Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on November 18th, 2007 at 2:09 am
(All photos © Jonathan Maus)
Capping a tumultuous past month that was filled with tragedy, memorial rides, anger, frustration, meetings and press conferences, hundreds of people -- including Police Chief Rosie Sizer -- gathered under the Hawthorne Bridge Saturday for the "We Are ALL Traffic" rally.
Groups of people from all over the city -- including a large contingent from Vancouver, Washington -- first met at ghost bikes and other memorials before making their way under the bridge.
With shelter from the rain, people chatted with friends and many held signs that read "We are not scofflaws", "Slow down, save a life", and "Better cops please". They also gave interviews to the assembled media before turning attention to a series of speakers who drove home the messages of this burgeoning community movement; respect and safer streets for all road users.
Joe Kurmaskie was the emcee of the event. In his introductory remarks, he expressed disappointment with how the Police Bureau has handled the tragic fatalities and serious injury collisions of the past month. He said, "It has broken my heart the way certain elements of the police force have not stepped up and done their job."
Kurmaskie then pointed out that due to the "misstatements" and "insensitivity" he wants the police to "look at transfers of positions of some people, such as Officer Kruger...I'm not making this an argument against the police, I just feel that we respect each other enough to ask for that."
The cheers from the crowd proved that Kurmaskie isn't the only one who wants Kruger to go. I also spotted one person holding a sign that said, "Fire Kruger".
With her arm still in a sling she reminded the crowd that,
"We're all just trying to get where we're going...It doesn't matter what form of transportation we decide to use we should all be respected and we should all be respectful. I think we have an obligation to look out for not only ourselves, but for other humans."
Next up to the microphone, and providing the most memorable moments of the event, was Tracey Sparling's aunt, Susie Kubota. Tracey Sparling was killed on October 22 when she and a cement truck collided on W. Burnside Street.
Kubota's speech, which she read from a prepared statement, was delivered with what Joe Kurmaskie called "eloquent outrage".
Her voice at times trembling with anger, Kubota's words were a forceful condemnation of insensitive police statements in the media following her niece's "premature" death. She spoke with such impassioned indignation that many in the crowd could not hold back tears.
You can read her speech here, or listen to my recording of it below:
(Download MP3, 4m 37s)
After Kubota's heart-wrenching speech, a friend whispered to me that Police Chief Rosie Sizer was in the crowd (you can see her in this photo by Dat Nguyen). She was accompanied by her husband (whom the Chief told me is a daily bike commuter) and according to someone who saw her, she seemed "deeply moved" by what she had heard.
It says a lot that the Chief attended this event. I think, in large part because of community activism like this rally, she has recognized the need for improvement in certain areas of Police Bureau policy and practice, and more importantly, I believe she has the compassion and willingness to come up with solutions to improve them.
Like Chief Sizer, I think we've all learned a lot in these past few weeks. I'm proud that our community kept our collective eyes-on-the-prize and came together in a positive way to share a constructive, yet firm message.
That message is one of respect. We not only demand it, but we're willing to work for it, and most importantly, we're willing to earn it. But we can't do it alone. We need the willing partnership of our elected officials, city bureaucrats, law enforcement professionals, and the entire community.
We've taken a few small steps, but there are giant leaps ahead...
More coverage of the rally:
- Video of the rally by Noelle Crombie of the Oregonian
- Photos by Dat Nguyen
- Report by Amy Ruiz on the Portland Mercury Blog
- Story by Allan Brettman in the Oregonian
- "Top Story" on KGW's 11 o'clock news: Cyclists rally for safer streets
- KPTV (FOX) also covered the event.