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war in the streets: North Portland

The gun shots ring out about every 3 or r nights. This has been going on for over a month. Tonight a neigbhorhood meeting was held to discuss the last shooting: a shoot out between several people that lasted a good five minutes.
For almost a month now I have been woken up every few nights to the sounds of gun shots. I hear the shots, then I hear the car squealing out of sight. It is always within a few blocks of my house, between Alberta and Killingsworth and between 15th and 20th.

The first time it happened I heard about five shots in succession and I jumped out of my bed and ran to the window. I was half asleep and not thinking. I saw a large light colored older car, like a cadilac speed up Alberta.

I heard people yelling. Then the neighbors slowly came out of their houses to check things out. No one called the cops. We have a saying in North Portland: cops kill kids. We don't want anymore youth killed by cops, but the youth may be trying to kill each other.

When I hear the shots now, I jump down on the floor. Then I go and find my roommates to see if they heard them. I don't know what it is all about.

There was a meeting tonight held down the street to talk about the shootings, especially the one that happened two night ago. It was a shootout between several people. It happened in the middle of the night. I did not hear about the meeting soon enough to be able to go. Did anyone else go? Does anyone have any information?

I talked to my neighbor. He said "yeah, and it's getting worse."

A few years ago the area had to be cleaned up by the people. Police would never come down here. Maybe the people have to try and stop this too. I don't know. What do you think?.

I never read about the shootings in the paper. The neighbors are real quiet about it. We just go out on the street after the shootings and stand there real quiet. It's strange.
True 14.Sep.2004 20:34


That area is a good 10 blocks into Northeast, are you sure you actually live there?

Yes, I live here 14.Sep.2004 20:42


I'm sorry if I got it wrong. I have only lived here since June. It could be called North East. I am telling you the truth about the shootings.

Why? Why? do we stand alone in the street at night...

...not talking to each other?

We try to save the children. But the children are shooting...

Why do we stand in the night and not talk to each other? How will we know what to do?

Why do you think I am not telling the truth....

do you think that the war in Iraq will stay contained in the desert? You do not believe that violence will not spread like a virus around the world. It will come home with the soldiers to eat away at community. Why do you think that all those images being projected around the earth would not come home to fly through the night and wake us from our dream...the American dream.

What I told you was the truth. I would not lie about being afraid and wondering what I can do to heal it.

shots fired 14.Sep.2004 21:33

corp news

there was a shooting on 17th and simpson during a block party one person shot in the leg with a .22 refused medical attention. no whitnesses came forward other than one male who was driving by when it happened.

if you didn't already know that area has had alot of shootings over the years, very few actually hit anyone and if it does no one talks, its often rivals who may not actually reside in that area but that deal drugs, it's kinda a alley and theres lots of hiding and running spaces.

sand bags 14.Sep.2004 22:06

safety guy

sand bag the perimeter or confront the problem.

Using the police force has dangerous ramifications. From my experience they are the last to show up to a fair fight. Surviving conflict is a good motto..

Maybe audio switch to audiovideo monitoring would allow the discovery of these idiots identity. A few dozen set ups would be be useful.

Perhaps tactical confontation can be done safely, but that takes time, timming, and training.

Confronting an idiot can be dangerous. Sounds like somebody needs a job and
lots of positive guidance at least.

Not So Bad 14.Sep.2004 22:37


It's really not that bad in NE these days. If you go back 15-20 years, during that time, it was truly Gangland, Oregon. Gunfights were a nightly event, MLK was Hooker Row, and drug dealers lurked the alleys.

Also, there are definitely some bad apples in the Portland PD, but there are a lot of good cops, too. I'd say 75% of Portland cops in NE are cool. Unfortunately, even 1 in 4 Dirty Harrys is too many.

I don't know answers: I oppose guns 14.Sep.2004 22:40


I don't know the answers; I oppose guns. So I'd disarm everyone, including the police. But this is fascist, police state, drug-doped America, so that won't happen. I'd move out. My safety comes first. Barring moving, I'd organize the neighbors, big-time. We'd have gatherings & push peaceful get-togethers. Encourage kids to hang with clean ones. What does it matter if guns or people shoot and kill? The result is the same. I don't know answers; I oppose guns.

on the rise 14.Sep.2004 23:53

social service worker X

there is definately a rise in gang activty. nothing like the old days that anarchy-anon was talking about but things have been heating up according to the PO PO.

late last thursday/early friday someone was killed at the location you are talking about.the police and a kid's mother confirmed it.

i know this b/c i work with some of the kids that are getting rounded up after shit like this goes down. not that these youth are necc involved. but if a shooting goes down- the PPD just round up kids on any old charge, such as curfew violation or BCC (behavior, circumstances and conditions)

not involved not a target 14.Sep.2004 23:57

social servie worker X

i would just add that if you are not involved then you are not likely to be a target. but obviously keep your wits about you.

Oh my gosh, you mean people are shooting each other in America? 15.Sep.2004 00:51


Humans = animals. People kill each other. Nothing new. Buy a gun and bullet proof glass for your windows. Or move.

North Portland, guns, violence, etc. 15.Sep.2004 04:18


Having lived in North Portland in the early nineties, I can say that it was definitely MUCH worse. The gangs were worse, the pigs were worse, and everynight was puncuated with gun-fire. However, the "people" did not "clean it up" as is claimed above. The cops simply shot or arrested nearly every black man under 50 that they could. I have a few friends that spent some time in prison that was really undeserved. After the massive sweeps (the cops did more shoooting in a couple years than gangs did in the last 30) white real estate speculators moved in. Prices went up, poor people began to move out. Well, suprise, suprise, fucking suprise...I guess the whole thing is coming full circle. Always circles. Things never really change they just get shuffled around for a few years.

Welcome to the real world 15.Sep.2004 05:22


people kill people, you should avoid them at all costs!!!!

guns can kill you, but a cop will f*** you up 15.Sep.2004 10:01


the above responces show an lack of respect &/or insight to the motivation of the original poster. yes; we all know that there's an unspoken of civil war happening here in america. the rich wage class warfare on the poor & even worse, their media messages are wildly successful at putting communties at war with themselves. it's the tried & true divide & conquer method. and it's killing the young & imprisoning the survivors, effectively fucking them over for life. and so the question that needs to be asked is - what the hell can we do about it? the cops aren't the answer, they're part of the problem. and i'm not going to pretend that i know the answers either. we deal with different types of crime & nastiness in my neighborhood... what i've found that works is talking to people. if for nothing else than to make you feel less alone & overwhelmed by the situation. build those connections to other folk who are affected by these occurances. when you hear shots at night, ask around the next day to see if anyone knows what went down. don't become scared and bitter about it - this is a chance to take direct & immediate action where you live.

Fear and loathing 15.Sep.2004 11:26

fear is in the eyes of the beholder

by Israel Bayer

Gentrification: The process of renewal accompanying the influx of middle-class people into deteriorating areas that often displaces earlier, usually poorer residents

— Merriam Webster Dictionary

 "There is something about poverty that smells like death. Dead dreams dropping off the heart like leaves in dry season and rotting around the feet; impulses smothered too long in the fetid air of underground caves. The soul in sickly air. People can be slaveships in shoes."

— Zora Neale Hurston

Headlines of North and Northeast Portland have erupted once again in newspapers across the city. For the most part, in what the city calls the most diverse neighborhoods in Portland, headlines have portrayed the region as a battleground of police shootings, homicide, and gang activity.

Of late, very rarely has the issue been talked about in the context of poverty, class, race, education, the current state of the economy and gentrification. North and Northeast Portland are not only home to many social problems most urban environments face, but they're home to a growing number of, for better or worse, hipsters, yuppies, radicals, self-proclaimed freaks, hippies, yippies and young families.

"You know, they call it urban renewal, but I call urban removal," said Charles Santos, an organizer with ROOTS, an acronym for Reclaiming Our Origins Through Struggle. ROOTS is an organization working to organize people of color in Portland. "It's a shift of people from the suburbs moving into our neighborhoods. It doesn't matter if it's the Alberta corridor or the Boise-Elliot neighborhood, the Pearl district or all of downtown, poor people are being pushed out of this city."

"They've got all these new businesses in the neighborhood (Boise-Elliot) being set up, said Santos. "I go to the video store, the coffee shop, the bar, the breakfast place, and I see no black people working in these establishments. There's something wrong with that picture."

Certain neighborhoods are designed to be kept that way in the name of urban renewal, Santos said. "When developers and the private sector come in they start making that money, money, money. It's all about that money, it always has been."

Santos is not the only person to echo these views. According to affordable housing advocates and other neighborhood members in Northeast Portland, the neighborhood has suffered from decades of segregation, redlining, racism, and false representation by the media.

"I have had discussions with long-time African-American residents who feel a sense of hopelessness about the high level of redevelopment over a short period of time," said Jason Graf, co-chair of the Boise Neighborhood Association. "A sense that their community is breaking apart and there is nothing they can do about it."

Graf suggested some creative solutions for the neighborhood. "Reducing crime through active neighbor participation is one way to coalesce as a neighborhood, because everyone feels the impact of crime," Graf said. "There has been discussion about minority business recruitment and spreading the wealth through strategic action by using tools that are available and maximizing the benefits that have the potential to increase within the Interstate Urban Renewal Area."

Patterns of history

In the '30s and '40s, the real estate industry began to define the meaning of a white segregated neighborhood as one that did not have a black-occupied residence within four blocks. Real estate agents held to their code of so-called ethics, and followed the condition on many deeds that homes in white neighborhoods were not to be sold to blacks. The result of such racial manipulation was a physical boundary dividing blacks from whites.

Vanport, a city named by combining Vancouver and Portland, was created in 1941 for the building of liberty ships for Great Britain and later the U.S during World War II. The city, no longer in existence, was sited on what is now the Columbia Slough. Vanport at one time had a population of 50,000 during the height of World War II. 35,000 people, mostly poor and jobless, migrated to the area to work in the shipyards.

By 1948, Vanport's population had dropped to an estimated 18,500 people, including 5,000 African-Americans. That year, massive floods destroyed Vanport, leaving 15 dead, dozens injured, and 18,000 homeless. It was by far, the worst housing crisis Portland had ever faced.

When the flood turned Vanport into a lake, all available housing was pressed into service, but still many  low-income people — many of whom were black — were left homeless. Some were taken in by families in the metropolitan area. The resettlement of the flood victims, in the absence of any direct action taken by the city housing authorities, created patterns of segregation with relocating  the homeless into Northeast Portland.

The 1950s and 1960s were a time of revitalization in the diverse North and Northeast neighborhoods. On the surface, this goal promised to have a positive affect on the neighborhoods, much like the Interstate Light Rail project of today.  In reality, the city of Portland leveled neighborhoods to allow for industrial growth, thereby adding to the housing shortage. For example, in the 1950s, people in the central Albina neighborhood lost their homes to the building of Memorial Coliseum and Interstate 5.

Development continues to push lower income people to the rim of the city.

"What we're seeing is low-income people from North and Northeast Portland are being displaced into suburban areas, like Gresham, Beaverton and Clackamas," said Teresa Huntsinger with the Coalition for a Livable Future.

"The communities that they are moving to are not equipped to handle the influx in poverty," Huntsinger said. "There aren't as many services for people living in poverty. One example of that is the lack of transit access for people encountering poverty."

"The county needs to allocate funds for emergency rent assistance to people outside of the city of Portland, still living in Multnomah County."  said Kelly Caldwell, an affordable housing organizer with the East Multnomah CountyHousing Advocates.

"Right now the City of Portland funds the Transitions to Housing program through the county, which offers a variety of services for people in poverty," Caldwell. "What is happening is that if you live on one side of the line you get services, but if you are on the other side of the line you don't get services. This is happening to the same people who are being pushed out of Portland."

Huntsinger said that  patterns of gentrification are continuing in North and Northeast. The Interstate Light Rail is one example, in that it is raising property values and pushing  lower-income families further beyond the city. The Coalition for a Livable Future has been advocating for affordable housing in the area. But, Huntsinger said, "It's too little, too late."

Ironically, one of the new stops on the Max line will be the Expo Center, formerly the North Portland Stockyard and the site of an assembly center for the relocation of Japanese-Americans  during World War II. More than 3,700 people of Japanese descent from the Portland area were detained there, many of whom lost their business and their homes due to relocation stategies by the United States government.

The line will then travel across a long viaduct over the Colulmbia Slough, the same area in which displacement occured by the floods more than 50 years ago.  It will then descend into the Delta Park/Vanport station where travelers can view a memorial of the assembly center for the relocation of Japanese-Americans.

The 1980s began a long downfall for the residents of North and Northeast Portland. The Reagan era brought high unemployment rates, homelessness, and frustration, followed by dramatically reduced property values in the neighborhoods.

Redlining in North and Northeast Portland has gone on up until the 1990s. Redlining is the practice of refusing to serve particular geographical areas because of the race or income of the area's residents. While the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1976 and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 outlawed the practice of redlining, there is evidence that the practice continued illegally in Portland into the 1990s. Some advocates believe it still happens today.

Today, after decades of struggle, the same frustrations resonate within the minority community.

"I believe there is mistrust of city agencies, especially PDC (Portland Development Commission), from long-time residents and business owners, and that this hinders redevelopment and the creation of new minority businesses," said Graf. "A strategy and recruitment of minority business that coordinates the investment incentive from PDC and other grant programs, coupled with outreach and coordination from the African-American business association and other minority businesses, is missing in all of the gentrification of Mississippi Avenue and Boise neighborhood."

"They come and want to clean up the neighborhoods," Santos says. "The question is, who are they cleaning it up for? It sure isn't all the good people who have been screaming, hollering, and kicking for all these years to clean up the neighborhood. They jack up the prices and suddenly we're not kicking and screaming about cleaning up the neighborhood anymore. Instead, we're crying out that we can't pay our rent and we're going to have to find a new place to live."

Color coded

On any given weekend morning you will find dozens of people sitting in front of the Fresh Pot, a local coffee shop, and Gravy, a new breakfast restaurant on Mississippi Avenue, reading books and congregating among themselves. Most of them are white.

"If there were 10 black people hanging out in front of the Fresh Pot, the police would be up in here," said a woman who preferred to remain anonymous as she pointed toward Fresh Pot. "Then the neighborhood would say, 'oh, we got a gang problem. We need to clean this up.' It's OK to hang out and talk music in front of the record shop if youare white, but if it was a hip-hop record store they would say, you all are gangsters. That's racism." 

Some new residents in the Northeast have charged to the assumption that real estate agents have not properly warned new residents of the crime in the neighborhood.

"People need to do their research," said Walter Garcia, Crime Prevention Program Coordinator with the North Portland Neighborhood Services. "The tools are all out there. If I go buy a product at the store I'm going to research the product that I buy."

"I don't think that (North and Northeast Portland) are worse than any other part of Portland."

Garcia said he didn't think race had anything to do with the perceptions of the neighborhoods. Although he did say there are perceptions of the poor. "It's not a race issue, it's a social-political issue."

"The fact of the matter is we are a city and we are going to have crime," said Art Hendricks, with Portland's Office of Neighborhood Involvement. "But if you were to compare today's crime statistics with statistics in 1995, we are as safe today as we've ever been."

Hendricks went on to say he felt the mainstream media has played a major role in creating fear in North and Northeast Portland concerning crime. "If it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead," said Hendricks. "If Channel 12 news doesn't have a violent crime to report in Portland, they'll report one in Salem. It's sensationalized journalism. Do we have calls for people shooting off guns in Southeast Portland? Yes. Does that make the front page? No."

Although, Hendricks did go on to say the police and the city often are blamed for mishaps. "Is it the police's fault for answering calls for people committing crimes? No. It's their job, that's what they do, and that is never going to change."

"We need an honest commitment to overhaul the system. We are still stuck in the 1980s in this city," said Maria Johnson with the Latino Community Network. North and Northeast Portland is one of many pockets living with the larger problems of entrenched prejudices.

"I think within the police force and in the schools we see institutionalized racism," Johnson said. "Minorities are not offered the same opportunities in our schools. Latino kids are herded through ESL programs and lose out because their skills are underestimated by the system. There are significant changes that government has to make. We hear a lot of promises from the institutions, but no implementations."

Johnson went on to say that with the police, various groups have given recommendations over the years on how to deal with different cultures, minority groups, and the mentally ill, and yet nothing has happened.

"When people look at me they say, 'oh look at that black guy,'" said Santos. "Before I'm a drummer, I'm a black drummer, and before I am a man I am a black man. I'm reminded of it every time I get on the bus."

Truely 15.Sep.2004 11:58


Sorry to ask if you really lived there, it's just pretty obvious since the streets in that area all begin NE (northeast) and those east of Vancouver/Williams begin with N (north). You should learn this distinction so you don't get lost.

I am defensive about North Portland being labelled as violent or crime-ridden. I have lived in North Portland for about 12 years and have seen less crime in my neighborhood (Arbor Lodge - and NOT the more spendy, trendy part) than I saw in just a few months in NW and SE in the early '90s. You can look up the reported (operative word) crime rate in a given area here:  http://www.gis.ci.portland.or.us/maps/police/

liberal nonsense 15.Sep.2004 15:08

the only good cop is a whistle-blower

> Also, there are definitely some bad apples in the Portland PD, but there are
> a lot of good cops, too. I'd say 75% of Portland cops in NE are cool.
> Unfortunately, even 1 in 4 Dirty Harrys is too many.

This line is part of the no-longer-dominant liberal mythology. (In case you haven't noticed, liberals are out of power.) Neither conservatives nor The Cops Themselves concede the existence of any "bad apples" in any police force anywhere, nor any need to clean anything up or reform anything. ALL COPS consistently cover up for each other, lie under oath for all sorts of reasons thinking it's part of their job, look the other way when other cops do sketchy things, socialize almost exclusively with each other even when off duty, etc. This is cop culture, it's not the practice of a rogue minority. If only 25% of the cops on the force regularly engage in gross abuse, that doesn't mean the other 75% are "cool." It means the other 75% are complicit.

Why do liberals feel compelled to construct this myth, and why do they cling to it in the face of obvious facts and simple logic? Why does anybody talk about "bad apples" when the cops themselves reject any such distinctions in their own ranks?

well wait a minute 15.Sep.2004 15:25

seen it from the inside

> It's OK to hang out and talk music in front of the record shop if you are
> white, but if it was a hip-hop record store they would say, you all are
> gangsters. That's racism.

If people are going to talk about hip hop and rap music, we need to deal with reality. There are traditions and behaviors tightly wrapped up in hip hop culture that result in a disproportionate number of its participants ending up in violent confrontations with each other. "Conscious" hip hop is an effort to unwrap and deal with some of these problems, but conscious hip hop is a tiny fragment of the overall scene.

Hip hop doesn't sustain this stuff by itself, of course. The overwhelming breeding ground for violent culture in America is its prison system. America locks people up like no place else in the world, people go into prison with all kinds of problems, they come back out with the same problems they had before PLUS violent psychosis and sociopathology, and America acts all surprised.

But saying hip hop has nothing to do with violence is like saying white rock music culture has nothing to do with alcoholism and drug abuse. It'd sure be nice, but it's just not true.

NORTH PORTLAND ROCKS!!! 15.Sep.2004 20:39


Sorry, but despite these problems, I LOVE living in North Portland. The reason why is that when I go to the grocery store, I stand in line with Russian immigants, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, the proverbial "White Trash", the proverbial "Yuppies..." There is great diversity and acceptance here. These people are all my neighbors and I hold the door for all of them.

I'm tired of the Birkenstock-elite in the Hawthorne and Euro-trash in NW pimping their liberalism. NoPo is what it's really about!

try another shooting today... 15.Sep.2004 23:35


Right in front of my house, in broad daylight, NE 6th and Simpson. There are two bulletholes in my porch, and two more in my back door.
The reason? Drugs. About an hour after the shooting, I was out in front of the house with neighbors and this kid walks by, saying he was the target of the shootings five days ago. Why? Drugs.

I am just as big a critic of the "WAR ON DRUGS" as any other, but this war OF drugs seems just as dangerous. I'm tired of picking up crack pipes in my front yard, and asking f-ed up people to move on when they are sitting on my lawn...

WHAT are we to do about this problem? I've had quite enough. talking about how great the racial makeup of NE portland is solves no problems. I agree, it is a less-white area, hooray. But really I don't think that is relevant, and my black, white, and hispanic neighbors ALL want this problem to end, including the "white trash" guy who lives behind me who was in his old truck as his windshield was shot out.

enough is enough.

shootings 16.Sep.2004 09:35


I live on 17th --very near many of the shootings.. I went to the neighborhood meeting. The advice they gave: know your neighbors and their numbers & get a phone tree going when something happens, know the non-emergency cop # (823-3333) and call 911 when you hear gunshots. My neighbors and I are all doing these things, so what next? Meetings are held every other Tues (I think) or call Harvey for more info: 287-3135... also crime prevention chair at 281-3314.. oh, the other thing they mentioned was to get a group of minimum 4 people to form a foot patrol...not really sure how effective that is...
the shootings a week ago last Fri were right in front of my house. I was sitting on my porch when they started shooting.. I heard" when the cops come, tell them it was a drive-by"... I did call 911 when the shooting stopped and I could get to the phone. the cops came impressively fast and left just about as fast. As far as I could tell, no one was really questioned, no- one frisked for a gun, no-one asked who has the gun permit and of course no one arrested. Cops were there for about 1 minute and left. How effective is this? what is the point of calling the cops?! May good neighbors on the street are moving because things are getting worse, most of them have kids...this is a sad and scary situation.

North and Northeast Not The Same 16.Sep.2004 10:44


I agree with Anarchy-nonymous. And also add that the title is misplaced. You all are talking about inner northeast, not north Portland.

I've lived in North Portland for 14 years; my grandparents for 40, and have never seen in the N some of the things reported by friends in inner NE. Ten years ago, friends bought a home along NE Vancouver and had to sell it within the year because of incessant vandalism and tagging. Others lived just off of Killingsworth around 15th and eventually moved because of the drug dealing in the park and drive-by shooting. You used to see hookers along MLK, but not lined up on N. Lombard. Things are changing but the point is, I don't recall this kind of stuff happening on a regular basis in St. Johns, Kenton, or along Interstate.

Thanks Leroy... 16.Sep.2004 19:10


I will start going to the meetings. Thanks for posting what's happeing...

The history is over
the time is now
we can change anything
that we put our hearts and minds to
with courage we will act
They want to disempower us and make us afraid of each other
I believe in us
all of us...

Shooting 6th and Simpson 16.Sep.2004 21:35


I was on the back side of the shooting yesterday afternoon. The whole thing was really fucked up. I wondered just how bad things could have gotten if this had all gone down 15 minutes later when all the yellow buses showed up with our children inside. These people are part of no community. Definately not!!! They have no care for life or those who will be left after their little gang banger bullshit. I hope that no one innocent was hurt in this shooting, always seems to be that they are the ones we lose. Can't miss the trash you never wanted around anyways. Hang on and have hope. Peace