What a 16-Year-Old Learned in Three Months of Portland Protests

In early June, Ms. Allen joined the protests for the first time, jumping into a march that snaked downtown from Revolution Hall, a music venue on the east side of the city. Seeing people singing and joining in the march made her feel happy.

After her summer job at a local zoo evaporated in the financial fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Ms. Allen started attending protests almost every night. Maybe, she thought, the demonstrations would spur changes in policing that would keep her family and her friends safe. But there was a deeper feeling, a sense that she belonged there.

“I don’t even feel like I have to,” Ms. Allen said. “I just do have to.”

Her family was worried, but on the other hand understood that something important was happening, for all of them, on Portland’s streets.

“This is the only way she can make change at 16 and I get that,” said Aneesah Rasheed, a relative who has sometimes accompanied Ms. Allen to protests. “In two years, Daria’s going to be old enough to vote. She’s learning about people, learning about politics, how to organize, how to start a movement.”

The first night that Ms. Allen was tear-gassed, the feeling reminded her of the sting she felt when she let shampoo wash into her eyes. The crowd faced off against a line of police officers and she yelled at them, furious and teary. More gas erupted and she ran. It seared into her throat and she coughed until she thought she might vomit.

After that, she decided she needed to be better prepared, so she began an online appeal in mid-July to raise money to buy earplugs, a respirator mask and goggles.

When she posted a link to the fund-raiser in a neighborhood Facebook group, a woman confronted her. Ms. Allen was destroying the city, she said. Ms. Allen fired back, arguing that the police were polluting the city with tear gas. The argument ended with the woman sending her a direct message, which Ms. Allen has saved in her inbox, just to remind herself of the mentality she is fighting against.

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