Alejandra Lopez describes herself as a born fighter.
The 16-year-old Warrenton High School student behind the Black Lives Matter protests in Astoria and Warrenton vowed not to stop until state and national leaders take steps to address police brutality and racial injustice.
“I’m always just a fighter, a born fighter. I like doing what is right,” she said at a protest Monday afternoon outside the Astoria post office. “I think also because I’m a person of color, it kind of is like the starting point of a whole change in society.
“This is not just a trend that you can follow on Instagram — this is a movement. This isn’t a thing that you can just pay attention to and then forget about the next day. This is a thing that is going to change the world.”
Lopez hopes to see government money used to fund police redirected toward mental health and addiction treatment.
The teenager planned the series of protests the day before the first one was held last week in Astoria. She was motivated after a demonstration on May 31 outside the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria for George Floyd, a black man killed by Minneapolis police.
“I saw that we had a protest, but it was only for one day, and I wanted to do something more than that,” she said. “So I started designing the flyer and everything and then I posted it, and it spread all over everywhere.”
The largest turnout so far was on Saturday afternoon, when a few hundred people converged downtown. A cadre of counterprotesters — far-right activists with the message “All Lives Matter” — have sought to disrupt the demonstrations.
“I feel I’ve accomplished a lot of people coming out here,” Lopez said. “I remember Saturday’s protest, hundreds of people marched. Seeing that, I was like, ‘Wow, I can make a difference in this town,’ and I think I will.”
Lopez, who founded the multicultural club at Warrenton High School, said she has received help from several people and organizations.
“And I really appreciate that support, and I think that will help me get further in this journey of spreading the awareness and spreading that we can change something,” she said.
Activists with Indivisible North Coast Oregon, a progressive group, have participated in the protests and organized car parades to honk and cheer on the demonstrators.
Laurie Caplan, the group’s chairwoman, said she was thrilled to learn a student was behind the protests. “We are always delighted to find people who believe in social justice and racial justice and are willing to step up and act on their belief,” she said.