A community meeting to 'answer questions' about the death of Kendra James has been scheduled for July 1 from 5-10 PM at the Mt.Olivet Baptist Church Family Center at 8725 North Chautauqua Blvd (this is in North Portland near University Park and on the #4 Fessenden bus line.)
The meeting, which had originally been scheduled for early June at Jefferson High School, is a joint effort of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, which has held several meetings and coordinated the public rally to demand justice for Kendra James, and the Portland police. The police and city officials have stated that they will attempt to present all the evidence to the public at that time.
This meeting information, which was taken from the Oregonian and other news sources, was accurate at the time of posting. It should be kept in mind that this public meeting has been re-scheduled and moved once already.
More importantly, it should be kept in mind that the Portland police, Chief Kroeker and Mayor Katz are attempting to walk a political tightrope here. They will do whatever is necessary to both preserve their jobs and maintain political control in Portland. The recent announcement of suspensions for the officers involved in the shooting, if true, would appear to be the necessary bone to be thrown to the public prior to this meeting. A long meeting (5 hours!) at which Chief Kroeker and Mayor Katz and assorted lackeys will attempt to bore and bedazzle the audience with trivia, minute details and police procedures, topped by announcements of the suspensions, is an attempt to deflect the anger that was obvious in the streets of Portland recently. Other public forums involving Chief Kroeker, such as the post-May Day 2000 and the meeting with the lesbian/gay community following release of his tapes by the Portland Alliance, have been viewed as political defeats for the Mayor and Kroeker.
Those who were most informed about the shooting, the grand jury members, decided against bringing charges against Officer McCollister. However, "several jurors said the shooting could have been avoided." "One juror said McCollister should not be allowed to carry a police badge." (Oregonian, 6/10/03). A number of the statements and actions of McCollister and his partners have been harshly questioned by local police officers as well as national experts in police procedure.
The question remains for the white activists who marched in the memorial rally for Kendra James: will we be reliable allies? The African-American community has been solid in its demand that Officer McCollister be fired, that current regulations governing shootings by police be changed, and that grand juries not be used to continually excuse police shootings.
Those who wish to see community control of the police, whether in the form of an independent civilian review board or other forms, as well as justice for Kendra James and her family, should be present at this meeting. We should be respectful of those who have earned our respect - and disdainful of those who have lied to the people of Portland time and again.