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Hundreds Of Protesters Denounce Racism In Lebanon, Oregon

Chris Lehman

Several hundred people marched in Lebanon, Oregon on Sunday to denounce racism and promote unity.

They marched from a city park to a grassy lawn in front of the city library. They held signs and chanted phrases including "Black Lives Matter" and "No Justice, No Peace."

At the conclusion of the march, several people of color addressed the crowd and spoke about their experiences with prejudice and bigotry in Lebanon, a predominantly-white farming and logging community of about 17,000 in Linn County.

Jesseca Wolter moved to Lebanon with her family when she was in seventh grade. She said as one of the only Black students in her school, her concerns about racist comments from classmates were usually swept under the rug by teachers or school administrators.

“A lot of people don’t really understand the racism that we go through," she said. "And they feel like when we speak up, that we’re harming them or that it’s against them. But it’s not. We’re just saying that we matter, too.”

Wolter, who's entering 12th grade this fall at Lebanon High School, said she was encouraged by the turnout at the protest. "That was really awesome to see," she said. "People know that there is an issue in our community, and it needs to be changed. And they came out here today to show that."

Jesseca's mother, Dana Wolter-Britton, is white. She grew up in Lebanon and moved away in her early twenties. She said she never thought about race as a child.

"It was nothing that I had on my radar when I was a kid, because it was nothing that affected me then," said Wolter-Britton. "It affects me now because I'm a parent of children of color."

She said moving back to Lebanon was a real eye-opener. "Reconnecting with people that I grew up with, the things that I've heard them say that I'm now aware are blatantly racist, is shocking to me," she said.

Still, Wolter-Britton holds out hope for her town. "Lebanon is a wonderful community," she said. "I know that we can unite and do better."

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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