About 100 students from Gresham High School rallied in front of the school and marched to City Hall Thursday to protest what they characterize as a racist incident on campus in which police used excessive force on a student.
The students walked out of class Thursday afternoon, May 2, and marched to City Hall and Gresham Police Department headquarters on Eastman Parkway carrying homemade signs and chanting various slogans including "no justice, no peace, no racist police."
The demonstration was sparked by an April 15 incident at the high school in which two white Gresham Police officers took Kamelya Jack, a petite 17 year-old black female student, to the ground, handcuffed and held her until her parents came to pick her up.
Senior Kaylyn Scott said the group was marching because "there was an unnecessary use of force against (Jack) and that was not OK. She's 5-feet, 3-inches (tall). It was unnecessary."
The incident has been "the big talk of the school," Scott said. "The officer is still working at the school. A lot of students feel unsafe with him at school."
Student leaders warned the group to be non-violent and respectful. Students even scolded others who did not cross the street in a crosswalk.
Fewer than 10 percent of Gresham High School's 1,400 students are black or multiracial, and the school does not have a single black teacher, according to the most recent statistics from the Oregon Department of Education.
The students marched past Gresham-Barlow School District administrators, including Katrise Perera, the superintendent. She declined to comment on the march or the incident that led up to it.
Rocky Lor, an 18-year-old senior, said he was marching "to show that us kids that are minorities should have equality."
Several students went into City Hall. They asked to meet with the mayor or other city representative to voice their concerns. They were told to make an appointment and come back.
Elizabeth Coffey, the city's public information officer, said someone will meet with the students soon.
The students then marched to the police headquarters. Several entered and asked for a meeting. The demonstrators then packed the lobby and quietly waited, but eventually began chanting for the police chief.
A police spokesman emailed that Police Chief Robin Sells "spoke to them at the front counter trying to arrange a meeting with them for next week."
Jack, the student involved in the April 15 incident, attended the rally but stayed quietly off to the side.
Her mother, Loyce Robinson, said earlier that "this has been a very difficult thing for our family."
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