Remembering No on 9: Political Violence Then & Now
As we prepared to revisit the pervasive, terrifying, and deadly violence of the Ballot Measure 9 campaign in this month’s stories, a beloved LGBTQ activist was murdered while supporting a racial justice protest in Portland.
June Knightly is the fourth person to have died in Portland in the midst of far-right provocation in the past five years, and the third white Portlander in that time to be killed while putting themselves in between Black people and a violent white person fueled by misogyny and racial hatred.
We knew June by her chosen name Amazon in the late 1990s when she chaired the Lesbian Community Project board. LCP had carried a heavy load during the violence of the Oregon Citizens Alliance’s attack on our communities during that time.
Those were days when we understood quite viscerally that an attack on anyone’s civil rights was an attack on everyone’s civil rights. German pastor Martin Niemoller’s quote was everywhere. Literally everywhere, in that time before internet memes — buttons, shirts, posters, newspaper ads, church reader boards.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
~ Martin Niemoller
After the OCA filed Ballot Measure 9, homophobic attacks and violent anti-LGBTQ rhetoric skyrocketed. It wasn’t just the queer community that was targeted for opposing Measure 9. This month’s stories recount desecration of churches; break ins at campaign offices; threats against synagogues, businesses, journalists, activists; destruction of property and animal abuse; and a deadly fire bombing.
It’s very tough terrain to revisit. We don’t do it lightly. We tell these stories to honor the incredible bravery of those who defend civil and human rights even in the face of political violence meant to weaken or deny those rights.
People like June “Amazon” Knightly, Ricky John Best, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, and Micah David-Cole Fletcher. The people you’ll read about this month in No on 9 Remembered.
These stories are the next installment in our quest to share 30 stories to mark the 30th anniversary of the No on 9 Campaign, when Oregonians from all walks of life defeated one of the harshest antigay measures ever put to American voters. Each story offers a unique prism on how this epic battle for civil and human rights can impart lessons for today’s fight for inclusive democracy.
STORY 7: HATE CRIMES SURGE
“We cannot afford to give in to our terror and fear. That’s what they want us to do.” That Just Out editorial in the face of widespread violence and intimidation characterizes the courage and commitment of the LGBTQ community and our allies during the No on 9 campaign. Read about the violence of those times, with addendums exploring the relationship of political violence to mainstream violence and difficulties of tracking hate crimes.
“The threats and withdrawal of financial support, the physical intimidation and destruction of sacred spaces — it was terrible, a very scary time for faith activists,” remembers Rev. Cecil Prescod. “But in a strange way, it allowed ordinary people to say, ‘No more. They’re destroying our community. We have to say something.’” Read about the impact of the vandalism on a small-town Catholic Church through the eyes of the priest who lived through it, Father Jim Galluzzo.
STORY 9: MURDERS IN SALEM
Decades before “Say her name” became a rallying cry for a new generation of activists, we said her name. Hattie Mae Cohens. We said his name. Brian Mock. We said their names. Hattie Mae Cohens and Brian Mock. Read about the events surrounding their murders, along with Hattie’s poem, “This is My Life,” a plea against demonization.
To everyone committed to defending democracy in these difficult times, we hope that No on 9 Remembered encourages you to be brave. To take action and take heart.
To remembering the past and shaping the future,
Eric K. Ward, Executive Director
Holly J. Pruett, Senior Fellow
No on 9 Remembered Co-Curators
P.S. Catch up on and share our first two months of stories: Act I, in 1988 when racist skinheads beat Mulugeta Seraw to death; the language and meaning of Ballot Measure 9; the durable legacy of the Oregon Democracy Project; Oregon’s political and cultural geography at that time; and leaders from the Latinx and African American communities who recognized the larger civil rights questions at stake. Be sure to check out our project’s comprehensive Timeline and the other historical memory projects that inspire us in our Resources section. We encourage you to tell your own story: contact us with your memories and questions.