Portland billboards take aim at 'issues of white supremacy and racial inequity'

PHOTO: A billboard paid for by the PDX Billboard Project in Portland, Ore. PlayPDX BILLBOARD PROJECT
WATCH Portland billboards take aim at 'issues of white supremacy and racial inequity'

Activists in Portland, Oregon, have launched a billboard campaign to battle white supremacy.

The "PDX Billboard Project" began in the past week with 25 black billboards, some featuring images of slain black youths, plastered around the city with large typed slogans to "confront and disrupt the rampant complacency in this city regarding issues of white supremacy and racial inequity," according to its website.

"We aim to create a public demand for change to the inequitable structure of our society, through stimulating and challenging visual campaigns."

The messaging ranged from direct attacks against white supremacists with one reading, "PORTLAND... IS YOUR WHITE FRAGILITY SHOWING?" and another next to a football photo of Larnell Bruce Jr. kneeling and the words next to him: "21 # OF ACTIVE WHITE SUPREMACY GROUPS IN PORTLAND," the latter relying on a statistic from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate groups.

PHOTO: An activist group called Portland Equity in Action has been erecting billboards in Portland, Ore., in order to, confront and disrupt the rampant complacency in this city regarding issues of white supremacy and racial inequity.KPTV
An activist group called Portland Equity in Action has been erecting billboards in Portland, Ore., in order to, "confront and disrupt the rampant complacency in this city regarding issues of white supremacy and racial inequity."

Bruce was a 24-year-old black man who police said died after a group of reputed white supremacists allegedly ran over him on purpose in the summer of 2016. They were all convicted.

Among the reasons for this mission, the organization says on its website, is to expose what it says is white supremacist activity in the greater Portland community and to show "the real consequences faced by our non-white brothers and sisters."

The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

The group also wants to expose how national police shootings have resulted in "unfair and unjust policies and processes for investigating them" and the need for investment in "proper and effective mental health and de-escalation training."

The billboards come months after a holiday-themed Dr. Martens billboard ad hovering above the city of Portland took some heat for appearing to critics as glorifying white supremacy.

PHOTO: An activist group called Portland Equity in Action has been erecting billboards in Portland, Ore., in order to, confront and disrupt the rampant complacency in this city regarding issues of white supremacy and racial inequity.KPTV
An activist group called Portland Equity in Action has been erecting billboards in Portland, Ore., in order to, "confront and disrupt the rampant complacency in this city regarding issues of white supremacy and racial inequity."

The billboard in question features a pair of black, patent-leather Dr. Martens -- commonly known as "Doc Martens" -- boots above a bleak metropolis with white capital letters reading, "ROCK THE HOLIDAYS."

Plaid red laces were tied vertically through the holes of the boots, unlike the horizontally tied, red or white laces associated with white supremacy groups.

Red or white laces tied horizontally are considered white supremacist symbols or badges of honor by so-called skinheads, who would commit acts of violence and "earn your laces,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Dr. Martens became "popular with skinheads" -- or "skins," as the SPLC refers to in its glossary of terms – who wear them with "either red or white laces," according to the SPLC

Dr. Martens did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

PHOTO: An activist group called Portland Equity in Action has been erecting billboards in Portland, Ore., in order to, confront and disrupt the rampant complacency in this city regarding issues of white supremacy and racial inequity.KPTV
An activist group called Portland Equity in Action has been erecting billboards in Portland, Ore., in order to, "confront and disrupt the rampant complacency in this city regarding issues of white supremacy and racial inequity."

Heidi Beirich, SPLC's director of its Intelligence Project, doesn’t blame the British shoe company for the commandeering of its products and said it’s unclear whether the billboard crosses the line, though adding that perceived racism has been a problem in the city for decades.

"Portland has had pretty bad problems with hate groups," she told ABC News.

PHOTO: An activist group called Portland Equity in Action has been erecting billboards in Portland, Ore., in order to, confront and disrupt the rampant complacency in this city regarding issues of white supremacy and racial inequity.KPTV
An activist group called Portland Equity in Action has been erecting billboards in Portland, Ore., in order to, "confront and disrupt the rampant complacency in this city regarding issues of white supremacy and racial inequity."

She referenced Mulugeta Seraw, a 28-year-old Ethiopian student who was beaten to death by bat-wielding members of the East Side White Pride gang in Portland in November 1988.

She applauded the effort to espouse racial tolerance in Portland.

"The racism and the history of Portland is pretty serious," Beirich said. “The campaign and some of the posters is drawing attention to raise awareness of the problems of the area and making people think."

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