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Community shares emotions and ideas for change following killing of Aaron Campbell

On February 15, ideas about strategies to affect change as well as experiences of the loss of family members at the hands of the police were shared by members of the Portland African-American community and their allies at Grief, anger and fear: Black lives lost in interactions with police, an event put on by Portland's own Restorative Listening Project on Gentrification. The organization sponsors dialogues focusing on the "stories and experiences of Portland's Black community and seeks to address historic and continuing harm and disparity."
"If you're shocked, you're not living in America."

"There are two different Portlands. There is a disparity in treatment many white people don't understand."

"The stinking sore of racism has been exposed. The band-aid has been pulled off, the disease needs to be treated."

"This is a fight for life. This is a fight for the life of my children."

"If you can talk about it (righting the wrong), you have to BE about it."

The above were just some of the sentiments expressed at Grief, anger and fear: Black lives lost in interactions with police, an event put on by Portland's own Restorative Listening Project on Gentrification, an organization which sponsors dialogues focusing on the "stories and experiences of Portland's Black community and seeks to address historic and continuing harm and disparity."

The monthly community dialogue?this time focusing on the issue of police brutality?was attended by approximately sixty Portland residents from a variety of backgrounds and of different ages, ranging from young people to veteran activists.

At the forefront of everyone's minds was the recent fatal shooting by a white Portland police officer of Aaron Campbell, an unarmed 25-year-old African American.

The experiences of a number of the members of the African-American community and their allies resounded through the room. Among them were stories of relatives who had lost loved ones to police brutality. Emotions, ideas about strategies as well as past and future actions to affect change were shared.

Campbell's grandmother spoke about the stress and grief she has been experiencing since her grandson's death on January 29th. She said: "I keep asking myself why. Why did they have to shoot him down like a dog? He was unarmed."

Several mothers spoke of the fear they live with; the fear of their black sons getting murdered by the police, a fear which prevents them so often from being able to sleep at night. This very fear was echoed this week in a column by Lisa McCall, an assistant principal in the Portland Public Schools, in The Oregonian. In the column, McCall writes:

"The tragic death of Aaron Campbell has brought home some of the worst fears the mother of a young black man could have. . . History is against us, against our sons, against our best efforts to protect them. Even in 2010, far from the injustices of the past, we are reminded that our fears are very real. . . .We are reminded that the system has failed to protect us. . . I do wish that police in Portland and around the country would think twice about their own contribution to the fear they see in a black woman's eyes when she instinctively pulls her son close to her while simply walking past a white officer on the street. . . Those good officers owe all those worried black mothers a little respect for that fear, and some public assurance they will try to never let something like this happen in Portland again.


Campbell's uncle and cousin were present at the dialogue as well, both of them upset, grieving, and trying to work with the family to help them heal while also being active in rallying for change in police conduct and accountability.

There have been exhaustive studies done to show empirically that people of color, especially African-American men are many times more likely to be searched, arrested, charged, even killed by the police than any other demographic. Portland is no exception to the disastrous trend of racial profiling and police brutality disproportionately affecting the Black community.

From the ACLU website
: "The practice of racial profiling by members of law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels remains a widespread and pervasive problem throughout the United States, impacting the lives of millions of people in African American, Asian, Latino, South Asian, Arab and Muslim communities.

Data and anecdotal information from across the country reveal that racial minorities continue to be unfairly victimized when authorities investigate, stop, frisk, or search individuals based upon subjective identity-based characteristics rather than identifiable evidence of illegal activity. Victims continue to be racially or ethnically profiled while they work, drive, shop, pray, travel, and stand on the street."


For those wanting to show support to the grieving family and those interested in engaging in community activism surrounding the issue of police brutality, there will be a rally at Pioneer Square this Friday, February 19th at 3:00 pm.