Sunday, July 17, 2016

Remembering Frank Alvarado, Two Years After His Death at the Hands of Salinas Police

It has become a tradition to celebrate the life of Frank Alvarado with flowers. On July 10, Frank's family was joined by a large group of supporters near the location of his death to mark the second year since his killing by Salinas police. His father, Frank Sr., handed out roses to many of the women gathered, saying the gesture was in memory of "lover boy" as he lightheartedly referred to Frank. His family fondly remembers how dearly Frank loved to give women gifts, and especially the gift of flowers.

Frank Alvarado's father, Frank Sr., holds a sign calling on Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter to represent the community

Frank Sr. smiled joyously as he gave out the flowers.

The lightness of the activity was distinct, especially in the context of the seriousness of the family's fight for justice following Frank's killing at the home of a relative on July 10, 2014 by Sergeant Brian Johnson and Officer Scott Sutton of the Salinas Police Department.

The gathering for Frank began with supporters holding protest signs near the location of his death. Community members then circled around a small altar the family assembled. They shared words about Frank, and the fight for justice for him and others victims of police violence.

Frank's sister, Angélica Garza, is still deeply grieving from the loss of her brother. She emotionally described Frank's impact on people.

"He mattered to me. He mattered to everyone that he touched," Angélica said.

"I want justice for my brother. I want justice for all, and I want to see a change," she said.

Also in attendance at Frank's memorial were the family members of two other individuals killed by officers with the Salinas Police Department in 2014. Besides Frank, four other unarmed Latino men died at the hands of Salinas police that year.

Angel Ruiz was shot and killed on March 20 by Sergeant Mark Lazzarini, Officer Daniel DeBorde, and Officer William Yetter; Osmar Hernandez was shot and killed on May 9 by Sergeant George Lauricella and Officer Derek Gibson; and Carlos Mejia-Gomez was shot and killed killed on May 20 by Sergeant Danny Warner and Officer Josh Lynd. Jaime Garcia died after an officer with the SPD shot him with a Taser gun on October 31.

On the evening of Frank's killing, the officers involved were responding to an emergency call made by a family member who reported Frank was exhibiting erratic behavior at their home. Police claim that after a standoff with Frank, they were acting in "self-defense" when they killed him because they thought he was charging at them with a gun. It was revealed that Frank was holding a cell phone at the time of the police encounter and not a gun. Monterey District Attorney Dean Flippo later called it a "suicide by cop" and refused to press charges against the officers involved.

The 2014 police killings sparked a movement for justice that persists in Salinas, largely due to the involvement of the families of the victims. Frank Sr. and Angélica have participated in countless civic meetings and political demonstrations, calling for justice following Frank's killing.

At the memorial, Angélica made a call for others to join the movement.

"We need change," she said. "We need people to stand up and say, 'Enough already. Enough. Quit taking our sons. Quit taking our brothers. Stop.'"

Frank Alavardo was himself was an activist. In May of 2014, just two months before his killing, he spoke about his experience of being incarcerated in the California state penitentiary at a rally in Santa Cruz to oppose prison expansion. The rally was organized by Sin Barras, a prison abolition group.

At the memorial for Frank, members of Sin Barras were present.

Several members of Direct Action Monterey Network (DAMN) were also in attendance at the memorial, including two members of the Monterey 8.

Eight individuals gained the "Monterey 8" moniker after they were arrested for blocking Highway One in Monterey during a Black and Brown Lives Matter protest in March of 2015. The action was organized in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and in response to the Salinas police killings of 2014. All eight of the activists were eventually sentenced to serve 40 days in jail and required to pay nearly $1000 in fines per person.

Frank Sr. and Angélica spoke about Frank's killing at the rally that preceded the action to block Highway One in March of 2015, and they supported the Monterey 8 through the subsequent court procedings that lead to their sentencing.

Direct Action Monterey Network members have worked closely with all of the families who lost loved ones to Salinas police in 2014.

The Alvarado family has received a large amount of support from civic leaders, many of whom were present at the memorial. Some of those who spoke included Salinas city council member José Castañeda, Attorney Anthony Prince, and Monterey County Branch NAACP member Steven Goings. 

Frank Sr. gives out roses

Angélica Garza speaks

No comments: