Friday, February 19, 2010

Jesse Jackson Rallies Community Over Aaron Campbell Shooting

By Helen Jung, The Oregonian
February 16, 2010
Michael Lloyd/The Oregonian
The Rev. Jesse Jackson talks to reporters and others Tuesday evening at the Maranatha Church in Northeast Portland about the shooting of Aaron Campbell.

Jesse Jackson Rallies Community Over Aaron Campbell Shooting

Calling the police shooting of an unarmed man an "execution," the Rev. Jesse Jackson on Tuesday said letting the police officer who fired the shot return to work as scheduled is "insulting."

Jackson, in Portland to talk to local leaders about the Jan. 29 shooting death of Aaron M. Campbell, made the statement to media and during an evening rally at the Maranatha Church in Northeast Portland. The rally drew a standing-room only crowd in the sanctuary, which seats 1,200 people.

Jackson, long known worldwide as an advocate for human and civil rights, added that he is asking the federal Department of Justice and the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., to review the shooting. The case started as a call from family members to check on Campbell, who was distraught over the death of his younger brother.

"We think this case is really national," Jackson said, adding that Campbell's killing was the fourth shooting of an unarmed black man or woman by Portland police in the last several years.

Earlier in the day, Jackson, along with Pastor LeRoy Haynes of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, met with Portland Mayor Sam Adams, and City Commissioner Dan Saltzman to discuss the shooting and the city's handling of the situation.

Campbell was shot in the back by Officer Ronald Frashour when Frashour said he thought Campbell was reaching toward his waistband for a weapon. Witnesses said Campbell had been walking backward toward police with his hands locked behind his head moments before the fatal shot.

A Multnomah County grand jury cleared Frashour of criminal wrongdoing in the shooting, but sent a letter to the county district attorney's office that was highly critical of police handling of the incident.

Jackson also criticized that for more than 30 minutes, police left Campbell's body on the ground "bleeding like a dog." They let a dog sniff him, and even handcuffed him, he said, adding "that's beneath the dignity of man. That's beneath the dignity of Oregonians. That's beneath the dignity of the citizens of Portland."

But to allow Frashour to return to work on Wednesday, so soon after the shooting is "insulting" and tarnishes the integrity of the Police Bureau as a whole, he said. The Coalition for Justice and Police Reform is planning a protest to start at 12 noon on Wednesday if Frashour returns to work.

Frashour is being reassigned to the East Precinct's Neighborhood Response Team, where he won't be responding to emergency calls. The police chief has also removed his AR-15 rifle, with which he fatally shot Campbell.

Saltzman said early in the evening he would consider Jackson's suggestion that Frashour be suspended for the time being, but added that he is "not promising a decision tomorrow."

Jackson also raised concerns about the lack of minority representation in the city's police and fire agencies, as well as in the grand jury that decided against bringing charges against Frashour. He also said the grand jury did not hear testimony from several witnesses.

While Jackson repeated many of the same themes at the rally, he energized the crowd with other messages as well. He urged the audience to use "this crisis for a redemptive moment" and "a reflective moment on crooked ways that must be made straight."

The crowd enthusiastically repeated his calls to "save the children," and to "keep hope alive," often punctuating approval with standing ovations and yells of support. They also cheered his calls to stop self-destructive behavior and to reject drugs and violence.

But people need to continue working for equal opportunity and equal protection under the law, he said.

"Wherever the playing field is even, and the rules are public, and the goals are clear, and the referee is fair," Jackson said, "we can win the day."

-- Helen Jung

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