Jason Washington protesters begin to 'Occupy PSU'
Students protesting the death of a man killed by Portland State University's police force plan to camp outside the Campus Public Safety office until administrators agree to meet their demands.
"PSU murdered someone this summer," organizer Olivia Pace megaphoned before the protest march began on Monday, Sept. 24, the first day of classes for many students at the public university. "He was killed because he was a black man with a gun."
Washington — a 45-year-old Navy veteran who worked as a downtown postal worker — was hit by nine bullets fired by two PSU officers responding to reports of a late-night tussle outside a dormitory tower on Friday, June 29.
Bystander testimony and video recordings show that Washington was attempting to break up a drunken fight when a friend's handgun slipped out of Washington's pocket. Washington had a valid concealed carry permit.
"Jason was a provider, a protector, a husband, a father, a papa, a friend, a veteran and he was our everything. He was violently and needlessly taken from us," widow Michelle Washington said at the spot where the fatal shooting occurred.
"His motto was God, family, friends, country and he lived his life that way until the end," she continued. "I will miss him every second of my life until I meet him again in eternity."
Body camera footage released this month shows that officers James Dewey and Shawn McKenzie opened fire 17 times about 15 seconds after they stepped out of their patrol vehicles and approached multiple men brawling near the Cheerful Tortoise bar.
They were placed on paid administrative leave until a Multnomah County grand jury declined to bring charges against either officer. They are now reportedly on desk duty.
Andre Washington, Jason's brother, said the administration did not alert family members before the footage and autopsy report was released.
"I woke up in a lot of distress," he said. "They [PSU administration] can say what they want, but they haven't worked with us at all."
More than a dozen protesters have pitched tents outside the Campus Safety building, and organizers with the Portland State University Student Union are soliciting testimony for the board of trustees' upcoming quarterly meeting on Oct. 4. They plan to demand that PSU disarm all police, that officers Dewey and McKenzie be fired and that a permanent memorial for Washington is created. A makeshift memorial was removed by his family on the orders of of PSU President Rahmat Shoureshi in August.
In a statement provided to the Tribune, school leaders said the death has had a "profound impact on the Portland State community."
PSU hired a security consulting firm to review its practices and plans to host a series of public forums on the topic. But for the roughly 400 attendees at the rally, it's too little — too late.
"The blood is on the hands of the Portland State University board of trustees," said City Council candidate Jo Ann Hardesty during an impromptu speech. "They need to be held accountable."
Zhane McClyde, vice president of PSU's black student union and a senior at the school, said that she and many others had "warned" PSU that a fatal shooting would occur after the trustees voted nine to three to arm the Campus Safety officers in 2015.
"We're being killed everyday, senselessly — for no reason," McClyde said. "We said that this would happen and it did happen."