Far-right protesters marched from the Capitol to Mahonia Hall to protest Covid restrictions on Friday, Jan. 1. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Julianne Jackson wants Salem’s leaders to denounce white supremacy.

More than 600 others agree, signing on to a change.org petition that demands city leaders create a public campaign against white supremacy by name and to arrest and prosecute members of far-right groups who have engaged in violence at the Capitol last year.

Jackson is one of the founders of Black Joy Oregon, which aims to spread “Black joy and culture in Oregon through grassroots advocacy.” She said she created the petition two weeks ago after sitting in at meetings with police officers, city councilors and school board members after the racial justice protests started in May.

Jackson said the one thing missing from those conversations was the acknowledgement of white supremacy.

“Everyone danced around it,” she said. “We can’t deal with the problem that’s going on in our city unless we say the word.”

Jackson plans to bring up the petition at Monday’s city council meeting and has presented several letters from local businesses who are in support of the effort.

The petition states that far-right groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer have displayed actions and rhetoric that are hateful, dangerous and often criminal.

“Your community has watched you play favorites long enough. We are extremely fatigued by the effort that it has taken to get even nominal recognition of the white nationalist foothold that YOU have allowed to take root in our city. We are the Capitol and if we do not stand for what is right and do it right now, Oregon is doomed to continue its racist history of division and discord with communities of color,” the petition reads.

The Proud Boys are a far-right, male-only, self-described “western chauvinist” group. Its members glorify political violence and have clashed with Black Lives Matter activists, anti-fascists and leftists during demonstrations across the country, including in Salem and Portland. The brawls have resulted in members of the Proud Boys facing assault and other serious charges. 

Enrique Tarrio, the current leader of the Proud Boys, currently faces misdemeanor charges for burning a Black Lives Matter banner taken from a Black church in Washington D.C. in December.

Jackson said she’s hopeful a resolution denouncing white supremacy can pass, especially given Keizer’s recent denouncement of white supremacy.

She said white supremacy needs to be acknowledged for Salem to move forward with a commitment to racial equity.

“The denouncement itself goes a long way with the communities of color,” she said. “Just the denouncement itself is not enough, but it’s a start.”

She was one of several people who were assaulted during an event at the Oregon State Capitol in August. Jackson said several of those who committed assault against people of color haven’t faced consequences. The petition calls for people who have committed assault at those events to be held accountable.

The petition also noted that local leaders have made inferences that the behaviors exhibited by groups engaging in violence aren’t acceptable, but Salem Police Chief Trevor Womack is the only one who has specifically used the term “white supremacy” in a statement last month.

On Dec. 21, Mayor Chuck Bennett and councilor Chris Hoy released a statement that said they condemn and reject racist speech that spews hatred and vile.

“There is no place for hate in Salem, and the city will act to protect residents from actions that threaten their safety,” the statement read.

In November, City Manager Steve Powers released a statement that said he was dedicated to achieving equity and social justice.

“Working to end systemic racism and other violations of human rights is my ethical obligation,” he wrote.

But Jackson said: “Just simply saying, ‘Hate is not welcome here’ is not enough.” 

Related coverage: Ten people were assaulted during August protests at the Capitol, police have yet to arrest

Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, saphara@salemreporter.com.

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