Down in the park

The cover story in Willamette Weed & Mushroom last week was how crime-infested Dawson Park is. But that's hardly news. The park, across the street from Emanuel Hospital where northeast Portland meets north Portland, has been a rough spot for many decades.

To me the worst of it was when this innocent woman, Kelley Marie Smith, was killed in a gang crossfire on her way home from work a while back. She is mentioned by name in the latest story.

The most thought-provoking passage in the article comes about 20 paragraphs in:

James Posey, a longtime Black leader in Portland, lives on North Stanton Street. He has for 40 years.

He says Dawson Park “ultimately represents how the city has neglected the Black community.” First, by kicking out Black families. And second, by abandoning the park as it’s beset by crime.

“If you get cops off the record, they’ll say, ‘We’re not going to go over there and police that area because we’re going to be told we’re harassing the Black community,’” Posey says. “And that’s a damn shame.”

Divided we fall, people. And we are falling fast.


  1. Bomani Jones crystalized this issue a few months ago. He was commenting on the new directive a city back east had given their cops to stop pulling over cars with expired tags or busted tail lights. Jones pointed out how he as a citizen would like it if a cop would let him know he had a busted tail light and sent him on his way. The problem is cops rarely stop at the busted tail light and frequently escalate way beyond what's appropriate. Rather than issue an order to stop needlessly escalating daily interactions with citizens, the city chose to just eliminate interactions altogether. The implication being the city couldn't trust their cops to do the right thing and keep it moving.

    Portland has a similar problem. I'm quite sure the black community would welcome some help from the local constabulary in cleaning up their neighborhood. What they don't want is their community members getting hassled for just enjoying a sunny day at the park. Surely a modern law enforcement officer can tell the difference between a junkie and a kid using the park with his friends to do what kids in parks do.

  2. That park has been a no-man’s land for decades upon decades. The city is slacking on providing policing to the city at large, but since it is a “historical” park it should get special treatment? Quick...send a dozen park rangers there with their walkie-talkies pronto!

    And how many times is WW going to publish what is essentially the same article over and over? We get it. Black people used to live there, but now they don’t. No matter how many words WW barfs up onto their freak-show of a newspaper, they aren’t coming back.


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