57 Years Later And We’re Still Fighting

This past weekend was a historical moment in time and a poignant one, by virtue of what circumstances we have been facing the first half of 2020.

It was a moment that I was privileged to be hired to document, but, moreover, spend time, break bread and have in depth conversations with direct family members of deceased citizens, by the hands of the Portland Police Bureau and Vancouver, WA police officers, the oldest being 1975 (Rickey Johnson).

This past weekend we all were sponsored by private donors of Portland, to attend the Knee Off Our Necks rally and march, on the steps of the exact location of the March On Washington 57 years earlier. Organized by activist, family member of a deceased victim by police and concert promoter, Joe Bean Keller. The attendees were kin to the following victims:

Rickey Johnson (1975)

Deontae Keller (1996)

Byron Hammick (2002)

Kendra James (2003)

James Jahar Perez (2004)

Aaron Campbell (2010)

Keaton Otis (2010)

Quanice Hayes (2017)

Jason Washington (2018)

Carlos Hunter (2019)

The purpose of this mega-rally was to call out racial injustices right in the backyard of the 45th president, the immediate day after the 2020 Republican National Convention. Organized by the National Action Network, the event started early morning Friday, August 28 with speakers Al Sharpton and family members of the deceased victims, George Floyd, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Travon Martin and Breonna Taylor.

Watching and interacting with family members of slain victims from cities all over the U.S., gave me a new perspective of how much larger this problem of police injustice is. Not every killing makes the news…only the most outrageously violent ones, whether captured on video or not. The posted images of slain citizens by D.C. Metro police, that were posted on the fence surrounding the White House, expanded that perspective.

The love and solidarity shown to each other by all of, what I estimated was, 500,000 people by Noon, was incredible to witness and be a part of. Our white and brown allies were also in attendance in large numbers. There were even a sprinkle of right-wing Trump supporters I witnessed walking through our throng, but guess what?…nobody (as far as I can tell and see) even gave them an iota of attention. I would hope that those few folks will take back with them to their side, an appreciation for our attendees allowing them to state their support for their leader without resistance or worse yet, violence, as we’ve all seen in flipped scenarios.

I got a chance to interview almost all the families in the group, individually, to get their feelings on the experience of this event and they were very pleased with how it went and have hopes for protection of the next generation against undue violence. I didn’t get any response at all regarding justice for their slain family members. I feel like most of them, although fighting the city (which a few have received monetary compensation) over their individual cases, feel like justice is slipping away every month that goes by. That’s just my opinion.

In summary, I’m so glad that I was part of this historic event and now I have new friends to care about and look forward to seeing them in the near future.


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