Portland’s George Floyd Protests into local bookstores. In the meantime, information on Stone, his book and how to purchase it is available at 503tv.com.

Author Sai Stone. Photo by Christopher Scott.

Our Streets: Portland’s George Floyd Protests

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