National Day of Action Against Police Brutality: Family Testimonials

Photos Tom and Nadin Abbott

Videos: Tom Abbott.

Video editing: Nadin Abbott

Oct 23, 2016 (San Diego) This is a day to listen to families of those who have lost loved ones to police shootings. Regardless of what you think about the police, families of those who die are affected and traumatized for life. The rally at the Jeremy Henwood Park (once was the Rosa Parks park), was attended at one point by about 150 people. It was loud, it was moving and it was deep.

The event had many testimonials and we basically prepared to videos of most of the English testimony. We believe letting the family members speak for themselves, without my editing, is best. Let you the reader watch and listen. Some, in Spanish, we will quote from. The suffering and trauam for families is the same, no matter what language is spoken by the families. And as we approach the holiday season, there is a chair that will remain empty. It could be a son, a father, a daughter, a wife, but that person is not there. They are missed, and children will still ask, where is dad?

You will hear from Shakina Ortega, wife of Victor Ortega. She is still fighting in the courts to get some form of justice for her husband Victor Ortega. It has been years now, and the officer who shot her husband, is still patrolling the streets of San Diego.

You will also hear from Victorian Jones, the mother of Lamontez Jones, who died last year in the Gaslamp quarter. As she put it, while her son was not a saint, what happened none deserves.

One of the testimonies, in the second tape was a poem from Laura Guzman, who’s father died in 1986. You will also hear from Simon Hubble’s aunt, who was shot five times in the chest. As well as Marc Carrasco’s families. This is a family that had two family members lost to a Sheriff’s Officer.

Now to the spanish testimonies. First off, the women were introduced by Birdie Gutierrez, who has been working to stop the violence from the border patrol on citizens. The border patrol, like all other branches of law enforcement, have a level of impunity that is given to them by their badge. They use it, and at times even with video and witnesses, no border patrol agent has been prosecuted. This has led to a great level of frustration among the community.

Maria Pulga spoke of the death of her husband. “He was supposed to be deported, but he was murdered by more than 13 agents of the Border Patrol.” He added, “at no moment did my husband resist.”

Pulga added that “he was humiliated. They took his clothes off. They beat him up until they got tired. Until they murdered, it was like that.” As she points out, and the other videos speak to this as well. Even when there is video it is impossible to get convictions against officers. She also remarked that since the death of her husband she started this struggle. It is impossible that just because they wear a uniform and have a badge “they can do whatever they want.”

The case was closed, but she keeps fighting, becuase she does not want any of those present to go through the same hell she has been forced into. There is one more detail in this case, like many others. Her husband was the sole bread winner. She is now raising 5 children on her own.

Recently the federal government has been closing most of the cases involving the Border Patrol. There have been many cases filed, but the Border Patrol is rarely, if ever, held accountable.

Trinidad Cecena, who also lost a relative to the Border Patrol, who was a United Staes Citizen coming back to the United States from Puerto Vallarta for Christmas, started with deportations. There are 1200 deportations every day. This translate to millions since Obama took over.

According to ABC News the Obama administration has deported over 2.5 million people since 2009. He is referred to as Deporter in Chief by immigration advocates, since he has deported more people than any other president.

“We all need to develop a consciousness. We are all brothers. We have to fight for ourselves,” added Cecena. We Mexicans, and Afro-Americans we have to work together. I am asking for unity. We have to have a large struggle, since being united makes us stronger.” As she continued, she added, “our voice does not have borders, it does not have a limit. We need to force change.”

Among those speaking was Rumbie Mubaiwa from El Cajon. She was the person steaming when Alfred Olango died. She did remark that while the 22 is the day to stand against police brutality, she did not know about some of these deaths. “A lot of these stories, this is the first time I am hearing about it.”

She added, “the police will continue to cover stuff up. Which is why the day that Alfred Olango was killed I went on Facebook life.” (Ed. Note. We watched that video and we linked to that video. You can find it here)

As she remarked, “after they do something they have no business doing, they cover it up. Then it was that person’s fault. We did our best and we will continue to fight to make sure that he gets justice.” She also told the audience that they have changed a common street chant from “no justice no peace, to no justice or else.”

Mubaiwa also stated that Officer Richard Gonsalves, who fired the lethal shots that took Olango’s life, “there is no reason he should be on paid leave right now. Anyone who has committed such a crime, they should not be on paid leave. Every time we protest and people go to jail, that bail money we are using to get people out is paying that person’s paid leave for killing someone.”

Mubaiwa also said. “we are going to continue to be non violent and stand for justice for all these families, but we just hope that when we put out the word out that we are going to stand together please everybody do your best to make it there.”

After speakers were done, the remaining group, about 70, marched around the police station, once. San Diego Police did block intersections keeping marchers safe, and there were a few verbal confrontations. More on that bellow.

After the march, one of the people from El Cajon pointed out that they wanted to continue protesting and marching. In the end this did not happen. There were also no arrests as far as we are aware.

There was also a very small counter protest from Blue Lives Matter, we are talking three people and a flag, at the edge where officers kept them safe.

The Police

When we arrived on scene and parked by the police station there were police officers there. We are not talking enough to control traffic, We are talking enough to suppress the presence of protesters. When we drove down the California Highway Patrol was setting up to close the freeway access at University Avenue and Interstate 15. There were officers from San Diego Police and at least another jurisdiction, the Community College District, at the station.

There is more. And this is one that still baffles us. I know Shakina Ortega climbed on the Jeremy Henwood memorial Park sign once. Another protester put up a sign with scotch tape. Officer Henwood died less than a block from the park, after buying some cookies for a neighborhood kid at the local McDonnalds. Officer Henwood was engaging in old fashioned community policing, building bridges.

Ever since, every time there is a demonstration at the park that granite sign is surrounded en force by officers. This time around it was bicycle officers who linked their bikes and basically kept a perimeter throughout the evening. Nobody has ever done any damage to that granite symbol and scotch tape does not qualify as defacement either. In effect, the police have given the peaceful protesters a victory. They are dedicating major amounts of resources, instead of, as Catherine Mendonca mentioned again, keeping people safe. Property, that is the message protesters are getting, is far more important than life. In fact, their property is far more important than the community.

There is more. The police presence yesterday was so large, that it might have prevented other people from coming. When you see two precinct worth of officers, you get second thoughts about staying. So if the purpose was to tell people stay away, we think it might have worked. We were ready for trouble. This is the kind of militarized response to civil protest that has been pointed as a problem by those outside of law enforcement, and those inside law enforcement. Quite frankly, it reminded us a little of Ferguson Missouri, which Policing in the 21st Century raised as a major issue in the wall that remains between the officers and the communities they patrol.

Now props where props are due. The easy going behavior by officers helped to keep things cool, and they never ever answered any of the taunts, and middle fingers thrown in their faces.

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3 replies

  1. Wonderful reporting <3

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