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Oregon Civil Rights Advocate: U.S. Democracy in 'Precarious Moment'

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Eric Ward of the Western States Center stresses people should be lifting up the voices of peacemakers. (Sam Esse/Flickr)
Eric Ward of the Western States Center stresses people should be lifting up the voices of peacemakers. (Sam Esse/Flickr)
June 8, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A civil rights advocate in Oregon warns the country is on a dangerous path toward authoritarianism and away from inclusive democracy.

Eric Ward is executive director of the Western States Center, a democracy advocacy group. He says authoritarianism is on the rise around the world and the United States needs to acknowledge it is part of that trend.

"We need to first recognize the precarious moment that American democracy finds itself in," he states. "We need to honor the grief and anger that many in the African-American community are experiencing because of disproportionate amount of violence at the hands of law enforcement."

Ward has laid out 21 points he maintains people who are focused on democracy should keep in mind as protests over police brutality continue. Those include calls to hold local governments accountable, lifting up the voices of peacemakers and raising the alarm about the activation of military units.

Ward says leaders need to do more to promote an inclusive democracy, which includes protecting a diverse array of people. He says it's especially important to protect the people who are creating this country's wealth, but often don't share in its abundance.

"I don't care if that's a 72-year-old white male veteran in eastern Oregon who is facing job discrimination because he is older and a veteran, or whether we're talking about a 16-year-old native girl who is trans on the streets of Portland, who is also facing job discrimination," he stresses.

Ward notes the system we operate under was created hundreds of years ago and no one alive today is responsible for it.

"But we are responsible in ensuring that we create new systems of equity and opportunity for all of us," he states.

Ward also encourages media outlets to take down their paywalls so that people have access to real-time, fact-checked information and is calling on philanthropies to double grant-making for the next three years to promote equity.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR