Donna Hayes

Tumbling statues, voices heard

ArtsWatch Weekly: A culture in crisis clashes over the past; a museum reopens; photos & films; singing amid the vines; a bookstore steps out

THE BIG NEWS IN PORTLAND THIS WEEK has been Sunday night’s downtown rumble through the cultural district, a highly focused and rigorously carried out protest – declared by its organizers to be an Indigenous People’s Day of Rage – in which activists toppled public statues of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, vandalized the Oregon Historical Society to the tune of an estimated $25,000 or more, did lesser damage outside the Portland Art Museum and at Portland State University, smashed store windows, and shot bullets inside an empty restaurant. Police declared the protest a riot, but took no action until after the damage was done. And the story was immediately picked up by President Donald Trump, who tweeted his desire to rush federal officers into the Portland fray. “Put these animals in jail, now,” he tweeted, referring to the protesters, and quickly followed up: “Law & Order! Portland, call in the Feds!”

David Manuel’s “The Promised Land” was controversial when it was installed in 1993 and is even more controversial now after months of racial and political unrest. It was removed for safekeeping from downtown Portland’s Chapman Square in July.

ArtsWatch’s Laurel Reed Pavic was working on a story about the issue of politically and mythologically charged public monuments and how to deal with them when cultural values and understandings of history shift. She quickly updated her analysis after Lincoln and Roosevelt – not the most obvious of targets, although each had specific issues about Indigenous rights – came tumbling down. The symbolic overthrow of monuments, she notes in her essay After the Statues Come Down, is nothing new: “Defacing or damaging public art has always gone hand-in-hand with putting it up in the first place. It happened in the city-states of ancient Mesopotamia and continues to happen today. The visual impact of a former leader face-down on the pavement hasn’t lessened over the past 5,000 years.”

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‘Silent Voices’: A movie for Moose

Quanice Hayes was killed by Portland police in 2017. His grandmother's film gives voice to him and 8 other victims of police fatal force.

Quanice Hayes was his name, but no one ever called him that. His grandmother, Donna Hayes, says that to friends and family, the seventeen-year-old boy was known as “Moose.” Moose, among other things, was a basketball player and had NBA aspirations. “He was short but he thought he could do it,” Moose’s grandmother laughs. Moose was fun-loving and outgoing. “Moose loved music,” Hayes says, “and he loved to dance and he loved his little siblings and he would take anyone under his wing as a friend.”  On February 9, 2017, Moose was gunned down by Portland police officer Andrew Hearst. “He was seventeen,” recounts Donna Hayes. “My grandson. He was on his knees when the police decided to shoot him.” 

Venus Hayes (left), mother of Moose Quanice Hayes, holding the rose; Donna Hayes (center), grandmother and now playwright; right and behind, supporters from Don’t Shoot Portland. At the first press conference before the family addressed the mayor and City Council, weeks after the murder of Moose Hayes, March 1, 2017. Photo: Kathryn Kendall

That was more than three years ago. Now, Donna Hayes has written a film, Silent Voices, being screened through the community media center Open Signal, wrought out of her grief over her grandson’s death. “At first,” remembers Hayes, “it started out I was just writing because I couldn’t tell anyone everything that was going on in my head.” But there was more to it than that. 

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