1,400 people rallied at Alberta Park at 20th and N.E. Killingsworth on Saturday, the 24th, at noon to protest the murder of Kendra James by a Portland police officer. A speaker said: "We have gathered here because we are sick and tired of what has happened in our city. ... We want justice for everyone. We want to send a clear message; we want to change the system, our police department, and the legislature. ... We want the blessings of God to be at this rally. We are one with one voice."
The whole day was imbued with religiosity. "You can't be separated from one another because we were all created together." Compared to other protests there was a large proportion of church members. The march began and ended with "We shall overcome"; rather than "someday" we sang "today". The strong desire for justice wasn't expressed with a lot of negativity but with hope. "Fear knocked on the door and faith answered," someone said. The idea of redemption was present in some of the speeches. A woman said that "whether you're a crack addict or a PhD, your life has value." Another person, in reference to Kendra's drug-use, stated, "Anybody's life can be changed."
At about 1 p.m., the crowd marched to the spot where Kendra James, mother of two, was killed. Cars and vans were at the tail of the march, many associated with local churches. Officers Barbour, Engen, Felts, Parks, and Scott, and Cash were among the unusually polite and well behaved police escorts. Approximately 925 people were counted as the march started. At MLK & Killingsworth, the estimate was at least 1,200, and it grew after that.
A truck with a sound system was out in front. People led chants and sang from it. "Justice" was the keyword for the day. The crowd was mixed in race, gender, and age. As it turned onto Skidmore, the song was, 'Let us break bread together.'
The Last stop was just past Mississippi & Skidmore, near the Greater Faith Baptist Church, where I-84 crosses. On the sidewalk two black men had a confrontation, one in uniform, one not. Officer Cash said that he's been with the police force for 14 years and hasn't shot one person. The other man said: "But you're hanging out with murderers. How can you live with yourself when you live with these Goddam devils? ... You can't even sleep with yourself." In response to all officers who have been rude and disrespectful, someone else said, "let them all be rooted out." It was pointed out that the mayor, police chief, and district attorney are our employees. "We can vote 'em in, we can [here the crowd took over] vote 'em out."
Pastor Mark Knutsen closed with prayer. He said that a meeting was cancelled because "there's always time for meetings, but there's a time to be in the street." There was a call to meet at 1552 N. Killingsworth at 9 a.m. June 4th go to Salem to speak with the legislature and demand justice. This was holy ground where blood was shed, he said. Robert Larry, of the NAACP, spoke strongly about the importance of consistency and continued community effort. "This is the straw that broke the camel's back. We have to make sure that we are consistent. Forward together and backward never. ... We have to stay together, we have to work together."
The last sign which I noticed was my favorite: "Preemptive Love".