Activists march around Lents Park

Discover why those from ‘Lents Neighbors for Justice’ came out to be seen and heard …

In outer East Portland, neighbors associated with a group called Lents Neighbors for Justice pull out signs for a demonstration in Lents Park.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

After volunteering for about 18 months with a similar group, some neighbors split off and formed a new organization they call Lents Neighbors for Justice about four weeks ago.

“It’s grown until now, we have more than 300 active people from diverse backgrounds participating – who are open-minded, professional and progressive people,” said one of the group’s spokesmen, Thomas Legg, at Lents Park on October 1.

As an 18 year resident of Lents, Thomas Legg says it’s time to stand up for their 100+ year old neighborhood.

“Out intent is to have an influence on city policies as the Lents neighborhood goes through its redevelopment and changes,” Legg told East Portland News.

This, their fifth public gathering, was to bring attention to what organizers say is “the criminal activity occurring in or near the park, as a result of drug use and dealing, illegal camping in the park, and illegally parked cars, recreational vehicles, and travel trailers, in park lots and around the park.

“Some of these vehicles lack [license] plates or tags, and dump waste in nearby streets and block park areas,” added another demonstrator, Jennifer Young.

Part picnic, part protest – these folks say they’re rallying on behalf of their park and their neighborhood.

“There is a lack of enforcement by Park Rangers, and parking enforcement,” Young continued. “Our group has worked to open communication about park safety and offer creative problem-solving, but we’re being ignored.

“We are asking the City to chain off the parking lots at night, something they’ve done in the past; post ‘no overnight parking’ signs along SE 88th Avenue, and enforce parking ordinances along with posted park rules,” Young went on.

Heading down the hill, toward what they allege to be an illegal “chop shop”, demonstrators vow to keep creating public events until they’re heard by City Hall.

While not directly connected with Lents Park, Legg said they believe that an illegal auto ‘chop shop’ operates at a residence near the corner of the SE Steele Street and SE 88th Avenue. “This, along with the campers, has made the situation around Lents Park both unsafe and unlivable,” he said.

“Neighbors around the park are living with unacceptable conditions and are often kept up at night, and victimized by criminals around the park,” added Young. “The Lents community deserves safe parks and equity in enforcement, which other parts of Portland enjoy.”

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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