Reunion of historic monuments in Oregon stopped by racist, homophobic slurs

The footage of the Zoom session, which was arrested, has been turned over to Oregon State Police for investigation.

Mount Olivet Baptist Church in North Portland is under review by the State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation. (Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation)

SALEM – Racist and homophobic slurs interrupted a virtual session last week of the State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation, prompting the cancellation of the two-day meeting.

The interruption occurred less than an hour after the start of the six-hour meeting. Chris Havel, spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation, said the committee made progress on a few things when one or more people started typing racist and homophobic slurs into Zoom’s chat feature and in the questions and answers section.

They also posted the home addresses of some of the nine committee members, who are appointed by the governor.

The attendees were shocked and horrified, Havel said. The organizers quickly ended the meeting.

He declined to provide further details, saying the department referred the case to Oregon State Police for a felony investigation.

“We sent them all the information,” Havel said, including the recording of the Zoom meeting.

A police spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday afternoon.

“There is no public place for this despicable behavior,” said Lisa Sumption, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation. “I apologize to the members of our committee and to the nominees for having to endure this attack.”

The meeting was open to the public and registration was not required. Participants could simply click on the Zoom link, which was posted on the ministry’s website. Emails and names of attendees have not been verified, Havel said.

“You have to enter something, but it’s not necessarily your name,” Havel said.

The committee meets three times a year. It includes Black, Native American, Latino and Asian members. Havel said the meetings are often well attended.

This meeting was supposed to review the addition of nine sites to the National Register of Historic Places. They included three African-American buildings: the Mount Olivet Baptist Church in North Portland, the Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop in northeast Portland, and the Golden West Hotel in northwest Portland.

The blocks of South Park in Portland and the Burford-Stanley house in Polk County were also to be discussed.

The ministry is currently reviewing procedures, including the use of Zoom. The committee will meet again to complete its agenda but the ministry wants to make sure everyone is safe. No date has been set.

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