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Rally In Medford Proclaims ‘Black Lives Matter’

Liam Moriarty/JPR News
Demonstrators call for racial justice in downtown Medford on Saturday, June 6, 2020.

Several hundred people rallied and marched through downtown Medford Saturday afternoon. They came to express their anger at the deaths of black people at the hands of police, and to support justice for people of color.

The crowd gathered at the plaza outside the Collier Center at E. Main St. and Central Ave. People chanted and waved signs bearing slogans such as “White silence is white violence” and “Stop Police Terror.” Many passing vehicles honked their support.

Liam Moriarty/JPR News
Protesters at the corner of E. Main St. and N Central Ave. in Medford on Saturday.

Amelia Hartman of Medford, one of the event organizers, said the demonstration grew out of a sense of frustration and outrage.

“It’s been too long that people have been experiencing injustice, experiencing the corrupt system that was built to be this way,” she said. “We need to change the system, truly.”

Grace Pruitt said that seeing other African-Americans being killed during interactions with police makes her afraid.

“I fear every day,” she said. “For my siblings, for myself, for my friends that go out just to go to the store. Even myself, I walked home from work yesterday and I was like, ‘Why did I choose to walk home. I should have called someone to pick me up.’”

Liam Moriarty/JPR News
Black Lives Matter demonstrators chant and wave signs at the plaza in front of the Collier Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Medford on Saturday.

At one point, the demonstrators marched away from the plaza and up Central Ave. At first the march kept to the sidewalk, but before long, some demonstrators spread out on the streets, in some cases blocking motorists. After a while, the march wound its way back to the plaza at Central and E. Main, blocking the intersection.

Medford police kept a low profile through the afternoon, keeping for the most part to the perimeter and diverting traffic away from the march. MPD Lt. Mike Budreau told JPR the department’s main goal was to allow the group to demonstrate safely, with as few incidents as possible.

There were a few tense moments. Early in the rally, a passing motorist rolled her windows down and got into a screaming argument with protesters. Some protesters began to close in around her car, and parade marshals – demonstrators whose job it is to defuse potential violence – moved in to break things up.

Liam Moriarty/JPR News
A driver berates protesters in downtown Medford on Saturday.

But the driver, screaming “You are evil!” wasn’t inclined to leave and abruptly backed her car several feet into the crowd. People jumped out of the way and she then drove away. No one appeared hurt.

Later, a couple in a blue SUV wanted to drive through a block of Central Ave. that was blocked by demonstrators. Marshals created a path for the vehicle to turn away from the blocked intersection, but the driver insisted the crowd clear the street and allow him through.

After a few minutes, Medford police showed up and told the driver to take the offered detour and leave the area. As the SUV drove away, two demonstrators hugged the officer.

At one point, demonstrators knelt in the street in silence for nine minutes. That’s how long the now-famous bystander video showed a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, with Floyd repeatedly pleading, “I can’t breathe,” until he died.

Liam Moriarty/JPR News
Demonstrators kneel for nine minutes of silence in memory of George Floyd, who died on May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.

Eventually, protesters covered the brick plaza with colored chalk slogans and drawings, as the crowd gradually dispersed.

Protesters use colored chalk to write slogans and make drawings on the brick plaza in front of the Collier Center in downtown Medford on Saturday, June 6, 2020.
Liam Moriarty/JPR News
Protesters use colored chalk to write slogans and make drawings on the brick plaza in front of the Collier Center in downtown Medford on Saturday.

Medford Police Department Lt. Budreau told JPR there was no violence and no criminal behavior at the event.

“We’re pretty happy to see (the protest organizers) doing their best to keep everything under control,” he said.

Liam Moriarty has been covering news in the Pacific Northwest for three decades. He served two stints as JPR News Director and retired full-time from JPR at the end of 2021. Liam now edits and curates the news on JPR's website and digital platforms.