A little more than a month ago, Keri Salim, owner of Chez What? Café in Northeast Portland, found herself nervously addressing a closed-door, private youth crime discussion that included Mayor Vera Katz and officers from the Northeast Police Precinct. Amid back-slapping endorsements for more gang enforcement in the neighborhood, Salim put forth a lone dissenting voice.
"I was the only person feeling negative about the police enforcement that was there," said Salim. Over the past several months, she has seen a number of the Alberta neighborhood's punk crowd profiled as anarchists and jackboot thugs by the police. In turn, many of these youth have been shaken down, questioned and harassed. Salim likens the police intimidation to tactics during the 1960s anti-war movement. "This is a really good group of kids," she adds.
Salim has particular reason for concern, as these frictions and perceived profiling have resulted in very serious and real consequences for two area residents--one a former cook at Chez What.
In late March, a seemingly innocent house party near Alberta Street drew a massive police response. Forty-three police arrived to quell a noise complaint caused by approximately 50 party-goers. During an ensuing melee, police maintain that several of the party-goers attacked a police officer and dragged him into their house. The fall-out from this incident has left felony charges for first-degree kidnapping hanging around the necks of two party-goers--Bjorn Einertsen and Chad Hapshe.
The trial for Einersten and Hapshe was scheduled to begin in mid-May, but has been delayed due to a scheduling conflict for Scott Kerin, the District Attorney handling the case. The charges and pending trial are acutely heinous because kidnapping is a so-called Measure 11 crime, which carries minimum mandatory jail time of nearly nine years and no time off for good behavior. As a Measure 11 crime, if found guilty, neither a judge or jury can reduce the prison time.
So far, plans for the trial are plodding forward, and neither side is backing down; District Attorney Kerin, who holds the real discretion for which charges are pressed, has stuck to his guns.
A recent bakesale benefit at Chez What? garnered $500 to help with Einertsen and Hapsheare's legal defense; they are headed to court with a pending trial date of June 18. Donations for their legal defense can be dropped off at Chez What.