Shawntay Negrete, her husband, Joseph, and two children, Isys and Zion, at Pride in the Park. (Courtesy/Tera Rue)

If you see a t-shirt in Salem that gives the patriarchy one-star or reads “anti-racist social club” you could be seeing Shawntay Negrete’s handiwork.

For years, Negrete toyed around with the idea of starting a clothing company. One day, she “got a wild hair and said, ‘I’m going to do it.’”

Now she’s planning on opening a clothing store in the basement of the Reed Opera House with a tentative October opening date.

Negrete wants to make the community she grew up in safer for her children and friends.

Last October, after nearly two decades working in security, she started her own company called Turtle Island Protection Services to offer security at events like Pride at the Park or End White Silence, as well as weddings and quinceañeras.

She also sold apparel from her clothing line during Salem’s Pride.

Negrete said her company has provided security at events that some people would consider “political,” like visibility days for transgender people.

“There’s a lot of people that don’t agree with some of these things that we’re doing. We’re adamant about protecting people’s rights,” she said.

Negrete said she has friends that are activists and she wanted to help keep them safe during social justice events. She said doing security has been different in the past year because of the political climate.

She said her teenage daughter wanted to attend racial justice protests in the wake of George Floyd's death, but Negrete didn’t want to her to attend some events because of safety concerns. Negrete said when there were protests and rallies in the daytime, they would hand out water bottles to people. 

She said providing security at marches, by handling traffic and making sure people aren’t messing with the marchers, was a safe way to participate “without putting ourselves and other people at risk.”

Keizer held its first-ever LGBTQ Pride event in June and it attracted protesters. At Salem’s Pride event, Negrete’s company provided security in the event a similar controversy broke out.

“There are a lot of protesters that are protesting our basic human rights,” she said. “It’s definitely different than doing a party or a wedding. You wouldn’t expect to have the Church at Planned Parenthood show up.”

The Church at Planned Parenthood is an anti-abortion group that holds “a worship service outside the gates of Hell,” monthly outside the Salem clinic and in other cities. The group has attracted attention in Salem after two of its events in front of the northeast Salem clinic turned violent with members of the Proud Boys clashing with counterdemonstrators.

Negrete said there are events her security company has had to turn down, like stand-up comedian Alex Elkin, who was scheduled to perform at the Grand Theater in July. His show was cancelled following public outcry about his jokes, which involved gender-neutral bathrooms, the Black Lives Matter movement and included a bit where he mocked Asian eyes and then used an exaggerated Asian accent, the Statesman Journal reported.

Negrete said her staff are mostly Black, Indigenous and people of color and having them provide security for a similar event would put them in danger.

She said she likes to hire positive people, who are good role models.

“When you work in bars and work with people who are intoxicated and put in a position where they’re not all the way coherent, I need to have strong people that are respectful and have the right way with words,” Negrete said.

She said she’s able to solve problems with people quickly just by talking with them.

“I feel like that’s why people like me to do their security because I have that sense of community and camaraderie and I talk to people,” Negrete said.

She is a member of the Blackfeet Tribe and Comanche Nation, and her company’s names have native origins.

Turtle Island is the name given to North America by Indigenous people in the United States and Canada and is a common creation story.

“We’re protecting Turtle Island, we’re protecting our land,” she said. “It’s the same mindset, we’re protecting each other, we’re protecting our friends.”

If you want to see Negrete’s work, she’ll be at Volcanoes Stadium on Sept. 5 for Fire out West, a music and art show.

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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