COOS BAY — A peaceful demonstration gathered on the Coos Bay Boardwalk on Sunday, standing for a safer community.
Local activist Jay Brown said the group was there to advocate for equality and a “Safer As One” city.
“(Safer As One) is a proposal we’re sending to city officials and the police department to work alongside their community,” she said. “Safer As One would be multiple people from sub-communities and minitories working alongside officials, so when there is a police call we’d send someone from a sub-community to deescalate the situation ….”
She said the project would also include community-building activities like picnics, events to “bring the community together as one group.”
Another activist present for the afternoon demonstration, Jessica Lacey, pointed to the systemic racism being spotlighted across the country and said the same can be found in Coos Bay.
“… It’s not overt racism that’s the most damaging, but the covert racism that’s woven into the fabric of our society and intertwined with every institution of the county,” Lacey said.
Tables were set up on the boardwalk with educational materials for two local projects, as well as a table for voter registration. One of the tables was for the Alonzo Tucker Project, which is to work with the City of Coos Bay to put in a statue remembering the one documented lynching of a Black man in Oregon — which happened in Coos Bay.
The second was for #Justice4Saraya, which is to free a 14-year-old African American teen who has been sentenced to juvenile prison for 11 years and get her proper mental health services. She was arrested and sentenced in Coos County.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Shannon Rees, Saraya’s mom, at the boardwalk. “I feel hope for the first time.”
Rees has stood at many of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, quietly holding posters detailing her daughter’s case from last year. Since speaking out, she has drawn the attention of many media outlets including BuzzFeed News. On Sunday, she said that the United Minority Alliance has also taken on her daughter’s case while a GoFundMe account has been started to help pay for lawyers needed for future litigation.
“… We’re looking forward to getting her out of prison and into an inpatient psychiatric facility where she should have been to begin with,” Rees said.
Saraya called her mother as the Sunday demonstration began and told The World that the attention to her case has been “overwhelming, but in a good way.”
“I’ve been happier and started talking to more people now,” she said, adding that she is proud of her mom for what she has done for her so far.
Also present during Sunday’s demonstration was Jessica Hunter, who had a red handprint over her mouth to symbolize the missing and murdered indigenous women.
“My main goal today is to educate people on the fact that there are so many missing woman and children in the country in general, but thousands of Native American woman missing and 60 percent of police departments involved in the investigations (have been) proved they are doing nothing or hand over compromised data,” Hunter said.
She added that she hopes to educate how generational trauma affects Native Americans and other minority groups.
“… It is the idea that a person or a whole people can experience a trauma like ethnic cleansing and the defensive behaviors you learn when you’re traumatized is passed on,” she explained. “We’re told to get over what happened in the past, but what happened in the past affects us to this day.”
For now, Lacey said it gives her hope to see events like Sunday’s gathering pop up across the country and rural areas.
While Hunter added, “I’d like to remind people despite the hate in the world we’re your friends, neighbors, teachers, counselors and community members. We’re here fighting for everyone.”