Anchorage residents rally for police accountability, 3 years after APD killing of Bishar Hassan

Community members hold flyers of Bishar Hassan that read “Peaceful Rally for Justice” on Friday near 16th Avenue and A Street. Hassan was shot and killed by Anchorage Police Department officers three years ago nearby, after he pulled out a BB gun from his waistband. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

More than 100 people gathered in downtown Anchorage on Friday to rally for police accountability on the third anniversary of officers killing 31-year-old Black man Bishar Hassan. 

Alaska Black Caucus president Celeste Hodge-Growden began the rally with two minutes of silence.

“Two minutes to showcase the length of time Bishar Hassan laid without assistance,” Hodge-Growden said.

Celeste Hodge Growden, president and CEO of the Alaska Black Caucus, speaks to a crowd of more than 100 people who gathered at a rally for justice for Bishar Hassan. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Hassan was shot April 1, 2019. That day, police were responding to a report of an armed man walking into traffic near downtown Anchorage. They stopped Hassan who pulled a gun — later identified as a BB gun — from his waistband. Dashcam footage released by his family shows officers immediately firing their guns, killing him.

The video also showed at least two minutes passing before officers provided first aid. 

At Friday’s rally, several speakers — including pastors, students and attorneys — expressed support for more transparency in policing and additional training on de-escalating violent situations. 

Abdira Haman, a relative of Hassan, said he’s upset that officers whose job is to protect and serve the public were the ones who killed Hassan. 

“They need to understand that Bashar needed everything, that they have to protect him,” Haman said. “But they should’ve protected him. They took his life like he was a lesser human being.”

Jeremiah Clifton Savage Gay, a 12-year-old student at Begich Middle School, speaks to the crowd. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

People in the crowd held signs saying things like “Bishar Mattered” and “APD body cams now.” Some signs had Hassan’s face on them. 

The rally was down the street from the bus stop where Hassan was killed. While Haman said it’s painful to look at that part of town, he was encouraged by the large turnout in support of Hassan. 

“For me, it was receiving energy from the community,” Haman said. “I see that motivation, courage and power, that I realize that the community, they are with us all the way.”

Hassan’s family is suing the city and police department over his death.

Anchorage police have declined to comment on Hassan’s killing. 

Most of the speakers at the rally said that body cameras are a step toward more police accountability and transparency. The Anchorage Police Department is still in the process of approving its body-camera policy, and putting the cameras on police. Voters approved buying the equipment almost a year ago.

A child writes “Bishar matters” in bold letters on poster board at a rally for justice for Bishar Hassan on Friday. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)
A person holds a sign that reads “APD body cameras now” in bold letters at a rally for justice for Bishar Hassan on Friday. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org.