Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are fortunate to live in a special part of America that values racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity. But anyone paying attention this week knows that problems persist. Systemic, institutional, and interpersonal racism remains in our country and in our state that must be addressed.
Like many of you, I was heartsick, angry, but sadly not surprised to see another man of color die in police custody last week. And while Minneapolis may seem far away, the shameful killing of George Floyd is a national tragedy that affects us all. I understand the frustration and grief that has brought millions of people across the country, throughout Oregon, and even in our small towns to the streets raising their voices in response. I know that even in our special part of America, that people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and religious minorities often feel at risk.
Our challenge is to work together so that a legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts. That effort must address stubborn disparities in education, housing, employment and health care.
The point of peaceful protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to facilitate change. Eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices.
In recent years, Oregon has taken a variety of actions to dismantle institutional racism and advance equity. We created a new law to address hate crimes, we’re collecting data on police stops, we passed a law to penalize those who call 911 for frivolous or discriminatory reasons and advanced legislation to hold law enforcement officers who commit misconduct accountable. In the House, we voted to end non-unanimous jury convictions. The Legislature also established a framework for local police departments to implement the use of body cameras. And I sponsored legislation to help minority and women-owned businesses get the money they need to start up or expand.
We are now considering new proposals brought forward by my colleagues on the Oregon Legislative People of Color Caucus:
- Recommend changes to the state’s laws regarding use of physical force or deadly physical force in making an arrest or in preventing an escape.
- Prohibit an arbitrator from lessening disciplinary action against a law enforcement officer if the arbitrator and the law enforcement agency determine that the officer has committed misconduct.
- Require the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute, if the evidence dictates, any death or serious physical injury resulting from the use of force by a law enforcement officer.
These ideas and others will be considered in either a special legislative session or when the legislature reconvenes in January.
The waves of protests across America represent a genuine and legitimate frustration. The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring. That was particularly true here in our district. Public discourse deserves our respect and support – something that our local police commendably understand.
On the other hand, the small minority who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment, and detracting from the larger cause.
Let’s be very clear. Protest is good. Lending your voice to a cause you believe in is constructive. Violence and vandalism are bad and contribute to the discord and divisions in our communities. During these difficult and stressful times, I continue to urge patience, respect, and ethical engagement. If we a seek real and constructive change in our society, we must each model that behavior ourselves.
Representative David Gomberg
House District 10
email: [email protected]
address: 900 Court St NE, H-471, Salem, OR, 97301