Hundreds of people—dozens with their dogs—descended on Mid-county last month to march in the Walk with Refugees and Immigrants, showing their support for new Portlanders. The walk was part of the city’s Sunday Parkways—a bicycle-centric annual event held in different parts of Portland that shuts streets to vehicular traffic for a day. The Walk, along part of the Parkways route, was organized by Som Subedi, a community engagement coordinator at Portland Parks & Recreation.
Asked if the march was intended as a rebuke to white supremacists, Subedi said, “This was never intended [to be] anti-anybody. It was to show Portlanders who we [refugees] are.” He said this is the second year he’s organized an event for refugees and immigrants as part of Sunday Parkways. Last year, it was held at Bloomington Park and called New Portlanders Cultural Celebration and Family Day. Furthermore, Subedi said he held an event at the East Portland Community Center in March called Stand with Refugees and Immigrants.
Carrying the banner for the walk was Asha Deliverance, mother of Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, one of the men who died in the fatal MAX stabbing last May. Marchers gathered at Hazelwood Hydro Park for the one-mile walk to Knott Park, where politicians and refugees spoke to the crowd.
At Knott Park, speaking to hundreds, Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith said, according to the county’s website, “There is no longer any room to pretend that we aren’t living in a country that is fractured. But it is not a time for us to turn off the news or put away the newspaper. Instead it is a time in our country when, as a community, it is our duty to find our voice and own that voice.”
In addition to Smith, Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz, Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann and other elected officials, refugee resettlement agencies, community organizations, church groups and Islamic leaders were present. “It is very important for us to walk for justice,” Wajdi Said, co-founder of the Muslim Educational Trust, said. “We want to heal, to go beyond the color of our skin. And we have to be united to heal and fight the bigotry and hate.”
Police directing traffic at Northeast Halsey Street at 114th Avenue were told there were 400 marchers. Subedi said nearly 800 people confirmed they were attending via Facebook. A headline in a story on Multnomah County’s website said, “Thousands march with immigrants and refugees.”