“Portland is a city where young people go to retire.”
Fred Armisen declared this – in song form – in the opening scene of the sketch comedy show Portlandia in January 2011. The show satirised the city on the US West Coast for its “hipster” culture – a city that gave unicyclists the right of way, where people brewed kombucha before it became mainstream, and whose slogan was literally “Keep Portland Weird”.
Four years later, with the city in the throes of rapid gentrification, beloved Portland magazine Willamette Week declared to its readers that this moment in 2011 was officially the day “Old Portland”, the one that was fun, bohemian and “weird”, died.
If the “Old Portland” was seen as a liberal utopia, then the “New Portland”, in 2020, is characterised by civil rights protests, violent clashes between far-right and anti-fascist groups, and images of federal agents indiscriminately bundling protesters into unmarked vehicles. While Old Portlanders may have discussed their vegan cheese side-businesses, New Portlanders bond over how many times they’ve been tear-gassed.
But this change wasn’t as much of a leap as it may seem on the surface.
While the Portlandia stereotype endured for almost a decade, the reality for Portlanders themselves was very different. In the 2010s, wealthy outsiders relocated themselves and their businesses to the city in the hopes of capitalising on its “cool”, while East Coast publications repeated the show’s joke about Portland being “a retirement community for the young”. The city’s residents were frequently caricatured as the kind of people who use “cacao” as a safe word.
At the same time, Portlanders struggled to afford rents that were increasing at one of the fastest rates in the country; beloved local shops were being pushed out in favour of chains and high-rise apartment blocks; and the small businesses parodied on Portlandia, such as the feminist bookshop In Other Words, hit out at the show and everything it represented. Locals explicitly blamed the show for hastening unwanted development in the city. By the time the series ended in 2018, few Portlanders looked back fondly on its influence.
For people of colour in Portland in particular, there was something egregious about the city’s “Portlandia” reputation. The show – and subsequent portrayals of the city in national media – seemed to whitewash life in what was already an extremely white city.
“I’ve never looked to Portlandia or other cultural phenomena for self-affirmation,” said activist Cameron Whitten, who set up the Black Resilience Fund during this summer’s protests. “Much of what Portland is famous for was not made for me or people who look like me.”
Mr Whitten moved to Portland from Northern Virginia in 2009, at the age of 18. His first day in Oregon was marred by racism.
“My first day in the state, my friend and I drove to Albany to stay at their dad’s house,” he said. “After the first night there, we were told to leave because his father was uncomfortable with a black man in his home. I remember that I laughed, because I was surprised by the absurdity of the situation… But I don’t find it funny anymore. I’ve now lived in Oregon for more than a decade, and I’m reminded daily that because of my skin colour, I can be looked at as different, other, and less.”
A city ‘built on white supremacy’
Portland is often called the whitest big city in the US – about 72% of its population is non-Latino white, while only about 6.6% of the population is black (compared to 12.7% of the overall US population). This is something black history and urban development scholars say is by design, not happenstance. Prof Shirley Jackson, a Black Studies professor at Portland State University, said that it was important to remember that Oregon was founded on the basis of “excluding certain populations, namely African-Americans”.
Although the provisional government of the territory banned slavery in 1844, it also required all African-Americans to leave Oregon – any black person who stayed would be publicly flogged every six months until they left. Five years later, in 1849, another law was passed forbidding free African-Americans from entering the territory, and in 1857 Oregon adopted a state constitution banning black people from entering, living or owning property in the state. In 1859, when Oregon joined the union ahead of the civil war, it was the only state to explicitly forbid black people from living within its borders.
Going into the 20th Century, the deadly, white supremacist Ku Klux Klan had increasing influence in the state. In one particularly telling photo, published by a local newspaper in 1921 and preserved by the Oregon History Project, two representatives of the KKK’s Oregon chapter, wearing hoods and robes, posed with some of the state’s most powerful officials – including the police chief and the district attorney.
One moment in particular is seared into the black community’s collective memory – the Vanport disaster.
During World War Two, black people were recruited from across the US to work at a shipyard on the Columbia River, about five miles north of Portland. They were housed in a new development called Vanport, which was built in 110 days. At its height, Prof Jackson said, about 40,000 people lived there. But it was always intended to be a temporary housing project.
“After the war ended, many white Portlanders had hoped that the black people who came to work at the shipyards would return to the states from which they had originally come. Although some did, at least one-third of the 18,500 residents who remained in Vanport were black,” she explained.
“On 30 May 1948, Memorial Day, the waters of the Columbia River flooded Vanport and after six years of existence, it disappeared. For the 6,000 Black people who found themselves without housing, it was especially traumatic.”
At least 15 people died – although some at the time believed the housing authority had quietly destroyed hundreds more bodies to cover up its slow response to the disaster. Surviving residents, who had been assured that the housing was safe, now had to try and find new homes in Portland. The Red Cross tried to help, but struggled because of deep-seated racism in the city. Housing was also limited “due to racial covenants that restricted whites from selling their homes to blacks”, said Prof Jackson.
“Many ended up in north and north-east Portland,” she said. “It is ironic that gentrification has [now] added to the movement of blacks out of the very areas that they were confined to. Today, these areas are populated in large part by white people, as black people have moved to the surrounding cities of Gresham, Beaverton, and Hillsboro.”
Entrenched inequality to the present day
Racism has persisted in Portland. A housing audit in 2011 found that landlords in the city discriminated against black and Latino tenants 64% of the time, by charging them extra fees, higher rents or demanding larger deposits, while black school pupils are four to five times more likely than their white classmates to be suspended or expelled.
Another report on racism from Portland State University and the Coalition of Communities of Color, published in 2014, found that black people were still disadvantaged in employment, health and high school graduation rates, compared to both white Portlanders and black families in the rest of the US. Average incomes and rates of home ownership are also significantly lower for black Portlanders than for their white neighbours and black Americans generally.
Activist Gregory McKelvey has been heavily involved in this summer’s protests. The city, he says, has only been able to see itself as a “liberal utopia” by adopting a colour-blind approach to racism – which for him means ignoring it.
“Portland is allowed to have a reputation as a progressive or edgy city because it does not have to reckon with its racist past, policing or segregation due to the demographics of the city,” he said. “Portland is certainly a lovely city and is a beautiful place to live – but part of what it is built upon is colonialism, white supremacy and segregation. Many people say Portland is a place that pushes black people out of neighbourhoods and replaces them with ‘Black Lives Matter’ signs.”
A moment of reckoning
But could this year’s protests change how Portland reflects on its present – and its past? The protests – which have now gone on for nearly 100 consecutive days – were sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, and at least initially were explicitly held in support of Black Lives Matter. When protesters established an autonomous zone in the city in June, they named it after a black man who was killed by Portland police in 2018. They made global headlines in July, when federal agents were deployed to the city.
Mr Whitten said he didn’t know what impact the ongoing protests would have on racial inequality in the city. But he said he was feeling hopeful.
“Frederick Douglass once said, ‘power concedes nothing without a demand’. I hope that these protests fuel powerful demands that lead to the transformation we’ve been longing for.”
Prof Jackson is less optimistic. She said it was “ironic” that the protests had, in her opinion, “taken attention away from Black Lives Matter, and have become something completely different – we have come to a point where the Black Lives Matter movement is being hijacked for anti-government causes”.
Gregory McKelvey, meanwhile, doesn’t believe these protests alone will trigger a reckoning. It was “frustrating”, he said, that the movement was being framed by politicians as an issue of Democrats v Republicans, diverting the focus away from the local issues.
“Portland Police is the target of most of the protests, not Donald Trump. Our (local) elected officials want to deflect the issue to Trump and many national audiences allow that to happen because they care more about what is happening at the federal level than in our small city.
“For Portlanders, this has always been about Portland and nothing will change that.”
US election 2020: Trump and Biden feud over debate topics
US President Donald Trump and his White House challenger Joe Biden are feuding over plans for their final TV debate.
The Republican president’s campaign accused organisers of this week’s showdown of helping the Democrat by leaving out foreign policy as a topic.
The Biden camp shot back that Mr Trump was trying to avoid questions about his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Biden has a commanding lead nationally in opinion polls with two weeks to go until the election.
But he has a smaller lead in the handful of key US states that will ultimately decide the outcome.
What did the Trump campaign say?
On Monday, the president’s camp sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates calling for topics to be adjusted for the final primetime duel this Thursday.
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in the letter that the campaigns had already agreed foreign policy would be the focus of the third debate.
The topics were announced by moderator and NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker last week: American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership.
During a campaign rally on Monday afternoon in Prescott, Arizona, Mr Trump described Ms Welker as a “radical Democrat” and said she would be “no good”.
Mr Stepien accused Mr Biden of being “desperate to avoid conversations about his own foreign policy record” and the commission of trying to “insulate Biden from his own history”.
“The Commission’s pro-Biden antics have turned the entire debate season into a fiasco and it is little wonder why the public has lost faith in its objectivity,” he wrote.
He also accused Mr Biden of trying to avoid questions over reports about purported emails from his son, Hunter, and alleged conflicts of interest.
How did the Biden campaign respond?
The Democrat’s camp hit back that it was actually Mr Trump who was trying to duck questions.
“The campaigns and the Commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would choose the topics,” said national press secretary TJ Ducklo.
“The Trump campaign is lying about that now because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous Covid response.
“As usual, the president is more concerned with the rules of a debate than he is getting a nation in crisis the help it needs.”
What are the debate rules?
Following public criticism over the handling of the first debate, the commission has adopted a new rule to mute microphones in the final event.
The 90-minute debate structure will be divided into 15-minute segments. At the start of each new topic, both candidates will have two minutes of uninterrupted time – during which the opponent’s microphone will be off.
The rest of the time will be open discussion – and the microphones will not be muted during this period.
In a statement announcing the decision, the debate commission said they determined it was “appropriate to adopt measures intended to promote adherence to agreed upon rules”.
The commission noted that “one [campaign] may think they go too far, and one may think they do not go far enough”, but that these actions provided the right balance in the interests of the public.
What happened with the last two debates?
The Trump campaign chief noted on Monday that the moderator of the cancelled second debate on 15 October, Steve Scully, had been suspended after tweeting to a prominent Trump critic, then lying that his account had been hacked.
Mr Stepien also accused the moderator of the first debate, Fox News’ Chris Wallace, of having acted as “a third combatant” against Mr Trump.
The first Trump-Biden duel back on 29 September descended into insults between the candidates, with the president interrupting many more times than the Democrat did, according to post-debate statistics from US media outlets.
How is early voting going?
Nearly 30 million early voters have already cast their ballots, compared with just six million at this point before the last presidential election in 2016.
Experts say the coronavirus pandemic has spurred many to cast their ballot ahead of time to avoid crowding at polling stations on 3 November, though some early voters have faced long queues.
On Monday, Republicans were dealt a defeat by the US Supreme Court as it declined to take up a case on postal ballots in the critical swing-voting state of Pennsylvania.
Republicans had argued only ballots received by election day should be counted, and were contesting a state Supreme Court decision to allow late ballots to count.
Now that America’s highest court has refused to hear the case, any ballots received within three days of 3 November will be counted, even if they do not have a clear postmark.
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s three liberal justices in the case.
Trump announces plans to remove Sudan from state sponsors of terrorism list
“GREAT news! New government of Sudan, which is making great progress, agreed to pay $335 MILLION to U.S. terror victims and families. Once deposited, I will lift Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. At long last, JUSTICE for the American people and BIG step for Sudan!” he tweeted.
Trump’s announcement comes months after the US and Sudan reached a bilateral settlement agreement. The tweet was welcome news for Sudanese officials as well as some of the American survivors and families of the victims of those bombings, who have urged Congress to pass legislation so that it can be disbursed. However, others remain opposed to the settlement, which pays lesser amounts to foreign nationals who worked at the embassy and employees who became US citizens after the attack.
Behind the scenes, the Trump administration has been pushing for the transitional government in Sudan, led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, to normalize relations with Israel. Such a move would present a foreign policy win to Trump just weeks ahead of the election.
The President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a team of international negotiators from the White House and State Department had taken the lead on brokering these deals between Israel and a number of countries, including Sudan, Oman and Morocco, according to people familiar with the discussions, and their efforts have thus far yielded two successful deals — with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Senior government sources in Sudan told CNN that the designation change was a requirement by Hamdok before talks on normalization could proceed.
“Prime Minister Hamdok was insistent during negotiations with the US that the removal from the list not be linked to normalization as Sudan has met all the criteria for its removal. Now that the designation has been changed discussions can begin afresh on normalization. The designation change was our priority and normalization is theirs,” one source said.
‘A critical step in advancing the US-Sudan relationship’
With the nation under a transitional government, Pompeo has voiced support for delisting Sudan with certain prerequisites.
“This is an opportunity that doesn’t come along often. We all know the history of Sudan and the tragedy there,” Pompeo said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in late July. “There’s a chance not only for a democracy to begun to be built out, but perhaps regional opportunities that could flow from that as well. I think lifting the state sponsor of terrorism designation there, if we can take care of the victims of those tragedies, would be a good thing for American foreign policy.”
The State Department declined to comment on Trump’s announcement Monday, although the top US diplomat in Khartoum congratulated the Sudanese government and its people on the news.
“This Tweet and that notification are the strongest support to Sudan’s transition to democracy and to the Sudanese people,” he said. “As we’re about to get rid of the heaviest legacy of Sudan’s previous, defunct regime, I should reiterate that we are peace-loving people and have never supported terrorism.”
The role of Congress
Three congressional aides told CNN that the administration had yet to notify Congress of the delisting. The notification triggers a 45-day period in which Congress could override the decision, but it would require both the House and Senate to pass a veto-proof joint resolution of disapproval.
Edith Bartley, spokesperson for some the families of Americans who were killed in the embassy bombings, said in a statement Monday that they welcomed the announcement.
“On behalf of the families killed in the 1998 bombing of the Nairobi embassy, I wish to express our appreciation for the long hard work of the State Department, and the new civilian regime in Sudan, to secure Sudan’s payment of compensation to our diplomatic families for that act of terror,” said Bartley, who herself lost her father and brother in the attack in Nairobi.
“The escrow fund established by that agreement, once it is released to the victims, will fulfill a longstanding commitment first made by President Bush, honored by President Obama, and now affirmed by President Trump, to condition normalization on compensating survivors and the families of those who were lost to acts of terror. In so doing, we vindicate the sacrifice of our diplomats abroad,” she said.
In her statement, Bartley also called for Congress “to immediately pass the legislation that is needed to implement the agreement, and begin the payment process. Congress cannot let this agreement fall victim to legislative gridlock and bickering.”
Stuart Newberger, an attorney at Crowell & Moring who represents US victims and their families, told CNN that Congress must pass the legislation because the agreement between Washington and Khartoum “requires that Sudan be basically relieved of being sued in federal court as a sponsor of terror under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.”
“So that’s why Congress has to get involved to provide Sudan what’s called ‘legal peace.’ The President can’t do that on his own; that’s something only Congress can do,” he said.
The settlement faces opposition from those who see it as unfair and inequitable — it would give different payouts to those embassy employees who were US citizens at the time of the attacks, those who have since become US citizens, and those who are still foreign nationals. Some 9/11 victims’ families are also opposed to the immunity that Sudan would receive under the deal, which they fear could jeopardize their own claims against the nation.
Doreen Oport, who worked at the embassy in Nairobi and was injured in the attack, said in a statement Monday, “We want a resolution but cannot accept one that betrays so many US embassy victims and the most basic principles of American justice.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.
CNN’s Vivian Salama, Nima Elbagir and Yassir Abdullah contributed to this report.
Senate Republicans cringe at Trump’s stimulus negotiations
It is quite unusual for the Trump administration to negotiate legislation that turns off most members of Congress in President Donald Trump’s own party. If all Senate Democrats supported the legislation, it would still need more than a dozen Republicans to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster.
And GOP leaders are looking dimly at the prospect of waltzing a bill with mostly Democratic support through the Senate, even if it does have the president’s backing.
Republicans’ “natural instinct, depending on how big it is, and what’s in it, is probably going to be to be against it,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.). “I think we’re going to have a hard time finding 13 votes for anything.”
Senate Republicans have been on the attack now for weeks, hoping to send a signal to the Trump administration that they far prefer touting the impending Supreme Court confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett over a debilitating intra-party fight over a relief bill right before the election. McConnell has privately expressed concern about a coronavirus deal delaying Barrett’s confirmation, according to someone who has spoken to him.
Some GOP senators have also warned it would damper enthusiasm for Republicans at the ballot box, while Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) simply said Monday that $1.8 trillion or more is “way too high.”
“It would divide Republicans if it’s anything like the kind of contours we hear about,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), a fiscal conservative.
Trump has presented a cheery view of the possibility of getting sufficient Republican support. When asked last week during an NBC town hall whether Senate Republicans would go for a big number on a stimulus, Trump predicted: “they’ll go.”
And given the number of Republican senators in tough re-election races, it’s conceivable that some of them would support a massive spending deal.
“I’m glad they’re still talking. I think we do need a COVID-19 package. But it does depend on what’s in it,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is up for reelection.
Senate Republicans are far more enthusiastic about their more targeted, $500 billion legislation for schools, hospitals and small businesses that will see a vote this week. The party has unified around that proposal and had high hopes of hammering Senate Democrats if they opposed it.
But as long as Mnuchin and Pelosi are still talking about hundreds of billions in aid for states and cities and extending expired unemployment insurance coffers, there’s little reason for Democrats to feel any political pressure to take a lower number from McConnell.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called McConnell’s legislation this week a “partisan bill so full of poison pills that it is obvious he designed it to fail.” He said the most offensive portion is a broad corporate immunity shield amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A Pelosi-Mnuchin deal did not appear imminent Monday as the speaker ticked off many of the outstanding disputes during a private call with House Democrats. Pelosi said she and Mnuchin were still haggling over several key issues including appropriations for state and local aid and language covering liability and worker protections — a Republican demand which she described as “a big nut to crack.”
Pelosi has given Mnuchin until the end of Tuesday to reach an agreement — a timeline Democrats say is necessary if a bill is to be passed before the election. And she directed her committee chairmen to begin working with Republican ranking members to “reconcile differences” after another hour long call with Mnuchin on Monday afternoon.
But even the process of simply drafting the bill and haggling over all the particulars in the House and Senate appropriations committee will take days.
“I want this as soon as possible because I don’t want to carry over the droppings of this grotesque elephant into the next presidency,” Pelosi said on the call, according to two Democratic sources. “We’ve got to get something big and we’ve got it done soon and we’ve got to get it done right.”
A number of Republican senators were keeping their options open on Monday night as the chances for a deal, while low, were still alive. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who had panned ongoing discussions between Mnuchin and Pelosi for sending too much money to blue states, was among the senators taking a wait-and-see approach on Monday.
“If there’s an agreement, I think we should try and vote on it before the election,” added Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership. “But I’m skeptical there can be an agreement.”
As majority leader, McConnell could decide simply not to hold a vote before the election, too. That would provoke a fight with Trump, but it might be the more popular position among Senate Republicans.
That’s because some of McConnell’s diehard conservative members are worried that if a roughly $2 trillion coronavirus bill does get a vote in the GOP-controlled Senate, it would narrowly pass.
“You’ll lose a lot of Republicans on whatever that is,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who would oppose it. But he conceded: “If they bring it up for a vote, I’m guessing there will be enough to get it across the finish line.”
Heather Caygle contributed to this report.
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