By Evelyn Guzman
The first time I was tear gassed, I didn’t know what was happening. Everyone started running. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t breathe. I started choking, coughing and panicking.
I’ve been out on the streets in Portland since early June and I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve been tear gassed. Every night, I came home with noxious chemicals stuck to my skin and woke up with long pain and shortness of breath — unsettling symptoms during a pandemic.
It’s not just Trump’s secret police — it’s the teargas, the rubber bullets and other aggressive tactics being used against Black Lives Matter protesters by police departments across the country.
Before the federal agents arrived, the protests had been smaller, and attended by more Black folks and other non-Black people of color like me. At the nightly protests, I heard from Black parents who lost children to police violence. They showed up night after night, after experiencing one of the ultimate forms of state violence, and demanded justice for their families in our community.
Due to the leadership of Black led organizations, emerging grassroots groups and thousands of people in the streets, the City Council voted in June to pull $25 million out of the police budget for next year. But it’s not enough.
We need a completely new vision that answers the call to defund police and allows all communities to finally breathe free.
When the story broke about federal officers in unmarked vans pulling people off the streets in Portland, the media went wild. But this wasn’t news to me.
Immigrant communities have been living with this reality for years. Unmarked vans sitting outside of schools, picking up parents after they dropped the kids off. Unmarked vans waiting at worksites until the end of their shift and snatching workers as they leave. We know the scramble of trying to figure out where your loved one is being held, trying to find a lawyer, comforting family members.
The tactics that the Trump Administration federal law enforcement were using? They were perfected after being practiced on Black and immigrant communities for decades. And it’s no coincidence that many of the federal officers deployed to Portland were Border Patrol and Homeland Security.
A world without police is possible: a world where no one has to live in fear that their loved ones will be disappeared and all our communities have the resources we need to thrive. A world where we can solve problems ourselves and base justice on the needs of survivors.
The BREATHE Act is a critical step toward divesting federal funds from police, prisons and the racist criminal justice system. Tell your Member of Congress to pass the BREATHE Act.