Activists are planning protests outside Portland's downtown Justice Center and at city hall on September 17 to mark the one-year anniversary of the controversial death in custody of James Chasse.
Chasse, a schizophrenic chased through the Pearl District by Portland police after urinating in the street, was tackled to the ground opposite the Bluehour restaurant on NW Everett. There, Chasse—who weighed 145 pounds and stood 5' 9"—was beaten and Tasered repeatedly in front of more than a dozen witnesses, then carted off to jail in a squad car, instead of to the hospital. He died just over an hour later, en route to the hospital after jail nurses told the cops he could not stay in a cell.
Members of the Mental Health Association (MHA) of Portland, which has focused its advocacy on Chasse's death for the past year, met last Saturday to plan a "peaceful statement" at 4 pm outside city hall, and draft a letter to the mayor listing their unanswered questions.
"Is it safe for families of people with mental illness to call the police in an emergency, whether it be a psychiatric emergency or any other sort?" asked Jason Renaud of the MHA. "The other question which I think has gone unanswered is: What the hell happened? Don't we have policies, procedures, and a justice system that can resolve this? Don't we have a way to remove police officers from the force who do things like this?"
Sergeant Kyle Nice and Officer Christopher Humphreys, who were cleared of criminal wrongdoing related to Chasse's death by a grand jury, are still working for the Portland Police Bureau, while Sheriff's Deputy Brett Burton, also cleared, is still employed by Multnomah County. Meanwhile Chasse's family continues to pursue a civil lawsuit against the city.
A more radical all-day protest is also planned for September 17 by a group posting anonymously on activist website Indymedia. The group plans to set up shop at 8 am on SW 2nd and Main, directly opposite the cops' Central Precinct building, and to stay there all day.
"We want the cops to see us as they enter work that day, as they head out for street patrols, as they head out to lunch," wrote the organizers, on the website. "We will not be ignored. We demand justice. We will not live in fear." Efforts by the Mercury to contact the organizers of this protest were unsuccessful by press time.