PORTLAND, Ore. – Hundreds of people attended a vigil in downtown Portland on Thursday afternoon for victims of what's being called excessive police force.
The vigil was one of hundreds held in cities nationwide in the wake of four days of violent clashes between protesters and police in Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown was shot and killed Saturday.
Many of those who attended the vigil told KGW they believe the shooting of Michael Brown was not a unique situation. They said police shooting deaths of unarmed black citizens like Brown are now expected.
"It's horrifying," said Jen Dugger who grew up in Ferguson. "The police force obviously needs some work."
Later in the evening dozens lined up along NE Martin Luther King. They were fed up with what they were calling police brutality.
"Police are not above the law," said T.J. Love. "They're supposed to uphold the law."
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said about 400 people attended the vigil, which included a moment of silence.
The mayor released a statement in response to the events in Ferguson earlier Thursday afternoon:
My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Michael Brown, the young man shot in Ferguson, Mo. My thoughts and prayers go out to the entire community of Ferguson. And also to the African-American community in Portland, and throughout Oregon, and throughout our nation.
No law-abiding people should ever have reason to fear the police. Yet we must honestly admit that, too often, this is not true for a wide swath of our community: people of color.
That's why I've made it a priority to join with many of my fellow mayors to focus on the lives of young black men in our community. Mayors like Michael Nutter in Philadelphia, and Mitch Landrieu in New Orleans, and I are focusing on this very topic through the Black Male Achievement Initiative.
In Portland, we are focusing on ways to collaborate with the community and to intercede on behalf of young African-Americans in the areas of jobs, education and incarceration rates. This is vital work. That is as true in Portland as it is everywhere.
Also in Portland, we have put a priority on new training for our Police Bureau, with an emphasis on the appropriate use of force, on de-escalation and on equity. Bureau members have begun receiving training on systemic inequities, implicit bias and cultural diversity. In July, as mayor and police commissioner, I joined in three intensive days of training for my staff and the top officials of the police department, on these very topics. The training, called White Men as Full Diversity Partners, was controversial to some but understood by many. But this week's headlines provide just one example of why such training is vital.
We, as a society, have consistently failed multiple groups of Americans. We cannot continue to do so in the future.
Mayor Charlie Hales