Photos: Nadin and Tom Abbott
Dec. 6, 2014 (San Diego) A multi racial crowd that crossed class lines came together at City Heights. The protest primarily highlighted the death of Eric Garner in New York and Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. They are the names that most protesters know. Yet, Catherine Mendonca, one of the orgaziners, was happy since the case of Victor Ortega, who died at the hands of Officer Joaathan McCarthy in Mira Mesa in 2012, is opening up.
According to reporting by Channel 10, “these new claims come after a federal judge ruled an officer may have shot Victor Ortega to hurt him, not to defend himself, after Ortega allegedly tried to attack the officer. “
“I am thrilled,” Mendonca said, “we have been pushing for the family of Victor Ortega to demand justice. She credited his widow, Shakina, for pushing through.
“I hope this sets an example that just because an officer says one thing there is hard evidence that forensics can tell another story.” The Ortega story did not register in the minds of most San Diegans when it happened. But the family has kept the pressure and also community leaders. The Ortega case is one of many that have built the pressure until we are at this point, with people saying, no more.
“This is what people power can do, this is what protesting can do,” said Mendonca.
The march had members from different strata of San Diego society. It brought together, white, black and brown. It also brought together working class, students and middle class people.
Before the march, the protesters held a die in that lasted 11 minutes. Each minute represented each time Eric Garner said he could not breath, before he died.
Among the marchers was Riley Buckolz. She is a member of the City Hieghts community, and when asked about relations between the police and the community, she said that she could not speak for all. Though she said that she had not “had any bad experiences,” but she could not speak for all members of the community or different races.
What brought her to this protest, is that what has happened is wrong, and “everybody should be out participating.” It is wrong that people have been killed all over the country. Minorities who are unarmed, “to sit at home and not do anything about it, and not participate, if you are not being part of the solution, you are being part of the problem.”
We also talked with Emiliana Spararo, who compared the present to the past insofar that this is a new phase in the civil rights movement. It is not quite the 1960s, but there is a feeling that history is repeating itself and there is repression in the air.
Among the groups present at the march were not just United Against Police Terror, but also the Uhuru group, Activist San Diego, and medical students from UCSD. Of note, there are now calls to move from the streets to other aspects of organizing and planning meetings will start to take this national movement to the next level.
There was another subset of the march (which thankfully was a short one.) This was the sense that the police is terrorizing the people and that people are tired of being afraid. As an observer this is exactly the same subtext that we are seeing in other movements around the world.
The words from one of the Uhuru Network were especially poignant about this. “These are our streets, there is no reason for us to be scared. We pay the taxes that fund these terrorist police. And if we chose so, we can take them off the beat.”
These are words of defiance. He added, “if you have passion to really see change it is a serious matter.”
“It is beyond Ferguson, it goes around this entire world.” These are words of a people who are tired of the current system. The issue goes beyond police brutality, and it includes the criminalization of a whole generation of young men and women in the communities of color.
There was also toy collection by the Mid City Police Division, and United Against Police Brutality asked marchers to bring toys to the drive. The drive is done by division, and each police division does it’s own. According to Sergeant Ben McCurry they expected a lower turnout since it is cold and rain could have come in.
The sergeant also said that they expect to get anywhere from 200 to 250 toys. These will go to City Heights children.
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