'Recreating the underground railroad:' Harassment, immigration hotline springs up in St. Johns

St. Johns residents set up harassment hotline

PORTLAND, Ore. -- No matter your views on politics today, it's hard to deny that tension between the two sides is high.

One local group has set up a 24-hour harassment hotline, which comes with a promise to show up wherever and whenever you need them.

Their official name is ‘St. Johns Friends and Amigos’.

Flyers popping up around the neighborhood display the group's hotline: 503-714-1230.

They read, in part, “We will not tolerate racism on our streets. Call if you need assistance.”

Mimi German says she and other group members will take it from there.

“We call or text our underground list of phone numbers, and we have at least a minimum of two to three people who will go out in the community at any point, whether it's daytime or nighttime, and provide support for that person.”

German and fellow organizer Sam Resnick say the idea came to them during election week, when they heard a story of someone yelling racial slurs at a white woman as she walked through St. Johns with her three black children.

Now, in a case like that, she says group members, of which there are 35 and counting, would just show up, and protect the victim.

They are careful to point out that they understand they are not a substitute for law enforcement. A message on the flyer reads, "we are not police.”

In other cases, especially when it comes to issues surrounding immigration, they think of themselves as a "new Underground Railroad."

“We’ve created a system, recreating the Underground Railroad,” German said. "You have safe houses. You have people who get people to safe houses. And all that information is really quiet.”

If necessary, German and Resnick say members are willing to open their homes to undocumented immigrants.

Comparing the modern-day sanctuary movement to the Underground Railroad is a sentiment surfacing across the country

In many cities though, the sanctuary movement has been limited to churches and places of worship.

Here, that’s not the case.

Critics say the movement undermines efforts to secure our borders and, in turn, compromises our national security.

Resnick said he'll risk arrest.

“I'm Jewish, and I have family that died in the Holocaust,” he said. “There was no one there for them. Their neighbors sold them out to the Nazis. That's not something I want to have happen to my neighbors.”

© 2017 KGW-TV


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