NAACP: Portland’s Earthquake Warning Signs Based on White Supremacy

Portland Oregon

The NAACP’s Portland, Oregon, chapter is claiming the city’s policy requiring signage on certain buildings to warn about potential earthquake damage is ongoing housing discrimination aimed at black Americans.

The policy “exacerbates a long history of systemic and structural betrayals of trust and policies of displacement, demolition, and dispossession predicated on classism, racism, and white supremacy,” the group said in a statement Oregonian/Oregon Live published. 

The Portland City Council approved the regulation in October, and it will reportedly impact about 1,600 structures.

The signs read: “This is an unreinforced masonry building. Unreinforced masonry buildings may be unsafe in the event of a major earthquake.” Tenants who live in those buildings will also receive a notice about the new policy.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reported:

Leaders of predominantly black churches affected by the ordinance castigated the city in June as the City Council discussed requiring seismic upgrades over a 20-year timeline. Pastors said then that they had been left out of talks while the ordinance was drafted, and the NAACP said the black community was similarly were [sic] left out of the discussion over the placarding ordinance.

“It speaks to our houses of worship and everything about the black presence in the North-Northeast area,” said Rev. E.D. Mondainé, president of the Portland NAACP chapter and a pastor of a North Portland church. “As usual, the African American community is the first affected and the last informed.”

It is not only black Americans, however, who oppose the regulation. Owners of targeted buildings said the signs could drive away residents and customers and potentially discourage investments into those properties. Some fear that unreinforced buildings will eventually be sold, demolished, and redeveloped.

“Experts say Portland is at risk because there’s close to a 50 percent chance of a giant earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the Oregon coast in the next 50 years,” the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The signs will start being posted on publicly owned buildings on Tuesday, but privately owned buildings have until March 1. Churches and nonprofits have two years to comply with the ordinance, according to the Oregonian/OregonLive.

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