Activists question goals and leadership of prominent new Portland civil rights group

By ANDREW WILKINS

Rose City Justice, a civil rights collective that has hosted many prominent marches and rallies recently, has committed to a restructuring, equity and sensitivity training, more transparency with funds, and to work with long-standing Portland organizations.

This came in a statement today, June 25th, after criticism had been directed at the group.

Multiple daily protests have all risen out of the nation-wide outcry of Black Lives Matter and call for reform since the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Throughout the city, Portlanders have been vocal in their support of the movement, and the call for better policing.

Out of these protests, the RCJ was formed. After a month of protests, RCJ’s their nearly-nightly, family-friendly events and marches have drawn big crowds and attention from local mainstream media.

RCJ are calling for a series of police reforms including divestment of funding and reinvesting those funds into communities of color.

Read their goals here.

Despite their popularity, some long-time organizers, and some those protesting nightly at the Multnomah County Justice Center, are questioning the goals and leadership of the group.

Much of the criticism has been towards Darren Harold-Golden, one of the group’s leaders. On his Indeed profile, he lists that he worked as a United States Air Force military police officer from 2011 to 2018. He now works as a policy specialist for the Urban League of Portland and as an intern for the Oregon Legislature.

The group was established as a non-profit on June 11, 2020. Harold-Golden and Daniel Rosenburg, both from Portland, are listed as the principals.

RCJ responds to critics

Yesterday, Wednesday, June 24th, RCJ cancelled their planned march. On their Instagram page, a message apologized for the group’s lack of accountability based on unacceptable behavior including “silencing, neglecting feedback from our communities”, especially Black queer voices. In that message they called for questions and feedback from their supporters.

Also on Wednesday, several young Black activists on a Instagram account called jadex666 grilled Harold-Golden on several topics in a livestream: including sexually-suggestive comments he made about teenage women; privacy about data collection and privacy on RCJ’s website; his history in law enforcement; and other issues.

RCJ continued their activism Thursday morning, with a rally for Letha Wilson, mother of Patrick Kimmons, a Black man shot and killed by Portland Police in 2018.

According to Fox 12, Letha and the activists supporting her want the case re-opened and a change to Portland Police Bureau‘s use of force policy. Patrick, who was armed and engaged in a gun battle in downtown Portland, was shot nine times by police. A grand jury ruled the officers’ actions as legal self defense at the end of October of that year.

OPB reports: “2 Portland Officers Cleared In Fatal Shooting Of Patrick Kimmons”

Divergent groups

Parallel to RCJ events and marches, which have largely been violence-free, hundreds of people have been gathering at the Multnomah County Justice Center and nearby parks every night. These rallies and marches have been more tense, and unprovoked police violence (two of many examples 1, 2) against protesters and the media have attracted national and international news.

In the face of these threats from police, many who gather at the Justice Center seem to resent RCJ’s unwillingness to join them downtown. Many of the JC crew seem to believe that RCJ’s police-conflict-free gatherings and marches aren’t doing enough to confront the system and demand change.

In an interview with Village Portland Managing Editor Cory Elia near the Justice Center, the activist below also believes these new groups don’t understand the local history around reform, don’t know the local, long-term leaders, and don’t know that local white supremacist are attending— and menacing— their events.

Some protesters say that RCJ representatives are leading people away from the JC, making those remaining more vulnerable to police violence.

In this June 22nd Facebook livestream video from Kevin David Williams below, a conflict about an attempt to lead the crowd away from the JC led to an angry conflict and violence.

***

One month after the death of Floyd, along with actions in the streets, work also continues improve law and policies. In the current special session, six police oversight / reform bills were brought to the Oregon statehouse.

One, a bill to have the Oregon Department of Justice investigate police killings, has been scaled back to simply have a new committee formed.

Many police discipline decisions at the City level are overturned by arbitrators. Another State bill to improve that process is moving forward, but its final form seems less-than-ideal too.

Nationally, in the United States Senate, gridlock fails to move police oversight legislation:

Politico reports: “Amid national crisis on police brutality and racism, Congress flails”

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