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Police accountability on agenda at Oshkosh's first Juneteenth celebration

By Ryan Hamann

Oshkosh, WI – On June 16, United Action Oshkosh (UAO) hosted a celebration of the Juneteenth holiday. Roughly 30 people from the area attended the event where UAO offered free food and drinks, provided an extensive selection of music, and some works celebrating important Black and African historical figures, ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Thomas Sankara.

The UAO celebration marks a historic first. Although surrounding communities like Appleton and Fond du Lac have hosted events, the city of Oshkosh has never held a similar gathering to commemorate the Juneteenth until now.

“People stayed for about two or three hours and enjoyed themselves and talked about the community and things that need to change,” said Jeremy Bradley, UAO member and primary organizer of the event.

UAO’s ongoing campaign is to have Oshkosh be recognized as a sanctuary city and is aimed at protecting undocumented people in the city. As a component of the campaign, UAO developed a resolution to be passed by the Oshkosh Common Council that calls for creating a Civilian Police Accountability Council. The proposed Oshkosh Police Accountability Council (OPAC) would serve not only as a place for to make complaints about police, but also as a way for the people of Oshkosh to have some control over the police department.

This is an important inclusion, because last summer the Oshkosh Police Department (OPD) was responsible for killing Isaiah Tucker, an unarmed Black resident of the city, shooting him eleven times. The police were absolved of any wrongdoing in the case, despite the video evidence and the changing stories of Aaron Achterberg and Kyle Roberts, the officers involved in the murder. Those two remain employed by the Oshkosh Police Department to this day.

Members of Isaiah Tucker's family attended the Juneteenth celebration, sharing their thoughts about the event and expressing their desire to see justice done. “I thought the event was pretty awesome and I feel it gave people in our community a chance to speak out about the injustices in the Oshkosh Police force,” said Tarra Woods, Tucker's sister. “I feel the Oshkosh Police Department – especially officer Aaron Achterberg – needs to be brought to justice for killing my brother Isaiah Tucker in cold blood because he said he was in fear for his life when the body cam footage shows a different story.”

The Winnebago County District Attorney Christian Gossett said that Officer Achterberg was justified in using deadly force. Through the mechanism of the proposed Oshkosh Police Accountability Council, UAO hopes to correct this injustice.

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