Wednesday , December 8 2021

30 years after skinheds beating up the immigrant's death on Portland Street, the city reflects


As a young man, Nkenge Harmon Johnson remembers getting away from MAKS or bus in the center of Portland and taking care not to cross the Pioneer Court in the Market.

It was late in the 1980s or 1990s. Harmon Johnson is black.

"It was not safe for me and my friends," said Harmon Johnson, now President and CEO of the Portland Urban League. "Because Arians, neo-Nazi skinheads held a court at Pionir square, they climbed the stairs and smoked and talked."

Three decades later, the center still does not feel safe for some African Americans.

Harmon Johnson recalls the recent message she read on the email list she sent to her friends. She warned her and other black people to stay on that day, because the Proud boys marched through the street. Self-proclaimed Western chauvinists who possess weapons have become known for their violent clashes.

Harmon Johnson is one of the activists, community leaders, and policy makers who think about how Oregon evolved – or not – since Mulugeta Seraw was killed 30 years ago on Tuesday.

Serav, a 28-year-old Ethiopian immigrant, was surrounded and killed with a baseball bat with three skinheads on the street in southeast Portland, on November 13, 1988.

Harmon Johnson's Urban League of Portland this week organizes a conference at State University Portland to focus on the death of Sera and the future of Oregon. The theme of the conference is "Remember. Learn. Change."


What has changed? "Date in the calendar," said Harmon Johnson.

The brutality of the Death Series shook many. He was an immigrant who fled from violence from his country who came here to obtain a high school and live an American dream when he attacked him for no reason, and Neo-Nazis did not like who he was.

Stunning white people – "there was no way for people to explain that," said Harmon Johnson.

But for black people, Harmon Johnson said, it did not look as startling as it fit into the reality of Portland they met through repeated experiences with racial aggression.

Last year, Harmon Johnson again saw a shock among white people and a lesser surprise than minority communities when the police said that Jeremy Kristian fatally stabbed two men in the neck and almost killed a third in the MAKS train. The men intervened because a Christian focused on racist and xenophobic murders in two African American teens, witnesses said.

"People say," Oh, my God. How could that happen in Portland – not love, progressive Portland, "said Harmon Johnson." And (we) say … "How do you think this can happen in Portland?" We know that this can happen because white supremacists are allowed to move freely in ways that are completely inappropriate. "

Harmon Johnson quoted as an example The Portland police did not arrest the Christian before she attacked when an African American woman said she had delivered hatred against black people, Jews and Muslims, and then threatened to kill her and throw a plastic bottle filled with Gatorade on her face . The police responded to the Rose Kuarter MAKS station, but left the Christian. Later the police issued a statement that disagrees with the woman in the account that she identified the Christian as her attacker.

The police said it was not. Harmon Johnson also highlighted the practice of the police bureau in Portland that he had a list of suspected gang members and affiliates. The Oregonian / OregonLive investigation revealed in 2016 that 81 percent of the 359 people were on the racial or ethnic minority list. The Bureau eliminated the list last year under criticism of the public, but the auditor later concluded that the police were holding another list of suspected members of the gang.

Harmon Johnson said police are unjustly focusing on younger men who think they are in gangs, but to pay little attention to white gangs with supremacist connections.

The same goes for federal authorities who ignore white supremacists when they create terrorist lists, she said. The New York Times announced this month that the federal government's anti-terror strategy has been focused almost exclusively on Islamic militants for almost 20 years, not the white supremacists and members of the far right – although many more people were killed since September 11, 2001 than Islamic or other domestic extremists.

"White supremacists are terrorists," said Harmon Johnson.


Kenneth Mieske, the 23-year-old who killed Serav, was sentenced to life for murder and died in 2011, at the age of 45, in prison. Councilor Kile H. Brevster has served more than 13 years before being released in 2002 and complicit Steven R. Strasser served more than a decade before exiting the prison in 1999.

Though never driven by him, the fourth man – Tom Metzger – had to pay for what the civilian birth of the District Court of the District of Multnomah later determined his role in death. Metzger was the founder of the Californian group Vhite Arian Resistance.

The jury awarded Serav's family $ 12.5 million after concluding that Metzger was responsible for Ser's death by sending a recruit to Portland for the mentoring of the local skinheads section, the East Side Wide Pride. The jury agreed that Metzger had encouraged three members to free violence against the heavens.

The family finally collected part of the judgment – after Metzger was forced to sell his southern California house – but it was enough to downplay Metzger's racist organization and provide a nest for the Serav's 10-year-old son. One of Ser's civil lawyers, James McElroy, adopted the boy. Today, Serav's son is a commercial pilot of airlines.

Elden Rosenthal, another lawyer representing Serav's family, said he saw Metzger at the time and his white nationalist attitudes, at the margins – extreme and rare.

"I just thought he was with this minor minority of people," said Rosenthal, who lost the members of his Jewish family in the Holocaust. "Now we know that it was just the tip of the iceberg."

Rosenthal said he believed President Donald Trump had encouraged the rise of racist rhetoric. Trump was almost constantly criticized for his comments on Latinos, the Muslim ban of his administration, who called the immigrant caravan an "invasion" and the maintenance of deployed "masonry walls".

"It's the same message," Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal recently re-read the transcript of Metzger's closing remarks during the 1990 civil trial. He said he was stunned to see much of what Metzger told the jury that it seemed to reflect Trump's words and those of his supporters.

Metzger spoke of his "pretty little" California settlement as if he was "destroyed" by the "invasion" of Mexicans. Metzger said that America is changing up. Metzger was worried about the suffering of white Americans – and he said that many felt just like him, Rosenthal said.

"There is an increasing level of white people in this country," Metzger said. "They go through the bars, they become poorer, the poor and the poor, and they do not like what's happening in this country."

Taking into account the political success of Trump, Rosenthal said he came to admit that such nationalist attitudes are part of the main segment of society.

"These things can happen here, just in the progressive city of Sanctuary Portland, because there are such people and we can not ignore it," said Rosenthal, a lawyer working in Portland.

"It can happen here, it happened here and it will be repeated if we do not educate our children," he said. "It's a work of progressive civilization that will always be on the alert and will always destroy it when it goes to its head."


Randi Blast spent the last three decades studying hate groups and chaired the Oregon Coalition against hate crimes. With calls such as Rosenthal for alertness, Blaze also sees promising events in a country that is predominantly white.

Community members were increasingly prepared to speak, Blaze said. After Jeremi Christian was arrested, people held candles and wrote messages of love and racial harmony at Hollivood MAX, he pointed out.

"The whole community is out," Blaz said. "It is important for two reasons: it shows the victims that" we may not look like you or pray with you, but we stand with you. "He also sends a message to the perpetrator that" we may look like you, but we "are not with you." "

Such support indicators have emerged in rural, more conservative parts of the country, Blaze said.

He pointed to John Day 2010, when Aryan nations expressed interest in buying property there for their new national headquarters. The Aryan nations ended up abandoning the idea after hundreds of residents appeared at a city assembly meeting to express their anger.

"It was so inspiring," Blaze said.

The police in Portland have developed plans and training for an attempt to deal with racial profiling and implicit prejudices, groups of communities worked with the police to increase understanding between officers and LGBTK people, and prosecutors are launching people who target others because of their race, gender identity, religion or other differences, he said.

State legislators adopted the first statewide intimidation laws in the 1980s.

"The part is trying to send a message," said the Blame on Prosecution.

In 2017, a white guy told an African American man that he was "in the wrong neighborhood" in northeastern Portland and tried to shout at him. Mathu Karcher, a white man, was convicted in February of a second-degree intimidation and served 16 days in jail.

Also last year, the Portland driver cried a pregnant woman to a Muslim to remove the hijab, and then pretended to shoot her husband by imitating the fist pistol. Fredrick Sorrell was convicted of intimidating the second degree in August. He was directed to take classes of rampage and to have a significant discussion with members of the Portland Muslim community.

"We will not tolerate anyone in any protected class that is being attacked – and if we can prosecute it, we will absolutely," said Brent Veisberg, a spokesman for the District Prosecutor's Office of the Multnomah district.

"We always want individuals to contact the police when they think they may be victims of hate crimes," Veisberg said. "This is something that is a priority for our office."

Harmon Johnson of the Urban League believes that such prosecutions are filled with hatred, threatening, but not physically endangering others, the exception, rather than the rule. Reports often shrug with their shoulders and people stop turning to the police when they are victims, she said.

She described an employee in the Urban League who was threatened by a man with a knife while uttering racial damages. However, when a police officer called the police, police officers did not investigate, said Harmon Johnson.

"These people are encouraged to get away with them," said Harmon Johnson. "And many people do not report it because their answer is that they think the police will not do anything about it."

Blaze, however, thinks that there has been considerable progress since the death of Sera.

"There are all reasons for a skeptical attitude," Blaze said. "There is a lot of institutional racism."

The blessing, which is white, spent his childhood in the 1970s in Georgia before he finally sat in the northwest.

"I grew up in a town where policemen and clan were the same people," Blaze said. "But the change I've seen in my life, I encourage."

Memories of memory

On Tuesday, November 13, it was marked 30 years since Mulugeta Serav was killed by a baseball bat in southeastern Portland from racist skinheads. The community celebrates the anniversary in various ways:

* Urban League of Portland is sponsoring "Mulugeta Serav Commemoration Conference" on Tuesday from 9:00 to 2:00. Click here to register.

* Wednesday, 8:50 am: Opening of "toppers" signs that will mark street corners around Southeast 31st Avenue and Pine Street, the location where Serav was mortally beaten. Toppers will be attached to street signs in the immediate environment and display Serav's image and name.

* Wednesday, 2nd m.: The City Council in Portland will be presented with a statement in memory of Serava.

– Aimee Green

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