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Racial Violence Victim Won’t Back Down

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

Demetria Hester pushes ahead after protest charges dropped

Michael Leighton

Demetria Hester reacts to verdicts of guilty on all 12 counts at the Jeremy Christian trial in Portland last February. A victim to Christian’s racist attacks and an activist against racism in the criminal justice system, Hester was one of the protesters arrested overnight Sunday during a Black Lives Matter protest that turned violent in north Portland. The charges were withdrawn the next day. (AP photo)

Portland activist Demetria Hester, a black woman assaulted by Jeremy Christian during his deadly and racist attacks on TriMet in 2017, has pledged to keep up protests against racism in law enforcement and the criminal justice system after being arrested during a protest and then having the charges subsequently discharged.

Authorities said the prominent activist won’t be charged following her predawn Monday arrest after a protest that started Sunday night and turned violent outside the Portland Police Association union headquarters on North Lombard Street.

Hester, 46, had been taken into custody on suspicion of disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer during the protest. The arrest drew a sharp rebuke from national Black Lives Matter activists.

After her release, she told reporters that she would keep protesting and joined others in announcing plans for a fundraiser to send Black mothers to Washington, D.C.

“I was born and bred to do this. This is a dream come true,” Hester said. “This is a revolution and we’re getting reparations.”

Hester and 15 other people were arrested during Portland’s 73rd consecutive nights of protest, when a group of about 200 demonstrators gathered at Kenton Park and then marched to the union headquarters building, where some people set fires outside the building and launched fireworks at officers.

Two officers were injured, including one who was burned on the neck when a firework exploded, police said. Police declared that the event was a riot shortly after 10 p.m. and began arresting people, including Hester.

President Trump again seized on the protests to harshly criticize local Democratic officials and said on Twitter that Portland was “out of control.” He urged Democratic Gov. Kate Brown to bring in the Oregon National Guard.

Civil rights groups in Portland and members of the international Black Lives Matter organization, who traveled to Portland, decried Hester’s arrest and said the city was at the center of the racial justice protest movement.

“The struggle here in Portland has become almost ground zero because what we’ve seen under this administration is the kind of flexing that we haven’t really seen in our generation, ever,” said Janaya Khan, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto. “People only protest when politicians and policies and police have failed to protect them.”

Hester gained prominence in 2017 when she was assaulted by Christian while riding a light-rail train. Christian, stabbed two men to death the following night and critically injured a third man when they came to the defense of two Black teenage girls — one of them wearing a Muslim head-covering — who were being harassed by Christian.

Hester gave emotional testimony this spring at Christian’s murder trial and during his sentencing this summer. Christian was convicted and given two life sentences without possibility of parole.

Hester has reappeared in public this summer as one of the main organizers of protests and recently took a leadership position with a group of mostly white moms who have been protesting nightly. She leads marches each night, using a bullhorn to chant in a voice cracking with fatigue.

--Associated Press contributed to this report.

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