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'Peace Train' Activist Comes To Eugene, Is Immediately Confronted

Brian Bull

An acclaimed traveling activist and philanthropist came through Eugene today.  As KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, his arrival reflects an ongoing problem for Black Americans, everywhere.

Curtis Reliford has done TED Talks, been featured on StoryCorps, and is recipient of the NAACP’s Community Service award. Recently he joined a Black Lives Matter march in Portland, and says he's been impressed with how much attention has been paid to justice reform and addressing race relations since the death of George Floyd and other African-Americans at the hands of police.

Reliford drives his distinctive Peace Train truck and trailer across the country, decorated with American flags and peace slogans. 

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Reliford's Peace Train parked in the downtown area earlier today. He's delivering materials to Hopi & Navajo communities in the southwest, which have been affected by COVID-19.

But Reliford says upon parking in downtown Eugene, a white man drove up, displaying his own “piece”.

Reliford: “He got a gun on his side, he came up to me screaming, threatening me, talking ‘bout “I’m tempted to tear those flags off your truck!” He’s looking at me, just with his posture, all ready to go out, with his sidearm.”

Bull: So he yelled at you for a while, then he just stormed off?

Reliford: "Yeah, he stormed off, jumped in his car when he saw you coming up.”

Oregon is an open carry state.  Reliford says he wouldn't be able to defend himself, as he practices non-violence and would not carry a firearm.  He says in his travels, he's been intimidated by police and had people call him racial slurs for doing nothing more but driving by.

Over recent weeks, black activists and their supporters have reported armed militiasand individuals who've appeared at protests and marches. While many claim they're there to assert their 2nd Amendment rights, critics say it's more about intimidating the Black Lives Movement. And some confrontations have turned violent, including an incident in New Mexico where an anti-racism protester was shot by a man first thought to be part of a local militia (they have since stated that he is not a member.)

Reliford says despite recurring bigotry and harassment, he’s undeterred from helping people. The Santa Cruz, California resident founded the Follow Your Heart Action Network after Hurricane Katrina. He’s currently transporting hand disinfectant and other supplies to Hopi and Navajo Indian reservations in Arizona.

Addendum: When I first encountered Reliford, he was sitting in his truck talking on the phone with the Eugene Police Department, describing the incident with the armed white man. He doesn't know what will come of the report, but plans to leave later this afternoon for southern Oregon once his truck gets a replacement part. - BB

WEB EXTRA: Curtis Riliford presents his Peace Train vehicle while stopped in Eugene:

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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