Friday, October 30, 2015

Calls for Resignation of Salinas Police Chief Continue at Police Brutality Day Protest

To mark the National Day of Protest Against Brutality, community members in Salinas rallied in front of city hall on October 22, where the family members of Jose Velasco, Frank Alvarado, and Angel Ruiz all spoke. Ruiz and Alvarado were among five unarmed Latino men killed in separate incidents in 2014 during encounters with the Salinas Police Department. Velasco was severley beaten by a group of Salinas police officers in 2015. Individuals held signs in front of city hall and joined in several group chants, including energetic repetitions of the phrase "Brown Lives Matter" and choruses of "Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Chief McMillin has got to go!"

Calls for the removal of Salinas police chief Kelly McMillin have been consistently expressed at protests against police brutality in Salinas, which have been organized regularly since May of 2014 when a video of the killing of Carlos Mejia by two Salinas police officers went viral. Up to that point Mejia was third person killed by Salinas police during the year.

"We demand an immediate removal of police chief McMillin just like you saw in Ferguson and you saw in Baltimore," Salinas resident Ana Barrera said at the October 22 rally.

"He's negligent, he does not supervise his officers, he does not reprimand his officers. He does not even do any kind of work that would help bring peace to our city. Instead we see a spike in gang violence and we see these police officers continuing to beat on our people," Barrera said.

"The Department of Justice has come here and all they did was a dog and pony show," she added.

Barrera, family members, and many other supporters have been critical of the DOJ and local investigative bodies that have allowed the Salinas police department to essentially, "police itself," she said.

"We in Salinas are calling on our state, we are calling on our federal government, and we are calling on the United Nations: Please hear our case," Barrera said.

"We need to see that these police officers, that these police chiefs be put in a court, whether it is an international court, we demand justice now," she added.

"Brown lives matter and we're here in solidarity with the families. We demand justice."

The father of Frank Alvarado, Frank Sr., spoke at the rally.

Frank Alvarado was shot and killed by Salinas police in July of 2014, who later explained they thought the cell phone he was in possession of was a gun, so they had to defend themselves when responding to a call of a family dispute.

"Today, we haven't gotten justice. Why? Because the answer is so easy. The mayor used to be a police officer, a detective, connected to the DA," Frank Sr. said.

Current Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter had, "promised things that were never done," Frank Sr. said.

"They always lied to keep Salinas clean," he said.

"Sooner or later their time is going to run out," Frank Sr. said, and that city officials would have to answer, "all of their questions," someday.

"We don't stop until we get justice, no matter what," he said. 

Frank Alvardo Sr. displays a new portrait of Frank

Rita Acosta, the mother of Jose Velasco

Ana Barrera

Salinas City Council Member Jose Castañeda speaks to the press

Frank Alvarado Sr.

Waking the Freedom Sleepers

On September 22 community members protesting the criminalization of homelessness in Santa Cruz returned to city hall for their eleventh sleepout. A sizable group again made it through a night of sleep at city hall, though Santa Cruz police woke everyone up as a group at about 5:30am.

Police have conducted regular raids on the sleepouts since they began on July 4, but they employed a new tactic on September 22. They informed individuals that the city needed the area cleared in order to steam clean the sidewalk, and that workers would be arriving within the hour. All of the sleepers complied, and as the protesters were eating breakfast in front of city hall, the sidewalk was eventually steam cleaned.

Sleeping next to the flagpole at Santa Cruz city hall

Police cite person sleeping next to flagpole during the first raid of the evening

Police and security guards during the first raid

Protesters line the sidewalk as police conduct the raid

The city rents lighting units to dissuade the sleepers

Freedom Sleeper

Police wake sleepers at 5:30am during the second raid of the evening, telling individuals they needed to move to accomodate the steam cleaning of the sidewalks