Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Vigil Marks One Year Since Osmar Hernandez was Killed by Salinas Police

Community members in East Salinas held a vigil on May 9 to mark the day 26-year-old Osmar Hernandez was killed by Salinas Police in 2014. Osmar's family members were in attendance; Maria Guardado-Hernandez spoke, and Asuncion Guardado stood by solemnly while holding a lit votive candle. Also in attendance were the family members of two other men killed by Salinas Police in 2014, Frank Alvarado and Angel Ruiz. In all, five Latino community members died at the hands of Salinas Police in unrelated incidents in 2014. Four were shot and killed, and one died after being tased. In 2015, community members have been honoring the victims with vigils. On March 20, a vigil was held for Angel Ruiz, and a vigil is planned for May 20 to honor Carlos Mejia-Gomez at the location of his killing.

The May 9 vigil was held in front of the Mi Pueblo Market on Alisal, near where Hernandez was killed. Individuals wrote a variety of messages in colored chalk on the sidewalk. One message posed the question: "Tony Barrera - Where are You?"

Barrera is the city council member elected to represent District 2, where the Mi Pueblo Market is located. Those at the vigil explained Barrera has been silent and inactive in response to the police killings. Council member José Castañeda, however, was in attendance and spoke to the group.

Supporters standing at the corner of Alisal and Sanborn chanted statements such as, "no justice, no peace, no racist police," and, "hey hey, ho ho, McMillan has got to go!"

Ever since rallies protesting the Salinas police killings began in 2014, community members have consistently called for the resignation of Salinas Chief of Police Kelly McMillin. In a civil rights/wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of the parents of Hernandez in September of 2014, McMillin was called out specifically by the family's attorneys for acting with "deliberate indifference" when setting the departmental policies that govern complaints of officer misconduct relating to the excessive use of force. The lawsuit also alleges wide-spread internal corruption within the department.

Osmar Hernandez, whose first name has widely been misreported as "Osman," was shot and killed on May 9, 2014 outside of the Mi Pueblo Market at Alisal and Sanborn when he was reportedly acting erratically. He was carrying on his person a lettuce knife, a tool of his work, at the time of his killing. According to an SPD press release issued on May 9, officers "contacted" Hernandez and, "quickly realized that he was not going to comply with simple commands based upon his behavior. When it became apparent to the officers they were not going to get any cooperation from this individual they tried to subdue him with a taser."

Very little information has been released by authorities concerning the details of Osmar's killing. A year later, the Salinas Police Department still has not announced the completion of its investigation into what happened before and after police made contact with him at the market.

The lawsuit filed in September, however, has helped shed more light on these details.

Three officers shot at Hernandez on May 9, according to he lawsuit. Sergeant George Lauricella and Officer Derek Gibson, both of the Salinas Police Department, were named as the officers who killed Hernandez shortly after the lawsuit was filed. The lawsuit states that all three of the officers who shot at Hernandez had been implicated in previous shootings. One was involved in three prior shootings as a police officer, and the other two had each been involved in two prior shootings.

The lawsuit alleges that Salinas Police used, "excessive and unreasonable force," against Osmar Hernandez when they tased him and then shot him ten times, and that his killing was, "without provocation or just cause."

The lawsuit states that officers failed to communicate in Spanish with Hernandez as well as witnesses on the scene. Hernandez spoke only Spanish, and he had no arrest history in the City of Salinas, according to police. Additionally, Chief McMillin has acknowledged the department knew that immigrant workers sometimes carry lettuce knives as tools of their employment.

The lawsuit alleges that Hernandez at no times posed a significant threat to others, and that none of the three officers involved gave Hernandez any warning before killing him, even though, "a warning was feasible and proper." In addition to the three officers who shot at Hernandez who were all wearing bullet proof vests, there was a K-9 officer on the scene.

The lawsuit alleges that it was the conduct of the police that led to the escalation of events on May 9, 2014, and that they were not properly trained or supervised in the, "proper use of force, the proper method of investigation, the proper use of tasers, and the proper use of firearms."

"They knew or should have known that the taser or Electronic Control Device had been effective in subduing Mr. Hernandez after he was tased the first time. Yet, they failed to use any other restraint attempts with non-deadly force, such as the use of the taser the second time, physical restraint, or the use of other control devices such as pepper spray, batons, and specialty impact munitions," the lawsuit states.

Numerous examples of "deliberate indifference" on the part of Chief McMillan and the city with regards to the inadequacies of the policies that protect the public from the use of excessive force by police are alleged in the lawsuit.

The department has failed to provide proper psychological "testing and/or treatment" for officers to determine which were prone to use "illegal and/or excessive force" so that employees who posed a risk of harm to citizens could be "retrained, dismissed, or transferred," the lawsuit states.

Chief McMillan, "either knew or should have known," that officers within the department were the subjects of, "numerous disciplinary violations," and that the wrongful death of Hernandez was the result of, "a deprivation of specific constitutional rights," that had been occurring to other residents before his killing on May 9, the lawsuit states.

As a result, McMillan failed to implement a training program for officers with the Salinas Police Department that would have prevented the killing of Hernandez.

The lawsuit alleges that McMillan and the City of Salinas tolerated the use of excessive force and unlawful deadly force, and that they covered up previous violations of citizens' Constitutional rights. This includes their failure to properly investigate previous reported incidents of the use of excessive force, and failing to properly investigate and discipline officers engaged in unlawful activity.

McMillan and the City failed to, "properly evaluate and monitor its own internal affairs policies," the lawsuit states, and that they allowed or encouraged, "a code of silence," among police department personnel, where officers did not provide, "adverse information," against fellow officers or other members of the department.

Another allegation is that the department, "allowed and/or encouraged," officers to file incomplete police reports, and to, "make false statements, intimidate, bias and/or coach witnesses to give false information, and/or attempt to bolster officers' stories, and/or obstruct or interfere with investigations of unconstitutional or unlawful police conduction, by withholding and or concealing material information."

McMillin also tolerated inadequate procedures for investigating complaints of officer misconduct, according to the lawsuit, and the procedures for handling complaints of officer misconduct were improper under California code. Additionally, McMillin failed to take, "necessary remedial action," after improper police conduct had occurred.

The lawsuit states that the policy at the time of the killing of Hernandez, which was set by Chief McMillin, was that all SPD officer involved shootings were investigated by police officers and co-workers within the department, which does not provide for, "a meaningful objective internal review," of officer misconduct.

2014 Salinas Police Killings

Angel Ruiz, killed on March 20, 2014
Officers who killed him: Sergeant Mark Lazzarini, Officer Daniel DeBorde, and Officer William Yetter, all of the Salinas Police Department.

Osman Hernandez, killed on May 9, 2014
Officers who killed him: Sergeant George Lauricella and Officer Derek Gibson, both of the Salinas Police Department.

Carlos Mejia-Gomez, killed on May 20, 2014
Officers who killed him: Sergeant Danny Warner and Officer Josh Lynd, both of the Salinas Police Department.

Frank Miguel Alvarado, killed on July 10, 2014
Officers who killed him: Sergeant Brian Johnson and Officer Scott Sutton, both of the Salinas Police Department.

Jaime Garcia, died after being tased by Salinas Police on October 31, 2014

Maria Guardado-Hernandez

Asuncion Guardado

Frank Alvarado Sr. speaks about his son Frank Alvarado, who was killed by Salinas police on July 10, 2014.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Monterey Police Take Names, Issue 'Warnings' at Latest Sit-Lie Demonstration

Monterey Police have portrayed their enforcement of the city's sit-lie ban as a friendly process where first-time violators are simply given a "warning" when found sitting or lying on sidewalks located downtown and in other commercial districts. On May 1, community members participating in a sit-in held on the sidewalk of Alvarado Street to protest the new law demonstrated the process isn't quite that simple. More than a dozen individuals were confronted by police and forced to give them their name, date of birth, and home address as part of the verbal warning that they were in violation of the site-lie ordinance. For the past several months, community members have been organizing sit-ins to oppose the ban, which they say unfairly targets homeless people and travelers.

As the warnings were being issued, a few individuals joined the group and sat down right in front of police. Some did comply with the warning and stood up during the encounter, but the majority continued to sit. Three police officers were deployed to the scene; two issued the warnings while Sergeant Bob Guinvarch photographed several people and looked on.

Officer Roobash instructed individuals several times they shouldn't be opposing the ordinance by openly defying it.

"You need to take this to the City Council and proper channels," he said.

He asked if any of them had written the city to complain, and several demonstrators explained they had been contacting local officials since 2013 when the Monterey City Council initially discussed the matter and decided not to move forward with a sit-lie ban at that time. The council reversed course in 2014, however, and enacted a re-submitted proposal for a sit-lie ordinance.

"Monterey City Code 32-6.2 Hurts the Community"

There was some irony in Roobash, a police officer, instructing demonstrators to complain to the city. It was Monterey Chief of Police Phil Penko who pushed hard for a sit-lie ban, and he authored the 2013 and 2014 city staff reports that requested council members approve one without any alternatives presented.

Additionally, Monterey Police have dedicated an entire section of their website, which is titled "Homeless Issues," to give business owners and the public instructions on how to report homeless people to the police.

"The following information is provided to assist business people and individual community members in properly addressing incidents and concerns regarding the homeless and related quality of life issues," the Monterey Police website states.

A tab on the homeless issues page lists what it calls "related city code," a list of ten ordinances that can be applied to street people. The new sit-lie ordinance is not on the list yet, but the other laws referenced include: "begging prohibited," "camping prohibited outside of designated areas," "obstructing sidewalk or street prohibited," "11 p.m. curfew for minors," "loitering in parking facilities prohibited," and "camping in vehicles prohibited on public property from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m."

While receiving a warning for sitting at the May 1 demonstration, one person told police, "I invite you to give me a citation and I am not getting up until you do." He later explained that he wanted to be issued a citation for sitting so that he could fight it in court and have the law "invalidated."

Another demonstrator told police that he was a "homeless man" and he felt "extremely offended" that officers were attempting to prevent him from sitting on the sidewalk. He explained later how he uses alcohol to cope with life on the streets, which puts him at risk of violating the sit-lie law, and being targeted by police.

"I drink myself to sleep every night," he said.

After some time was spent debating the demonstrators, the police announced they were leaving, and that individuals who had received a warning from them would be cited under the ordinance if they were found sitting on the sidewalk again by officers.

"If we come back and you are still sitting here, we will give you a citation," Officer Roobash said.

One officer left the area completely, but Officer Roobash and Sergeant Guinvarch stationed themselves several storefronts away from the demonstration and looked on for about an hour. Most of the demonstrators continued to stay seated on the sidewalk until the end of the two-hour sit-in. Roobash and Guinvarch eventually left without issuing any citations. 

The May 1 sit-in was the fourth in the series of demonstrations on Alvarado Street organized monthly by Direct Action Monterey Network (DAMN) to oppose the site-lie ordinance, which went into effect in October of 2014. DAMN has stated they are opposing it by clogging the city's "bureaucracies" with "lot's of citations."

Six Monterey police officers monitored DAMN's first sit-in in February, but never made contact with demonstrators. During the March and April sit-ins, no police were present, but individuals experienced tense interactions with My Attic Bar & Lounge owner Jason Coniglio, who threatened to call the police on the group.

The new ordinance (Sec. 32-6.2) states that sitting or lying on sidewalks in commercial districts of the city is a crime between 7:00am and 9:00pm. To issue a citation, police must first warn an individual.

"No person may be cited for a violation of this section until a peace officer first warns said person that his or her conduct is unlawful and said person is given a chance to stop said conduct," the ordinance states.

Strategically, demonstrators have scheduled the sit-ins to occur monthly, so that individuals may participate every month without risk of citation if they stand up after being warned by an officer.

The ordinance does not specifically outline in what manner the warnings are to be issued, and mentions nothing about the amount of information police may or may not request from those found sitting.

Coincidentally, May 1 was the last day on the job for Chief Penko, who announced in April his impending retirement from the Monterey Police Department.

Demonstrators say they plan to return to Alvarado Street in June for another regularly scheduled sit-in, which will coincide with the expiration of the police warnings.

Monterey Police Sergeant Bob Guinvarch.

Monterey Police Officer Richardson "warns" demonstrators they are violating the sit-lie ordinance.

Monterey Police Officer Roobash "warns" demonstrators.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Demonstration at Mission Dolores Opposes Sainthood for Junipero Serra

On May 2, Native American community members and Interfaith supporters, including clergy leaders, demonstrated outside of Mission Dolores in San Francisco to oppose the impending canonization of Junipero Serra by the Catholic church. Pope Francis has reaffirmed his decision to name Junipero Serra a saint, despite strong opposition from Native Americans who say the man is responsible for the killing of hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people when he helped to establish and then presided over the California mission system in the 1700s. "My ancestors were directly enslaved at Mission Dolores here, and at Mission San Jose in Fremont, and I want to make sure that the Vatican knows that we, and Native people allies, do not agree with the canonization of Junipero Serra," said Corrina Gould, who is of Karkin and Chochenyo Ohlone ancestry. Individuals of Coastal Miwok and Chumash ancestry, two other Californian tribal groups gravely affected by the establishment of the mission system, also spoke at the demonstration.

Mission Dolores

The event was part of an "International Day of Mourning" which was organized to coincide with the Catholic church's celebration to honor Juipero Serra in Rome and at the American seminary in Los Angeles on May 2.

In front of Mission Dolores, demonstrators displayed a number of large banners emblazoned with the statement, "No Sainthood For Serra."

"Today we stand together in solidarity to say: No sainthood for Junipero Serra. No sainthood for genocide. No sainthood for murderers and rapers. We are saying this in a loud and proud way," Corrina Gould said in her introductory remarks.

Informational flyers were offered to those visiting the Mission, and included direct quotes from Serra himself.

Two quotes were taken from Junipero Serra’s response to Spanish King Carlos III’s request in 1780 that the California missions free the Indians, give them legal representation, and stop whipping them.

Serra explained to the Spanish king that, "...spiritual fathers should punish their sons, the Indians by blows... I don't see what law or reasoning my Indians should be exempt from being whipped." Serra also wrote that, "We can not free the Indians, relinquish directing their future, or give up the authority to use punishment."

Another quote demonstrators shared was from taken from a letter written by Serra to Spanish commander Moncada, requesting that a group of four Indians who attempted to escape Carmel Mission several times in 1775 be punished.

In that letter, Serra requested, “… two or three whippings which Your Lordship may order applied to them… If your lordship does not have shackles, with your permission they may be sent from here [San Carlos Mission]. I think the punishment should last one month.”

Corrina Gould

Corrina Gould introduced a number of individuals who spoke to the horrors committed in the California mission system under the administrative leadership of Serra.

Theresa Harlan, who is of Coastal Miwok ancestry, stated, "The only miracle in my mind is that he made hundreds of thousands of Native Americans disappear."

"If this is sainthood," said another one of the speakers, "then who the hell are the rest of the saints?"

Wicahpiluta Candelaria, who is of Rumsen Ohlone and Apache ancestry, sang Ohlone songs and played a clapper stick at the demonstration, with the accompaniment of several others. The players included his young son, Yoscolo, who he said was named after a Yokut Indian who led raids against Mexican settlers and liberated several hundred Indians from Mission Santa Clara in the 1830s.

When Candelaria spoke, he said the demonstration was about acknowledging the effects of Junipero Serra, who he called a "monster," but also emphasized that people, "should be talking more about Yoscolo than Serra."

Candelaria explained that when Indigenous Californians feel pain in response to the naming of Serra as a saint, they are experiencing a "double layer of trauma," because they are still feeling the devastating effects of colonization. When individuals push for the canonization of Junipero Serra, they are "erasing the true stories" of what happened at Mission Dolores, he said.

Access to documents that reveal the brutal reality of "life" at the missions is still restricted by the the Catholic church, Candelaria said, which reveals the enormous power the system continues to exert over Indigenous Californians today.

"The missions are dividing our people by holding back the access to information," he said. "Some people are held as credible Ohlones, or not, because of access to that information."

Wicahpiluta Candelaria and Yolosco

Theresa Harlan

The Vatican has actively promoted the idea that Serra will be the first "Hispanic" saint in the United States, but speakers at the demonstration discussed how that assertion has mislead and divided Ohlones, Catholics, and Latinos alike, many of whom have blended ancestries due to colonization.

When Ohlone elder Ruth Orta addressed the group at the demonstration, she began by saying that she was, "one unhappy Catholic."

"This is a really complex issue," Corrina Gould said. "There are a lot of people that are California Indians that are Catholic because of the colonization that has happened here."

"Junipero Serra is not a Latino. Junipero Serra is a colonizer from Spain, and those lies need to be stopped," she said. "People are being pulled apart in different communities because they are telling these lies that Junipero Serra was a Latino."

"This isn't about Catholicism, this is about a human right," Gould said. "That we have the right as sovereign nations to stand on our own land and make our own determinations about who we are and who we pray to."

"So what we want to do today, is we want to stand together in an interfaith way to say prayers for the ancestors who died here, who died because of the colonization of the Catholic Church," she said.

In defending the canonization of Serra, the Vatican has made statements claiming the European colonization of North American was "inevitable." The Pope himself has called Serra a "founding father" of America.

“He was one of the founding fathers of the United States, a saintly example of the Church’s universality and special patron of the Hispanic people of the country,” Pope Francis was quoted as saying during the May 2 Catholic celebration of Serra.

In California, the history of the mission system is taught as part of the standard curriculum in public schools, but it is far from an accurate portrayal of what actually happened, according to demonstrators at the Dolores Mission.

"The State of California teaches us the missions are cool," Corrina Gould said.

A consistent theme emphasized by speakers at the demonstration was the importance of changing the public's perception of the missions.

Speaker Monique Sonoquie, who is of Chumash ancestry, recommended people, "go into your schools, educate those teachers."

Ruth Orta speaks

Monique Sonoquie

Mission Dolores, also know as Misión San Francisco de Asís, was founded on June 29, 1776, and is the oldest building still intact in San Francisco. The Mission Dolores Parish comprises both the old Mission and the Mission Dolores Basilica, which is the large, towering church building that overlooks it. The parish holds regular mass out of the basilica, as well as a variety of other events out of both the basilica and the mission.

A plaque on Mission Dolores notes that the building is located along El Camino Real, and an inscription from 1963 states, "This plaque is placed on the 250th anniversary of the birth of California's apostle Padre Junipero Serra O.F.M. to mark the northern terminus of El Camino Real as Padre Serra knew it and helped to blaze it."

El Camino Real is Spanish for "The Royal Road" and it is also known as "The King's Highway" or "The California Mission Trail." The 600-mile path historically connected California's 21 missions, four presidios, and three pueblos, which stretched from San Diego to Sonoma County. In actuality, any road controlled by the Spanish crown was called a "camino real."

Mission Dolores with the Basilica in the background.

El Camino Real

Many accounts detail the brutality that was inflicted on Indigenous people at Mission Dolores. In the book "Indians of California: The Changing Image" author James J. Rawls writes that, "San Francisco Mission [Dolores] in 1797 used red hot iron to burn crosses into the faces of a group of men, women, and children who tried to escape the mission."

Descriptions of brutality can be found in Native responses to an inquiry directed by California Governor Don Diego. The following statements were given to Spanish soldiers by Indians who answered the question, “why did you leave Mission San Francisco?”

“My wife and daughter died, and on five separate occasions Father Danti ordered me whipped because I was crying. For this reason I fled,” Tibucio said.

“My motive for fleeing was that my brother died on the other shore, and when I cried for him at the mission they whipped me. Also the alcade Valeriano hit me with a heavy cane for having gone to look for mussels at the beach without Raymundo’s permission,” Homobono said.

“My mother, two brothers, and three nephews died, all of hunger. I left so I would not die also," Liborato said.

Lakota Harden

Janeen Antoine

Lisa Tiny Gray-Garcia

Peruvian elder

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

UCSC Students Occupy Stevenson Cafe to Expunge Rapist at Activists IN! Rapists OUT! Rally

Students at UC Santa Cruz occupied the Stevenson Coffee House for a short period of time on April 27 to expose a person they say is a known rapist who is presently employed at the business. The small cafe, which is privately owned and operated under a lease with the university, is located within Stevenson College on the east side of the UCSC campus. The person who they say raped at least two students was not in the coffee house at the time the group marched inside. They had first assembled in Quarry Plaza for an "Activists IN! Rapists OUT!" rally.

Students announced the intention of the Activists IN! Rapists OUT! rally as follows:

"The University of California is targeting and repressing student activists as “threats to the health and safety” of the community, while protecting students who repeatedly rape and sexually assault our fellow slugs. 6 students are facing unprecedented sanctions (suspension until September 1, 2016, 100-120 hours of community service, and a stayed suspension once they return to campus) for nonviolent, civil disobedience off-campus in protest of the tuition hikes and police brutality. In addition, a number of students have faced university repression for taking nonviolent action to call for the removal a well-known rapist from an off-campus benefit for the 6. Simultaneously, UCSC has come under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for their mishandling of rape and other sexual violence cases. The University has created a climate where students cannot take any kind of action -- against sexual violence, against tuition hikes, against state violence -- without facing University repression and indifference to their calls. WE ARE CALLING for a community-based response, one that directly fights back against university repression and sexual assault, while building a broader understanding and awareness of the university's role in perpetuating sexual violence and other systems of oppression."

On the UC Santa Cruz website, the page for Stevenson Coffee House states: "This restaurant is not managed by UC Santa Cruz Dining. Please contact this location directly with your questions and/or concerns." Several students said they contacted the coffee shop's owner and manager, John J. Hadley, prior to the protest to complain about the individual in question, but that Hadley was unresponsive. Hadley, who also owns and manages the Cowell Coffee Shop, was working behind the counter of the cafe as students held the rally inside.