October 22, the 21th Annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
Synopsis by Rob Camacho of Step Off Magazine
The date is Saturday October 22nd. While many cities across the country are setting up in preparation for October Fest’s and Fall Festivals, in the San Diego community of City Heights, a movement is growing. The organizers of United Against Police Terror San Diego along with a coalition of other local activist are preparing for a much somber event of dire importance. That event is October 22, the 21th Annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
October 22nd is widely regarded as the national day of protest against police brutality in the United States established in 1996. The October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation began as collaboration through a variety of groups and organizations centered on the need to meet the intensifying nationwide epidemic of police brutality with resistance on the national level. The date of October 22nd was declared the National Day of Protest by the Coalition of groups and organizations involved in the formation because students would be back in school and right before the elections, so that people could have a way to express themselves in the streets. The event however did not have a numerical significance in its own right. Because the first year in ‘96 was so successful people said: let’s do it again! and thus October 22nd became significant as the date on which people nationally protest police brutality in the United States. Since then, the National Day of Protest has provided a powerful platform for families who have been victimized by police brutality and murder. Over the past 20 years October 22nd protests have spread to numerous cities and have continually attracted larger turnouts in the wake of recent highly publicized killings at the hands of police.
This year in City Heights, the protest was not centered around the police but the families of those who have lost their lives at the hands of police violence in San Diego. Family members from all over the county and even some from out of state have flown in to tell another side of the story; a side always demonized by police and conveniently ignored by the media. Family members of Victor Ortega, Angel Lopez, Marc Carrasco, Simon Hubble, Sergio Weick, Lamontez Jones, Luis Guzman, Francisco Cecena, as well as those kept in our hearts; Valeria Munique Tachiquin, Thongsoune Vilaysane and Alfred Olango and others who have been wrongfully arrested and targeted by the police have all been invited to share memories of their loved ones lost to police violence and bring awareness to the epidemic of police violence in San Diego and throughout the country.
Some of the cases date back to mid 1980’s while others are as recent as this past September. To families the pain is just as potent and palpable as the day it happened, destroying lives and tearing families forever apart. The organization is largely done by United Against Police Terror – San Diego (UAPTSD) a local cop watch group founded by Catherine Mendonca and Aaron Leaf, who have been organizing in San Diego for the past several years. On top of orchestrating marches, prayers, vigils and other protests the organization provides local cop watch training, live police scanner reports, a San Diego Law Enforcement Database as well a database specifically cataloging killer cops throughout the county. The organization also catalogs the number and names of people killed by Law enforcement in San Diego. UAPTSD cites the importance of this by stating in their mission statement that “governments in San Diego County, have no comprehensive record of the number of people killed by law enforcement [and] this lack of basic data has been glaring amid the protests, riots and worldwide debate set in motion by many dissenting voices for those who have been murdered by every branch of law enforcement”. UAPTSD accomplishes this through a combination of traditional reporting techniques such as witness statements, monitoring regional news outlets, research groups, police scanner info and other open source reporting projects to represent the data as accurately as possible.
Along with the organizers; The Movement Productions San Diego and La Flor De La Resistencia, a multitude of photographers, journalists and local cop watchers can be seen intermingling with the crowd. Not far off from the main stage, close to a dozen SDPD officers can be seen present at the park, but they are not there offer protection. Instead, they are there to protect a sign surrounding it like sharks drawn to blood. Originally named Rosa Parks Park, the sign now bares the park’s name, Officer Jeremy Henwood Park. It was re-named after a SDPD officer killed some years back. Ever since the sign was covered by protestors with a removable Michael Brown banner back in 2014, SDPD has without fail watched the sign like a hawk in every protest since, even during protest and gatherings numbering no more than 10 people. Indeed, it can be felt that the police care more about this inanimate sign than the public they are paid to supposedly protect which only adds to the tension. In the background, the Brown Berets De Aztlan can be seen running security detail around the park while Grupo Quetzalhuitzilin de San Diego dancers perform a prayer ceremony blessing the families of the victims and protesters present for the march. Among this hodgepodge of organizers, protesters, cop watchers, journalists and reporters, we spoke to several cop watchers and demonstrators to get their take on the march and the importance of civilian oversight of the police.
Edward and Michaela Glover, a married couple who run the cop watch group,The Movement Productions San Diego in City Heights for the past several years locally patrol in the neighborhood and briefly spoke on the importance of cop watching and the responsibility communities have in policing the police. Michaela explained “We pretty much go out to every traffic stop, every site where there’s a call especially when it’s a hot call and we document the police activity in case if they do get out of hand so we have clear footage of them to prove they were…we’re out here pretty much for everyone’s safety.” Edward Glover also elaborated on the importance of community oversight on local law enforcement in the neighborhood stating “we just document them and put them in check…somebody has to have your back because you know your own police department doesn’t”. Michaela interjected stating “you can say they’re out here to serve but the only people they’re serving are the rich”. Looking back towards the cops surrounding the park’s sign Edward exclaimed in a mixed sense of bewilderment and disappointment, “Well look right now, all they’re serving right now is a piece of stone. That’s all they care about at the end of the day”. On top of providing cop watch services at nearly every protest and rally the Glovers are out almost nightly patrolling the community and give updates via social media alerting followers of any police presence in the nearby area.
We also spoke with Alix Polvorosa, another cop watcher and photographer tasked with the responsibility of documenting and monitoring the event who also stressed the importance of documenting police interactions. He stated, “I’m in charge of taking photographs and video of the surrounding areas; mainly of police presence. That’s what we try to do: is stay on that line and film everything”. Polvorosa as well, stressed the importance of citizen oversight in regards to police activity in communities and why the public can never get complacent. “Accountability!” he exclaimed. “You don’t want to be your own boss” in regards to police and community oversight, “but it seems like in this society [with] all the filming we do and getting footage [the police] still seem to win, so it’s a never ending battle”. As of late Polvorosa has also extended his photography and cop watching services to the Alfred Olango protests which have been taking place in El Cajon, a suburb, of East County San Diego since late September.
Over the course of the next several hours, dozens of friends and family members proceeded to speak to the crowd, detailing heartbreaking stories of their family’s losses and the never ending nightmare of losing a loved one to state violence. One of the most recent cases where friends came up to speak was that of aforementioned Alfred Olango. Olango was killed on September 28th by officer Richard Gonsalves, a 21-year veteran with a documented history of trouble within the El Cajon PD who had previously been sued and demoted for sexually harassing a fellow female officer on the force the year prior. Olango’s sister Lucy Peterson, had called police three times over the course of 50 minutes requesting help for her brother who was in the midst of mental breakdown. Hardly more than a minute after arriving on the scene, police shot and killed Olango after he ‘pointed’ a nondescript object later determined to be harmless e-cigarette in the general direction of the officers. Another officer on the scene shot Olango with a taser the same moment that Gonsalves fired the 4 shots that killed him. As of this publication the shooting remains under investigation by the city, District Attorney’s Office and the FBI.
Shakina Ortega, the widow of Victor Ortega, a 31year old father of two, who was shot twice and killed by SDPD officer Jonathan McCarthy in a Mira Mesa alleyway on June 4th 2012. There was no video or eyewitnesses to the shooting and McCarthy was cleared in the shooting by the D.A. after claiming Ortega allegedly grabbed for the officer’s gun. However, with there being many, many inconsistencies in McCarthy’s statements and reports regarding the details of that day’s shooting Mrs. Ortega has waged a four year battle trying to get justice for her husband and her children’s father. At the march Mrs. Ortega went on to inform the crowd that the City of San Diego’s appeal to throw out a civil lawsuit she had filed against the city was denied by the Ninth Court of Appeals in Pasadena. She said, “even though I feel like I didn’t have the world’s support, I was still going to get out here and fight which I’ve been doing…it’s not easy to go against police officers because so many people just feel like whatever the police say is true, it’s hard especially when there’s no camera footage”. Mrs. Ortega also showed her relief that the judges also agreed there were far too many inconsistencies with McCarthy’s account regarding details of her husband’s shooting stating “thank God they were able to see there were too many inconsistencies for the officer to be telling the truth about anything”. Mrs. Ortega also expressed her gratitude for all who turned out in support saying “it means a lot to all the families, especially those where it was just our word against the police and we had to piece everything together because we didn’t have footage, and you know what the police do when there’s no footage, and we know what the police do when there is footage”. Mrs. Ortega ended by once again thanking the crowd stating “I want to thank everybody for being out here and we’re going to continue the fight. Don’t ever ever give up, continue fighting”. Regarding Ortega v. San Diego Police and Jonathan McCarthy, the appellate court is returning the case to San Diego Federal Court and Judge Larry Burns for trial, as of now the trial start date is still unknown at this time.
Many of the testimonies have been transcribed from the video below
Oct 22nd Nat’l Day of Protest Against Police Brutality San Diego 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzTyo-ZYYWs
Transcription by Andrew J. Mackay, of Unspoken Politics
Victoria Jones, (mother of Lamontez)
“Hello everyone. I thank you all for coming out, this is my first time coming to one of these events, it won’t be the last time. I’d like to tell you a little bit about my son LaMontez. When the story first came out a lot of people wondered why I didn’t expose myself, why I didn’t get on the news . . . why I didn’t break down and cry and everything. It was at that time I was doing my own investigation. I was watching the police, I was listening to the police. I had to hear them paint a story of my son, and the canopy that they used, the painting that they used, I’m here to tell you it wasn’t a real picture. What I’m here to tell you is that my son was a brilliant man, a very smart, courageous man. “
“When he stood there on that street, in the middle of the street, he wasn’t just standing there for me, he wasn’t just standing there for you, but he was also standing for himself. Cause justice may not be what you think it should be, because he used a replica gun. The fact was he wasn’t going to be taken down by the police anymore. “
“He had been unjustifiably behind him during a case earlier because he had to kill somebody in self-defense. If the police is sent to your house, if he’s calling you to tell you to come to my house because my life is in jeopardy and all you could do because of the race of that purpose, is slap him on the hand, and listen to him tell you that he’s going to come back and finish the job. You left no choice for my son but to defend himself. “
“I’d like to save his life, but I’m standing here proud as a mother to say that he was man enough to protect his life. So when he came to San Diego, he came just to visit. He was getting back on his feet. He had a new job. They came to my house, they let me know that he wasn’t working there. When I found out, when I called them to find out if my son was still working for them, yes it was. So you knock on my door, they knocked on my door, and they wanted to build this picture of he was wanted for armed robbery. That was supposed to have happened in May, my son was killed in October. Why am I hearing about this on the day of his death? That didn’t make sense, that was another flaw. And then to sit and watch my son fall in the middle streets far far away from here, and see him dying in your streets far far away from here.”
“It made me think, what did you do to approach him? Because he’s not that type of person. He’s a very mellow down laid-back person. He never was in a gang, he didn’t do drugs, he didn’t have tattoos. He was raised in a Christian house, he was brought up to know the Bible from front to back. he was man enough to cook his mom dinner at fourteen years old. I mean a din-ner. This was the house he was raised in. So for you to come and shoot him, and then turn around and go into assassination mode. It just makes me wonder, who are you? I look at this- we all are mothers, we gave birth to you boys, to you sons, to you men.”
“Even some that standing out there that’s not standing in justice, your mother gave birth to you. You are a man. But yet you still want to take down our men. For what? To show that you are proud in your uniform? That’s not a man. So I’m here to stand for you, in front of you, to let you know. LaMontez didn’t come from trash. He wasn’t nothing dumb. He was a very very smart man. And this is not the end of my voice for him. I’m going to fight, if I win in this court, or I lose in this court on this ground, there’s a court upstairs that every police that took a life unjustified is going to have to stand up and be held accountable for it.“
“So, don’t think you’re getting away with it, because the laws on paper say you’re justified in killing a person. Because there’s a higher judge that you got to stand before, and ask, and when we say you killed LaMontez, he’s gonna want to know why, when he say you kill Philando, Olango, or all the other ones, he gonna want to know why. So I’m just standing here to say, don’t think this is the end of it, it’s only just the beginning. Thank you.”
Family of Sergio Weick:
Maria Hoyt (aunt of Sergio)
“Hi Im Maria , Sergio’s Aunt, his mom is coming up right now and his widow, his son, his daughter, his little cousin…”
“Sergio was killed by the Sheriff’s, there’s a lot of inconsistencies… there was no cameras, every report they gave, there was a lot of inconsistencies, so I started recording, I started taking pictures of everything and keeping track of everything, they tell us one story, the tell the news another story and everything, as it turned out the medical examiner ruled it a homicide, but of course the officers are out and about, claims have been filed and everything so we don’t really know it’s too early to tell…they won’t tell us until November if they’re going to file charges against the police officers, so we hope and pray that they do….”
“Sergio was unarmed, but they tell us that he came out shooting at them, but yet his right was pretty much shot off, I don’t know how he could’ve been holding a gun, he was shot literally from his head to his toes, and all of the left side, his back and in the front, but again they claim he came out shooting….yet they didn’t find any weapons…a week later, when they executed a search warrant, somehow or other it magically appeared that there was weapons, shotguns, drugs, knives, swords….in this car So I don’t know how they’re going to make those stick…it was literally 10 days after he had passed, so I hope and pray you know… that they do press charges, hopefully with everybody’s prayers, they will, In the meantime we just have to sit and wait… it’s too early for us…but that’s where we’re at…I don’t know what to say…the only thing I hold onto is the fact I held on to every single report, every single statement they made…every single thing and everything.. is different…every statement they made is different…so I don’t know how they’re going to get out of that one”
Families of Simon Hubble and Marc Carrasco,
Jenny (Aunt of Simon):
“Thank you. It’s been a year since my nephew was murdered by the Sheriff’s deputies…he had schizoaffective disorder, so he had a mental disability. His social worker called the police, called the Sheriff’s because he was suicidal…and they came out and they killed him. Well, then my sister tried to her dying son, and the police threatened to arrest her if she would to dying son. Then they searched her house and took away computers, phones, things she’s never even gotten back yet, and they did not officially tell her her son was dead, she found he was dead on the 11 O’Clock News.”
“Simon was 33 years old, this was the kind of kid Simon was. He was at Dog Beach one day, he saw a man having a seizure. He called 911, and while the man was in the hospital, my nephew took care of his dog until he recovered. My nephew’s a good kid, he was no angel, he had problems. he had a mental disability, and a mental disability is not a crime punishable by death. He was shot five times in the chest. Now my family has been affected now twice, the Sheriff’s deputies took my nephew Simon last year, in 2011 on March 5th, my granddaughter Jasmine Carrasco lost her father, who was shot nine times in his bed. Marc Carrasco, and he was a hard worker [•), a good father to his two daughters, and a good friend to those who knew him. I’m going to let Jasmine say a little bit about her father.”
Jasmine Gonzalez (daughter of Marc):
“I’m sorry, sometimes I laugh to keep myself from crying. I’m glad to see that all of us are here to support a good cause from all these tragic losses and, it’s terrible. It’s sad to see that everyone else is suffering just like my family suffered because of my father’s death, my family is completely broken apart, and it’s left myself and plenty of other people with terrible depression. And I’m glad to see all of you guys here, it really makes me happy to see that there are good people in this world, and to not let the negative overcome the positive. Sorry. So, yeah.”
“Marc Carrasco, unfortunately the police had the scene and there was no one else there. His aunt had called the police on him and said that he had a knife. He had no knife, he was in bed. He bled out into his mattress because he hadn’t even gotten out of his bed, shot nine times. And there has been no justice for Marc, and there has been no justice for my nephew Simon, so our family has lost two people to San Diego PD and Sheriff’s and there still hasn’t been any justice. And so today I’ll let my daughter speak. We come together to try and end this.”
Alexis Gonzalez (wife of Marc):
“I just want to say really quick, Marc’s mother Elisa Rodriguez couldn’t be here today. Simon’s mother Sheri couldn’t be here today, and I just want to tell them both I love them tremendously. And to keeping strong that we’re all here to support one another.”
Lara Guzman, Daughter of Luis Guzman (Pictured below)
Her speech shared on the 22nd “Dear Chalk Outline” can be found here
“October 20th is also the birthday of Thongsoune and his sister Eanoy, and we want to celebrate them here too, because I know it really devastated them the minute it happened, and let’s just all get together and sing Happy Birthday to Thongsoune and Eanoy. On the count of three, we’re going to start. 1, 2, 3”
“Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear Thongsoune and Eanoy
Happy birthday to you
Justice for Thongsoune!
Justice for Thongsoune!”
“For all y’all, and I should have mentioned this at the very beginning. Thongsoune of SouthEast San Diego part of the Laotian community was shot 40 times by police. Where is the outrage, where is the outrage here in San Diego? He was just backing up a car, he was backing up his car, they weren’t even suspicious of the car they were suspicious of the house. And he was shot forty fucking times. Unbelievable, man, like it’s…this is hard. It’s hard for the families to come out and that’s why they need as much support as possible. For the families! Families first! Events like this are about them and always will be and should.”
Testimonies by Spanish speaking families can be found on Reporting San Diego‘s article covering the same day National Day of Action Against Police Brutality: Family Testimonials
After the family members of those lost as well as others who had been wrongly arrested or targeted by the police concluded speaking, the crowd proceeded to march down Fairmount Ave. and circle around the San Diego Police department. Saturday’s October 22nd march was considerably shorter than others done in the years prior, partially due to the higher amount of children, as well as disabled and elderly present from families who had come to speak. Though some protesters urged for a longer march route throughout City Heights the safety and well-being of the families present was the number one priority. Nonetheless, an important statement was made: that the community stands with the families of those affected by police violence. As long as police violence and misconduct is allowed to continue in San Diego, UAPTSD and the community will be there to support the families, uplift their voices and give them a platform to seek justice.