Thursday , July 29 2021

Pamplin Media Group – Mulugeta Seraw recalled 30 years after his assassination

The conference explores lessons from 1988 on racist homicide, community events honor refugees.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JONATHAN HOUSE - Nkenge Harmon Johnson, president and CEO of the Urban League of Portland, gives opening comments during the Mulugeta Seraw Commemoration Conference.
Ethiopian refugee Mulugeta Seraw was remembered as an estimated immigrant and victim of racial violence on the 30th anniversary of his death.

Seraw was living in southeastern Portland when he was murdered by a racist boss on November 13, 1988. The murder shook Portland and led to a trademark of civil lawsuit that exposed racial tensions underlying the city.

On Tuesday, the Portland Urban League and the State University of Portland co-sponsored a conference that explored the consequences of the murder and the ongoing presence of extremist extremists that emerged after the election of President Donald Trump. It took place the same day the FBI published new statistics that showed hate crimes increased by 17 percent last year, the third annual increase in a row.

"We are here today to remember, learn and change," said CEO of Portland Urban League, Nkenge Harmon Johnson, who opened the conference. "We can do the different things because we choose."

According to Johnson, the events that led to the assassination of Seraw 30 years ago are not so different from what happens today in Portland, with the emergence of extreme right groups such as Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys.

"Those thugs who assume our streets all the other weekends should not be taken simultaneously. They are the same types of people who fostered the murder of Mulugeta Seraw," said Johnson, who asked for 15 seconds of silence to recognize other people of color who were harassed, injured and killed in Portland.

The event was held at the University Place Conference Center in downtown Portland. Participants included Seraw's uncle, Engedaw Berhanu, and lawyers who led a successful civil lawsuit against California white supremacist Tom Metzger for his role in the incident.

"Every time I talk about Mulugeta, I get excited," said Berhanu, who talked about Seraw's decision to seek a better life in the United States. He said that his nephew was a responsible young man whose death had a devastating effect on his family.

Jim McElroy, a lawyer at the Southern Poverty Law Center that filed the lawsuit, gave a story about the events that led to the kill, including the role played by Dave Mazella, a Californian skinhead sent to Portland by Metzger to better organize skinheads.

Ellen Rosenthal, a Portland attorney who was co-lawyer with SPLC founder Morris Dees, warned that we are living in dangerous times.

"We have to do everything we can to save this country from the pressures that can lead to anarchy," Rosenthal said.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JONATHAN HOUSE - Engedaw Berhanu, the uncle of Mulugeta Seraw, talks about the impact of his death at the conference on November 13.

The conference included presentations on the life of Seraw, the history of anti-black hatred in Oregon and on how to respond to hate crimes. Co-sponsors included Portland's Ethiopian Community, Portland United Against Hate, SE Uplift Neighborhood Coalition, Portland Transportation Office, Portland's Office of Equity and Human Rights, Multnomah County, and other agencies and organizations.

United States of America UU. Sen. Ron Wyden filed a congressional resolution that says Seraw, 28, was typical of refugees who arrived in the United States looking for a better life for them and their families.

"This horrible case has galvanized the city, as well as the state of Oregon, to defend the crimes and acts of violence by the neonazi movement in the northwest of the Pacific," the resolution states. "Although this brutal murder passed 30 years, it remains cool in the minds of many who have lived that time and for people who still experience discrimination and hate today."

The resolution also noted the attack on a MAX train by a self-proclaimed white nationalist who left two dead men and a seriously injured on May 26, 2017. The victims were defending two women of color to whom the attacker was verbally abusing, including one wearing a hijab.

Seraw was living in an apartment in the Kerns neighborhood when he and two friends were confronted by a group of racist raptors who drank on the night of November 13. Seraw was defeated with a baseball bat during the showdown of Ken Mieske, a member of a skinhead racist band called East Side White Pride.

Three heads of the head, including Mieske, were arrested and convicted of a variety of crimes by their roles in the incident, including murder. Subsequently, the Law Center of the Southern Poor, assisted by local lawyers, filed a lawsuit for legitimate civil death on behalf of the Seraw family, accusing Metzger of being responsible for the murder because he was in contact with some of them. A Multnomah County jury agreed and granted Seraw $ 12.5 million property.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jim McElroy of the Poción del Sur Law Center ends with Nkenge Harmon Johnson at the Mulugeta Seraw Commemoration Conference.

Only about $ 175,000 was collected, however, mainly with the sale of Metzger's house.

On the next day of the conference, Seraw's members, members of Seraw's family, Chloe Eudaly, and the representatives of the Portland Urban League, SE Water Neighborhood Coalition, the Kerns Residents Association, and others. A public event was scheduled at Southwest 31st Avenue and Pine Street, where Seraw was killed.

Later, on Wednesday, the City Council was scheduled to consider a proclamation stating every November 13 Mulugeta Seraw Day in Portland. Among other things, the proclamation assures that Portland remains an unwise city for minorities, despite the lessons learned from Seraw's death.

"The progressive reputation of Portland often hides its lack of diversity, the space surely creates our demographic data for racial animosity and the lively experiences of people of color in Portland," reads the proclamation presented by Eudaly and Mayor Ted Wheeler .

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