Sunday, January 24, 2010
HOW PORTLAND DEPORTED GYPSIES DURING WWII
A Romani friend of mine who lives in Portland Oregon has contacted the Mayor of Portland, Mr. Sam Adams, requesting that he declare August 2nd Romani Day in Portland.
This got me thinking. Maybe we should contact our respective mayors and at least call for a proclamation in recognition of the Romani and a call for the end of the pograms throughout Europe.
I think that we would aim for April 8th which would coincide with World Romani Day.
How Portland deported its Gypsies during World War II
By Michael Munk
The Portland Alliance
The deportation of Portland’s Japanese-Americans to concentration camps in 1942 was a decision of Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, but ridding Portland of most of its Romany-American families two years later was a decision of Mayor Earl Riley and the ruling elite of the city.
A few Gypsies had lived in Portland since the turn of the century, but not until World War II’s Kaiser shipyards imported ten of thousands of new workers did the city’s political leaders decide that this growing community-- numbering about a dozen families or 60 men, women and children-- weren’t welcome. Because housing restrictions had been relaxed during the war, the racist city council passed Ordinance 22-412 making storefront residences illegal and declared any indication of fortune telling a crime. The Police Red squad and the wartime Federal Security Agency placed the families under surveillance, but their undercover spies disagreed over whether they had witnessed any evidence of prostitution in the gypsy community.
By late 1944, Mayor Riley, whom the leading Portland historian E. Kimbark MacColl reports built a secret vault in his City Hall office to keep his “percentage of vice protection payments,” decided the gypsies had to go right during the Christmas season. Claiming that they “had flocked here under the pretext of becoming war workers” and were “a blemish on the fair name of the city,” he persuaded the Roosevelt administration to provide them with enough scarce gasoline to drive four crammed “jallopies” to Texas. When a deportee requested more time to pack and protested some “kids were sick..and we gotta have money to eat on,” a police officer responded, “You better get going and quick.”
The city also warned the gypsies they would be prosecuted if they didn’t use their gas rations except for driving to Texas. The Oregon Journal, perhaps referring to the Riley’s paymasters in the Portland underworld, suggested that “others who deal in vice and chance cause more corruption and commit more crime. But the subject is the gypsy menace. They just don’t belong. They’ve got to go.” Portland business leaders continued to support the corrupt Riley even when he was successfully challenged by reformer Dorothy McCullough Lee in 1949.
Posted by Morgan at 1:11 PM