March for ‘justice’

Hundreds gathered Saturday afternoon in Northeast Portland to rally for justice and the end of police brutality, in reaction to the May 5 shooting of Kendra James.

The rally began in Alberta Park, where the last of large red and white signs reading “Justice” were distributed and several local pastors made speeches and led a variety of chants. The chants included phrases, such as “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” and “We must forgive, but we won’t forget!”

Other signs and banners carried by the crowd expressed similar sentiments. One read, “Portland Police: How did you ‘serve and protect’ Kendra James?” Another asked “Who will protect us from the police?”

Organizers were adamant the rally and march remain peaceful, and had designated helpers in bright orange vests interspersed in the crowd to make sure people did not get out of control. Portland police officers were also on hand.

Officers on foot and on bicycles kept an eye on the march from the sidewalk. Also, one group of police officers on motorcycles and in cars led the protest, while a similar group followed behind the crowd.

“We’re here to make sure no outside influences cause problems for the marchers,” Police Sgt. Mark Schaffer explained.

The march went from Alberta Park, past the Northeast Portland police precinct and ended at the I-5 overpass at North Skidmore Street, where James was killed.

Even as the march began, latecomers were hurrying to catch up, many carrying homemade signs.

Among more than 500 community members, several Portland State University students were present, as well.

Jesse Shapiro came out because he feels police shootings occur too consistently.

“I really think that it’s important that community members come together to show that this can’t continue,” Shapiro said.

Laura Campos was busy handing out fliers for an upcoming discussion at PSU about police accountability.

“I’ve been doing this since 1981,” Campos said of attending various rallies and marches to end race-based police brutality.

“It’s important for people to come out and analyze what happened,” another PSU student, Pollyanne Birge said. “There were a lot of mistakes.”

One woman came wearing a shirt that read, “Mayor Katz: Fire Kroeker before he fires on us – again.”

Lynda Jordan, a nurse, mother and grandmother, said too many deaths like James’ should be preventable.

“I’m tired of seeing violence. Basically, I’m mad,” Jordan said.

Linda McKinney, a former PSU student, called what happened to Kendra James “police-assisted suicide.”

“It’s not just people of color that are upset, it’s everyone,” McKinney said. “I want respect in our community and I want to be treated as an individual. I know racism when I see it.”


McKinney also stressed that the media has to be held accountable, as well as the police. Additionally, McKinney questioned the testimonies of the officers at the scene, including Officer Scott McCollister, who shot and killed James.

“My logic tells me somebody’s lying.”

At approximately 2 p.m., the marchers reached the I-5 overpass where James was killed. When they arrived, cameramen and reporters from four of the local major network news stations were waiting to capture the event on film, including KOIN 6, Northwest News Channel 8, Fox 12 and KATU.

As the crowd regrouped around a portable stage in front of the wall filled with photos, messages, flowers and other assorted gifts for the memory of James, the tail end of the marchers were still several blocks away.

The group of approximately 10 pastors from local churches who had led the march, gathered at the stage area. The various pastors led the crowd through hymns, songs, prayers and encouraging speeches.

“We’re here not because of what happened the other day, but because that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” one pastor said. “It’s time for change.”

Another pastor read a list of several other local community members that have been shot and killed by police officers and lead a prayer for them and the “nameless others.”

One pastor stressed the importance that their message calling for justice and a reform in the use of police brutality reach the legislators in Salem.

In response, Sen. Avel Gordly (D-Portland) spoke and promised, “We’re going to get some changes in the grand jury.”

Gordly also said that the legislation would be working for changes in the use of police brutality.

“If you want to make a difference, register to vote!”

One pastor summarized the sentiments of the day when he questioned McCollister’s statement that he feared for his life.

“We are afraid for our lives!” the pastor shouted, to which the crowd responded with clapping and cheering.

There will be a forum on police accountability June 2 in Smith Memorial Student Union, Room 228, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The forum, sponsored by Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztl퀌�n and the Black Cultural Affairs Board, will address issues surrounding the killing of James and of Mejia Poot. For further information, contact the Multicultural Center at 503-725-5342.