Justice for Aaron Campbell

February 22, 2010

PORTLAND, Ore.--Some 300 people stormed City Hall on February 17 to demand justice for Aaron Campbell, a 25-year-old unarmed African American who was shot in the back by police while his hands were on his head on January 29.

The protesters marched from a rally at the Justice Center, where demonstrators heard, as expected, that Officer Ronald Frashour, who shot Campbell with an AR 15 rifle, had been put back on duty in the morning.

Chanting "No justice, no peace! No racist police!" the angry crowd listened to Dr. LeRoy Haynes from the Albina Ministerial Alliance say, "As they will not listen, we must take it to the next level."

Protesters took their demonstration to City Hall where angry people confronted Mayor Sam Adams face to face about the racism and lack of justice in Portland's police department. Chants of "Fire him! Fire him!" echoed around the building.

People weren't going to be put off with the old excuse "Let's get all the facts." At the insistence of the crowd, the mayor agreed to meet with Aaron Campbell's family behind closed doors.

The evening before, a multiracial crowd of 1,200 packed the Maranatha Church in North East Portland, the neighborhood where shooting took place, to hear the Rev. Jesse Jackson speak out against this police killing, which he described as an execution and compared to New York and Chicago police killings.

Portlanders are also angry because Campbell's murder isn't an isolated incident, but one of several recent deaths at the hands of Portland police, including the killings of Kendra James, James Perez, José Mejía Poot and James Chasse. In every case, a grand jury has failed to indict any officer.

ON THE morning of January 29, Aaron's brother, Timothy, with whom he had a close relationship, died after a long struggle with heart disease. Aaron had become depressed and suicidal. He had gone to the apartment of Angie Jones, his girlfriend, where her three children were.

Jones' aunt phoned the police with concerns that Aaron was suicidal. Jones and her three children came out of the apartment. After some text messaging and phone calls with Officer James Quackenbush, Aaron came out of the apartment walking backwards with his hands on his head.

The police claimed Campbell wasn't cooperating and shot him six times with beanbag rounds. He was also attacked by a police dog. Aaron's hands came down after being shot with the beanbag rounds, probably because of the pain. Then he was shot once in the back by Officer Frashour, who claimed that he thought Campbell was reaching for a gun in his waistband. But there was no gun. He was then handcuffed and left on the ground while the dog sniffed around for half an hour before any medical attention was allowed.

Frashour was already the subject of a successful $55,000 lawsuit after he Tasered a man who was using a video camera. Other recent incidents have caused anger among the African American community, such as a 12-year-old Black girl who three police officers roughly tackled on a light rail station and shot at close range with a beanbag rounds. This was caught on the station's video camera.

Delease Carter, a young Black woman student, was knocked to the ground by five cops with guns cocked, because she "looked like a gang member."

The Albina Ministerial Alliance is demanding that, among other things, the city hold a public inquiry into Campbell's death and establish a special prosecutor for police excessive force and deadly force cases.

A grand jury found no legal grounds to indict Frashour, but took the unusual step of sending a three-page letter to the attorney general severely criticizing the police action. As Bishop A.A. Wells pointed out, "A grand jury can't indict because Oregon statute doesn't allow it. The law before the act exonerates the officer."

Aaron's mother buried two sons on the same day, and it didn't need to happen. Aaron's family and friends are determined to get justice and get Frashour off the streets for everyone's safety.

This time, the community has been galvanized and will not let the police officer, the police department or the city get away with murder. As Bishop Wells said outside the Justice Center, "We are here and we are not going away, enough is enough, we've had too much."

Watch video of the February 17 rally and march on City Hall on YouTube.

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