On Thursday, Sept. 28 a very special birthday was celebrated with all the happy trimmings one would expect – but with a touch of melancholy as well. Gathering at Sawyer Park that evening, family and friends of Jacqueline Salyers, and many who never even knew her, brought flowers and cheerfully colored balloons, festively decorated cupcakes and songs to fondly remember this young Puyallup tribal woman whose life, and that of her unborn child, were cut short by a police officer’s bullets in the early morning hours of Jan. 29, 2016 at the very site of her birthday gathering that evening. Jackie would have been 34 years old on this birthday.
A drum circle assembled to begin the evening, with Puyallup tribal member Clinton McCloud leading a Love Song then a Power Song. Once the sun set, a candlelight march commenced to her roadside memorial near the park. Those who wished to do so wrote messages to Jackie on balloons and the sweet scent of sage perfumed the air, the smoke carrying everyone’s loving thoughts up to the heavens.
Jackie’s uncle, Puyallup Tribal Councilmember Jim Rideout, addressed the crowd.
“Nobody wakes up and knows it’s their last day. For our family, this is where her last day was,” he said. “I feel sorry for the people who reside here and live on this street and have to endure those types of things that happen here where they live. Just like us, they didn’t ask for this. And we are still here. We have gone nowhere since this happened and we’re not going anywhere either. We stand strong together.”
He spoke of Jackie’s legacy – bringing people together in unity to speak out against police use of excessive force, and to take action by, for example, adding their names to Initiative 940, which is currently in the signature gathering stage. I-940 is an effort to bring more mental health and de-escalation training to police across the state and to change Washington State’s deadly force law to make it easier to hold police accountable for fatal shootings.
“I’ve seen Jackie bring down the walls of humanity – bringing us all together as human beings,” Jim Rideout said. “Today where I sit, it doesn’t feel right for me today because she is not here to see the work that’s being done because of what they did to her. We have to be her voice. We have to speak for her – she can no longer speak for herself. And we’re doing that. This has reached the highest magnitude across Indian Country that I have ever seen in my life. We will never get justice for our family, ever.
Turning to Jackie’s mother, Lisa Earl, he said: “The only justice we receive are the love and hugs, smiles and contributions, care and consideration for her daughter. People in this world love your daughter who never even met her. Everything we’ve done is for the sake of preservation of life. That’s what the justice for her is going to become – preventative measures of this happening to someone else.”