Jason Washington mourned at 'Disarm PSU' rally
"Say his name!" they chanted, "Say his name!"
Hundreds called on Portland State University administrators to "#DisarmPSU" at a rally in honor of the man family and friends say was shot to death by campus police officers: Jason Washington.
"I graduated from Portland State University and I am disgusted," Andre Washington, who lost his little brother, said in a brief statement at the 5 p.m. protest on Sunday, July 1.
Lining the steps of Pioneer Courthouse Square, dozens of family members wearing black and organizers from the PSU Student Union hailed the slain 45-year-old Portland resident, Navy veteran and long-time letter carrier as a "hero."
"The loss for his wife — for his three daughters, his granddaughter, his family, his friends — is incalculable," cried Melinda Leiva, a friend. "There's nothing good that's going to come from this, except it can't happen again."
Police have released scant details about the shooting that occurred around 1:30 a.m. on Friday, June 29 outside the Cheerful Tortoise bar, 1939 S.W. Sixth Avenue, which is located across the street from student housing.
Cell phone video obtained by Oregon Public Broadcasting, a news partner of the Pamplin Media Group, appears to show Washington intervening in a dispute between two other patrons when a black object falls out of his holster.
Witnesses told the radio station that officers began to shout "gun!" and then opened fire as Washington reached down to retrieve his firearm. The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office confirmed to OPB that Washington had a valid concealed carry permit.
Shawn McKenzie and James Dewey, members of the PSU Campus Public Safety Office who are sworn officers of the Portland Police Bureau, have been placed on paid administrative leave. School leadership said in a statement they were cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation.
While it's not uncommon for public universities to employ armed police, PSU's campus safety officers did not carry guns until 2015. The board of trustees approved deputization, arguing their department would have its own culture and that local officers could speedily respond to an active shooter.
Protest organizers said 58 percent of students opposed the move in a survey conducted then, and that a number of student groups formally disagreed with the decision, including the student senate.
Jo Ann Hardesty, who served on a related advisory committee at that time, said the majority of PSU's police force are former members of the Portland Police Bureau.
"We knew someone would be killed by Portland State University police. The only question was when," she said, adding that students of color are disproportionately targeted by campus police and often asked to show their ID.
At the rally, protesters held signs reading "Jason Washington: Rest in Power" and wrote "Police State University" in chalk on the bricks of the city square.
PSU sophomore Brianna Henderson began to cry as soon as she finished addressing the crowd. The political science major lives across the street from the Cheerful Tortoise in the University Pointe dormitory tower.
"My black skin is not a threat. Jason's black skin is not a threat," she said. "He did not deserve this. He was a good man."
After more than an hour of speeches, several hundred marchers filled all four lanes of Southwest Broadway as they walked to the Campus Public Safety Office on the corner with Montgomery Street, where they adorned the building with posters and chalk writing.
"I'm ashamed that I go to this school," Student Union leader and PSU senior Olivia Pace megaphoned. "And it's our job to fix it."