By Reuben Schafir
CatlinSpeak (Portland, Oregon)
2015 was an influential year in Oregon politics filled with scandal, civil unrest, violence, and a host of new laws. What follows is CatlinSpeak’s photographic coverage of some of the biggest political stories of 2015.
A New Governor
Four-term Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announced on Feb. 13 that he would resign, following several months of scandal involving his fiancée Cylvia Hayes.
Hayes came under fire when news surrounding her work with a private energy firm while advising Gov. Kitzhaber on energy policy came to light. As pressure from politicians and media outlets began to rise, Gov. Kitzhaber resigned and handed the reigns to then-Secretary of State Kate Brown. Gov. Brown will run for Governor in the 2016 election.
Read CatlinSpeak’s coverage of the fall of Gov. Kitzhaber’s administration here.
May Day Protest: The Minimum Wage, Police Body Cameras, and Black Lives Matter
Protesters gathered on May 1 for the annual May Day Protest, lobbying for a $15 per hour minimum wage, police body cameras, against the continuing shootings of unarmed african-american men by police. The fight for a higher minimum wage has continued into 2016, and it’s an issue that may well show up on the Oregon Congress in the near future.
The group Black Lives Matter continued their protests, as police officers continued to shoot unarmed black men. An investigation conducted by The Washington Post found that of the 987 people shot and killed by police in 2015, 10 percent of them were unarmed. These racially-motivated tensions bubbled to the surface in a more violent way than before when offensive social media posts appeared on social media at Lewis & Clark College, and a Ugandan student was attacked several days later.
Tensions Over Undocumented Immigrants
Known as the “Toughest Sheriff in America,” the Oregon Republican Party hosted Sheriff Joe Arpaio on the steps of the Oregon State Capitol on June 28. Sheriff Arpaio was met by a crowd of counter-protesters larger than his audience, who, while standing across the street, could be heard shout “Go home, Ar-pai-o.” Sheriff Arpaio’s symbolizes the rising conflict over immigration in the U.S., an issue which has become a regular topic in the 2016 Presidential race.
Legalization of Recreational Marijuana
In 2015, Oregon became the fourth state to legalize recreational marijuana. The measure legalize recreation marijuana passed in the November 2014 election, and the law went into effect on July 1, 2015. Proponents of the law gathered on the Burnside Bridge at midnight on July 1 to celebrate the newly legalized substance by using it. Dispensaries began legally distributing marijuana to patrons age 21 and over on October 1, 2015.
Shell No Protest
Greenpeace activists rappelled off of the St. John’s bridge on July 29, 2015, in order to prevent an arctic ice breaking ship from passing leaving Portland. The ship was headed to the arctic to join a drilling expedition for Shell, and was a required piece of equipment. The protesters hung on the bridge for two days before Portland Fire and Rescue officials, as well as members of the Sheriff and Police Departments, transferred the protesters onto their lines and cut the original ones. Protesters were given the opportunity to ascend voluntarily, though several were forcibly removed from the bridge. Seven of the 13 protesters were fined for their actions, and two protesters, including one “kayaktavist” who was blocking the ship from the water, were arrested.
Shooting in Roseburg
Oregon made national news when a shooter killed 10 people at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore. The UCC shooting was one of over 300 mass shooting in 2015, and it became another arguing point in the gun control debate. President Obama made a statement following the shooting, and included it into his argument for stricter gun control laws. “There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America. So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer?” said the President. He visited Roseburg a week after the shooting.