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Black people in Portland struggle to be heard amid protests

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Chaotic and often violent protests against racial injustice have topped the headlines for days, but lost in the shouting are the voices of many Black Portland residents themselves — and their feelings about the unrest are nuanced and diverse.

Some feel the overwhelmingly white crowds of protesters — and particularly those committing vandalism — are co-opting the Black Lives Matter movement. Others welcome white demonstrators because with their larger numbers they can draw attention to the city’s racial inequity in ways that Black demonstrators alone can’t.

Some believe deeply that there can’t be a Black Lives Matter movement without defunding the police. Others say a recent vote to cut a specialized gun violence reduction unit is behind a sharp spike in shootings that’s devastated their community.

Primarily, there is a persistent worry that a critical opportunity for achieving racial justice in Portland’s tiny Black community could be lost. Many cite competing voices and the harsh glare of a national spotlight, which has reduced the situation to a culture war when the reality is much more complex.

“It happens so much that the things that we care about get hijacked and get put on the back burner. And that just gets put into a big barrel with everything else,” said Neil Anderson, a Black business owner. “We all want the same thing. But so often we get drowned out.”

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