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Eugene Community Reacts Strongly to Police Killings

Diane Dietz

This week's shootings of two African-American men by police as well as the killing of five Dallas police officers by a sniper brought strong feelings from the Eugene community.

With dark clouds and light rain falling, about 300 people gathered at the University of Oregon Friday afternoon. Many wore black. Some took a black ribbon passed around by a volunteer.

Credit Diane Dietz
A crowd of about 300 gathered to hear speakers before marching Friday on the UO campus to honor Black victims of police violence.

John Taylor says he and his wife moved from Sacramento to Eugene in 2014 to get his children away from gangs and violence. Taylor says a year later his friend back in Sacramento, 36-year-old Adrienne Jamarr Ludd, was shot and killed by police. According to news reports, Ludd - who was Black - pulled a gun on police but it jammed. Taylor says he came to the rally Friday in memory of his friend. But he's also looking for answers.

Taylor: "And it's like hard to say. We don't know. I think that's what we're looking for. We're looking for the same people who are supposed to protect us, to give us an idea of what we're supposed to do – because even though last night I don't condone that, I don't support what happened, they should have never shot those police because those are human beings. Those are men. In the end, all lives matter. But right now we just have to understand that right now it seems that the Black lives are being targeted; from profiling….Who's gonna police the police? That's the question."

We need our allies to speak up and get behind us in leading this change.

Taylor and others made protest signs as speakers tried to energize the somber crowd. One of them was 22-year-old student Nicole Dodier.

Dodier: "As I scroll down social media I see a lot of backlash about our movement, folks saying that all lives matter. However, what many people fail to realize is that all lives cannot matter until the Black community matters." {applause}

Dodier is Co-Director of the University of Oregon's Black Student Union.

Dodier: "And we cannot fight this battle alone. We need our allies to speak up and get behind us in leading this change. I find these truths to be self-evident, that Black Lives Matter."

Chanting crowd: "Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. When I say Black Lives, you say Matter. Black Lives. Matter."

Folks of different races and ages, holding signs and chanting, headed east on 13th Avenue to Agate, where they took over the four corners. Just a few blocks away, cheers from Hayward Field could be heard where day 8 of the Olympic Track & Field Trials carried on.

Chanting crowd: "This is what democracy looks like."

After a moment of silence, the marchers put stakes in the grass and mounted photos with names of African-Americans killed by police. This event was planned before the Thursday night shooting of the five Dallas police officers. And it seemed to be on everyone's mind at the peaceful vigil.

Eugene Police Captain Sam Kamkar said they had extra security on hand for the Friday rally, just in case something went wrong. There were no incidents reported. Captain Kamkar said the killing of the five officers in Dallas is especially hard on those families.

Capt. Kamkar: "It's disheartening to see innocent people die, police officers and civilians. And our officers have that in the back of their mind everyday when they go to work, but they continue through their amazing work ethic to show up every single day, put on their uniform and in spite of the bad publicity, get in their police cars and do their job. And my hats off to them for what they do."

As the community and the country mourn the loss of all the lives, the police captain says it's heartening to see the outpouring of support for his department.

Capt. Kamkar: "Just this morning we had a person spontaneously that showed up at the front steps of the Police Department playing bagpipes. And we've had folks show up with flowers and roses. We've had people that brought us cookies and donuts. And, uh, it's really heartwarming to see the level of compassion and kindness that exists in our community, right here in Eugene."

Oregon Governor Kate Brown ordered all flags at public institutions to be flown at half staff until sunset Tuesday to honor the victims in the Dallas attack.

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