Fouad Kaady Demo Report Back
I learned today, from Rachid Kaady, that the name "Fouad" means "heart" in Lebanese. Somehow, that seems very fitting. Because, although I never met the young man whose life was taken by the police, his presence was nevertheless everywhere today. In the passionate words of his cousins and friends, in the gentle hugs from his father, and in the people who will not let his story fade away, there was surely a lot of heart in Clackamas County this afternoon. And from the bottom of my own heart, I thank each and every one of you who came to stand together on the doorstep of the CCSO, to say we've had enough.
Alejandro Queral, from the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center, began the event by eloquently explaining why we came. "This is not about retaliation," he said. "This is about justice. This is about feeling safe in our communities. This is about holding police accountable for their actions." Alejandro expressed shock and outrage about what happened to Fouad Kaady, and demanded transparency from the police. "We can't have officers investigating themselves," he said. "I hope that you will join me in demanding that Sheriff Roberts create a mechanism by which incidents of this nature can be reviewed by the citizens of this county, and where the entire investigation is made public so that there can be scrutiny of the police department."
Immediately following Alejandro's speech, Alton McDonald of the National Action Network gave a rousing call to action. "Why did the police react in such a brutal and vicious way upon this young man, who needed medical help?" He asked. "Why didn't they call for a paramedic? Why did they do this? The question has yet to be answered." Alton pointed out that the way the police have handled this incident is the way they always handle such incidents: They spend days working on cover stories and spinning lies through the corporate media. They do not seek justice. "This facility," he said, "That was built with tax payer's dollars to protect and serve the community, has now become a place where evil prevails. A place where injustice prevails. The People's rights have been violated by people who work in that building, who are paid by our tax dollars. So I ask you, the citizens of Oregon, is this right?" The crowd answered with a resounding "No!"
Alton went on to call upon the crowd to call the sheriff's office to demand accountability, and to join him, protest signs in hand, at the next county commissioner's meeting to demand that something be done. A woman in the crowd said that she believes that the next meeting will be this Thursday, February 16th, at 9:30am. (I hope that this will be verified by someone who has the time and will to do so.) Alton committed to returning to Clackamas County on Thursday, and asked everyone to join him. I have the distinct impression that they will.
George Kaady then took the microphone to thank the gathered crowd. He expressed gratitude for everything that people had done for his family, and shared that this gathering helped to let his family know "that people do care and we're not alone in this." Said the soft-spoken young man, "We're just going to keep fighting until there's justice for my cousin. This is the reason I'm here today, and I'm going to be out here as much as I have to be until I get justice for Fouad, and until people see what's going on here." He broke down and wept as he described the person Fouad was. Much of the crowd wept with him. He said that Fouad was a peaceful man who respected everyone. "It's really hard to be without him," he said. "He was a big part of my life."
Michael B, from Portland Anti-Imperialists spoke next. "I don't think we can go another day," He said, "And allow one more person to be taken away from us, without complaint." He pointed out that police brutality in America is "a symptom of a larger problem." The message being communicated with each of these police murders, he said, is intentional. "What we're being told with these murders is that they're powerful and we are not." After reading down a long list of people who have been killed by police, Michael B asked the people assembled to understand the meaning of such state-sponsored violence. "The people working in city hall," He said, "They're not working for us. Their campaigns are being paid for by business and money." He pointed out that the police work for these interests, and not for ours. "They want us to know that they can take our lives away at any time." He then asked why they are so afraid. Why do the police kill people in the streets, and then claim they did it because they feared for their lives? "They have the guns," He said. "We don't have guns. We don't have tanks." He concluded, "They are afraid that people from different communities are going to stand up. We're going to stand up, and work together. We're going to stand up against the government, and work against repression. That's what they're afraid of."
All of the speakers today called for accountability. Michael B went a step further, and outlined a plan by which this could be accomplished. "Hey, maybe communities, maybe neighborhood associations, maybe they should be in charge of the money for the police in their area. So if the cops are killing someone in your community, you can say 'hey, I ain't gonna sign your check.'" The crowd heartily approved of this proposal.
Finally, after the mic passed around the crowd for a bit, Ashes (also from the Portland Anti-Imperialists) stood up to speak. "One thing I've been going over in my head," He said, "is, where are we gonna go from here?" He said he wants justice for the Kaady family, but also, "I want justice for everyone. How do we obtain that?" He outlined a plan by which the people no longer allow the police to investigate themselves. He asked that people take the power to oversee the police back into their own neighborhood coalitions. Further, he said, "The police should have to live in the areas that they patrol. This is accountability. If you live next to someone, it's a hell of a lot harder to kill them and walk away."
This was a very spirited gathering. I counted somewhere between 75 and 100 people who had trekked in from all over Cascadia. Considering the very short notice, the logistical issues involved, and the battle fatigue everyone has been feeling lately, this was a pretty good showing. (In an amusing twist, it seems that the CCSO had far more faith in our abilities to mobilize enormous forces on short notice than we did: They had apparently arranged for a huge crowd. According to one observer, there was a staging area behind the building, along with roped-off parking areas which seemed to indicate that they were expecting thousands of demonstrators. Wow! Well, maybe next time.)
I found this event very touching in many ways. When I looked around this gathering, I saw what I had hoped to see: I saw anarchist kids dressed in black bloc, and spirited little old ladies. And I saw everything in between. And, in spite of a healthy dose of skepticism from at least some old-school organizers, there was no need for any "ground rules." This was a very respectful gathering, where everyone was focused on the issues at hand. Many people rode the bus in from Portland, while others came from Sandy, Colton, Scotts Mills, and from right there in Oregon City. I think it meant a lot to the Kaady family.
The most touching thing of all was the quiet dignity and grace of Fouad's father, Rachid Kaady. I don't know if I have ever met a man with so much strength. Clearly devastated by what has happened to his family, Rachid nevertheless had the grace to personally thank each and every person who came. When I introduced myself to him, he hugged me. I watched him walk through the crowd, quietly greeting and hugging everyone he spoke with. Something about watching this man desperately trying to hold together in the face of all this, this man who so clearly deserves better, something about it made me both very angry -- at the police, for what they have done -- but it also made me feel hopeful. If he can be strong enough to keep his faith in his fellow human beings after everything that's happened, then I think we can all be strong enough to do what we need to do to bring justice to his family.
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