The Bend City Council ended 2016 taking a stand against bullying, harassment and hate crimes. With its strongly-worded proclamation, the hope is to foster tolerance and acceptance into 2017 and beyond.
"Be it resolved that the City of Bend stands up against bigotry and hate-based violence of all kinds and declares that no one shall be discriminated against because of race, faith, ethnicity, national origin, legal status, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation or any other real or perceived difference. We also resolve to stand together with all people of good faith across the nation in an effort to push back the rising tide of bullying, harassment, and hate crimes."
The proclamation, led by Councilor Nathan Boddie, was passed unanimously during a 20-minute ceremony at the council's final meeting of the year. Boddie says the 2016 election cycle underscored the need for a strong city statement.
"The past election cycle was acrimonious, contentious and destructive to the social fabric of our nation. What we are seeing is an uptick in behavior like bullying, racism, sexism, and intolerance," Boddie said. "It's an intolerant approach that we will not allow here in Bend. That's just not who we are in Bend."
Describing himself as a South Asian immigrant of color who arrived in the U.S. more than 50 years ago (and in Bend two and a half years ago), Dr. Romir Chatterjee spoke in favor of the proclamation. Arriving at a small, southern liberal arts college, Chatterjee said he witnessed racial unrest and the passage of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. Since then, he said he has worked to protect and extend fundamental constitutional civil rights and freedoms.
"We live in a moment as important as 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed. Hate is not a threat but a reality," he said. Chatterjee continued, "This proclamation seeks to endorse our basic constitutional rights that now stand threatened along with 50 years of progress since the 1964 Civil Right Act. These rights need not only our city's endorsement, but need active measures of defense."
Chatterjee described the proclamation is a defensive step. "It is a symbolic endorsement of what we in this community most value."
Student & Educator Support
Meanwhile, 18-year-old LaPine student Thomas Wrisley used the election as a backdrop for his statement to councilors. Wrisley said he respects the election and those who voted for Donald Trump, but disagrees with Trump's policies. Wrisley said that even though Trump lost the popular vote, the message of his supporters shouldn't be ignored. "They have every right to be angry at the politics of the status quo. Donald Trump's supporters are not collectively racist, but his language struck racist tones. The election has given a platform to white supremacists and emboldened their leaders."
Wrisley also reminded councilors that discrimination is an issue hitting close to home. In Silverton in western Oregon, Hispanic students reportedly received taunts like "pack your bags." A Eugene man received attention for driving a truck painted with swastikas. Statewide, there were a reported 33 hate crimes in the 10 days following the election, including reported incidents at Bend schools, documented by the Source Weekly.
"There is little doubt in my mind that the recent spikes in hate crimes can be attributed to the rise of Donald Trump," said Wrisley. He continued, "Events like these are causing me great anxiety—not for just myself, but for my friend who is trans-gendered and Jewish. I am anxious for my friend who comes from an immigrant family whose father was fired from his job right after the election. I am terrified as a progressive and a member of the LGBTQ community that all we have done for social justice is going to be undone."
Rebecca Easton, a teacher in the Bend-LaPine School District who teaches English language learners, spoke in favor of the proclamation. "Many of my students are very afraid right now. Many of them are citizens of the United States but their parents are not. So, they are very afraid that their parents will be deported."
Easton said she is concerned about spending precious time helping her students feel safe in the classroom. "To be able to learn you have to feel safe. That whole sense of safety is now under attack. Instead of helping their potential academically, I'm going to have to spend that time with my students making sure they feel safe in the classroom."
Easton said the proclamation was a first step in the fight against bigotry in Bend and important to the community's future.
Bend Police Support
With nationwide concern regarding police enforcement, Bend Police Chief Jim Porter told councilors that like many police agencies, local Bend officers avoid enforcing federal immigration laws that round up those thought to be undocumented aliens.
Porter said the Bend Police also has a policy of avoiding operations based on a person's sex, race, color or national origin. He further stated that Bend Police routinely reach out to diverse groups and attend their meetings to get "that flavor into our department" while offering annual diversity training to officers.