The story goes: Police shoot an unarmed individual. The district attorney handpicks evidence, often without key witnesses. The grand jury declines to indict¬. The community responds with sadness, then anger. The police say they need more money to correct the problem. City Hall does damage control. The media delivers the play-by-play. The community speaks of coalition building. A series of rallies happen. City Hall and the police get sued in civil court. The city doles out hundreds of thousands of dollars to the victims family. Ultimately, nothing changes.
What makes the shooting of Aaron Cambell different? We’re not sure anything. Street Roots has been around for 11-years. In that time, four unarmed individuals have been shot and killed in controversial scenarios by the Portland Police Bureau.
Of course, with both Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton becoming involved, the energy does seem higher. Both the Mental Health Association of Portland, and the Portland Skanner have come out and said to their communities that in a time of crisis, don’t call the police. That’s pretty bold. And to be honest, Street Roots doesn’t disagree.
For many years, regardless of violence, SR has worked to take care of its own problems, knowing full well that if the police are involved, there’s a chance something bad may occur. Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t call the police at times (very rarely), or have an open relationship with them, or respect officers, because we do. But the reality is the bureau treats us more as adversaries than as an organization that works to stabilize poor folk on street corners.
Take the case of Sisters Of The Road, which is more or less being targeted by the police (see our front page story on the situation). The organization has been reprimanded by the bureau for having too many calls for service to their corner, and for the drug activity in Old Town around the block it inhabits. After 30 years of service helping the people who need help the most, at a time when drugs and violence on the streets are as bad or worse than when Sisters opened, it is now all Sisters’ fault. The organization is under a screw, yet there is no public oversight of the police and City Hall which has lost control of what the bureau does.
Stakeout operations on the homeless for infractions such as jaywalking. Moving poor people from one hot spot to another when the needed housing doesn’t exist. City Hall that time and again backs down to the police while people’s civil rights are ignored, knowing full well that criminal records are a major reason why many people can’t access housing. The list goes on and on. And honestly, down here on the block, no one is listening to the message anymore — not on these issues anyway.
How does this relate to Aaron Campbell? We are all connected, yet as we choose to act in a vacuum, all of our communities are ignored, discredited and harped upon for calling the shots as we see them.
What we see is a city that continues to target the homeless, minorities, the mentally ill, and in this case, an individual who was shot in the back and left for up to 40 minutes before medical responders are called in, long after the individual is dead. With this attitude you are more or less saying to us we are animals. And we’re damn tired of it. We want a fair playing field. We want peace. And we want justice.