Demonstrators plan to gather in downtown Portland to protest a Multnomah County grand jury's decision on Thursday not to indict a police officer who shot and killed an African-American motorist during a traffic stop.
Placards outside the Multnomah County Courthouse, where a grand jury met to deliberate a Portland police shooting case.
After hearing testimony from 40 witnesses for three days, the grand jury didn't have enough evidence to send the case to trial or seek criminal charges against Portland Police Bureau Officer Jason Sery, who shot James Jahar Perez on March 28.
The rally and march are scheduled for 4-6 p.m. and will wind through downtown streets to Pioneer Courthouse Square. The demonstration is expected to be peaceful, but it belies the depth of anger, frustration and anxiety that many north and northeast Portland residents feel towards the decision.
"We have to look at the fact that we aren't really too sure we can trust our (district attorney) when he's never, ever brought down an indictment," said demonstration organizer Charles McGee.
Charles McGee is helping organize a demonstration protesting a grand jury's decision not to indict a Portland police officer involved in the shooting of an African-American man during a traffic stop. (KGW Photo)
The rally is scheduled to begin at the Multnomah County Courthouse at 4:20 p.m. The march, which begins about 5 p.m., will head north on SW 4th Avenue and continue to SW Taylor Street. From there, marchers will head westbound on Taylor to SW 9th Avenue and southbound on SW 9th Avenue to Salmon Street.
It is unknown how many people will attend the rally, said Pastor T. Allen Bethel, president of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, a coalition of north Portland religious leaders.
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"I hope the whole city shows up," Bethel said.
With the grand jury refusing to hand up an indictment, the need for an outside investigation by federal authorities into the Portland police department grows even more, said Roy Jay, president of the African-American Chamber of Commerce, which is Oregon's largest minority business group.
The chamber, the NAACP and Portland Police Chief Derrick Foxworth have asked the FBI or the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene. He does not know if the FBI has begun a probe into the Portland police.
"We continue to stick to our position that the only way they can get some real factual information is to bring in the Department of Justice through the FBI and do an independent investigation," Jay said on Friday.
Jay called the planned public inquest, which begins next Wednesday, "a joke."
Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk said an inquest would follow if the grand jury returned with no indictment of Sery. Schrunk has vowed to make public all the information he can about the shooting investigation through the inquest.
But the inquest's limited authority, under Oregon law, means testimony taken during the public proceedings can't be used in any civil or criminal prosecution. The inquest will not reach conclusions on whether Sery was justified in using deadly force.
"It is limited to the name of the deceased, where and when he was killed, and the cause and manner of death," Schrunk said on Thursday.
The inquest could last three or four days and will include the 40 witnesses interviewed by the grand jury this week. Sery is also expected to testify during the inquest.
"It's a joke," Jay said. "What real purpose does an inquest serve? That should be the main concern of not just people in northeast Portland but everybody else."
Despite the tension, the streets in northeast Portland have been calm since the grand jury reached its decision late Thursday afternoon.
African-American ministers, who have taken a leadership role in the community, have urged their congregations to seek peaceful means to express their disillusionment with the Portland police and the grand jury, Jay said.
"I'm very proud of our community," he said. "I know the emotional temperatures are extremely high, but I think we don't want to see Portland turn into a Houston or Cincinnati or Cleveland, where there was talk about police brutality and striking back... Violence leads to nothing at all."