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Dozens March to Ban Tasers in Santa Rosa
On Friday, February 13th, about 75 people took to the streets of Santa Rosa for an unpermitted demonstration to demand that the Sonoma County Sheriffs Department end their use of Tasers. Tasers killed two people in Sonoma County near the end of 2008, and have killed 5 people in the County in the last 2 years. The October 22nd Coalition Against Police Brutality has recently announced a campaign to ban Tasers in the county.
Last Friday, February 13th, about 75 people gathered in Courthouse Square to demand that the Sonoma County Sheriff's end their use of Tasers, a deadly device which has led to five deaths of unarmed civilians in our community over the last two years. The October 22nd Coalition Against Police Brutality organized the protest as part of a new campaign demanding the end of Taser use in Sonoma County.
After a brief rally, people took over both lanes of Mendocino Ave. (the main downtown street) during rush hour. Marchers ranged from high school students to grandmothers of the local victims of police brutality. A marching band followed the protest, lifting the spirits of the participants and helping everybody to brave the freezing, wet weather. Many people joined the march as it went along. One student from the local junior college remarked, "I was pissed off because i had to sit in traffic behind the march, then i heard what you were chanting and i was like 'fuck yeah,' so i parked my car and joined the march!"
At one point, about 10 youth came running out of a Taco Bell to join the march.
After about a half mile, the police arrived to order us on to the sidewalk. we did not obey, but instead moved in to one lane of traffic so cars could pass. the officers did not seem interested in confronting the march, which was a little more militant than they're used to.
The march headed all the way to the Sheriffs Department, about 2 hours from where we started. We were surprised to see a small counter-protest lined up in front of the doors of the Sheriffs office. About 6 people stood there with massive American flags and silly grins on their face. They admonished us for "exploiting the families who have lost their loved ones." Unfortunately for them, they said that to the face of Val Barber, whose son Jessie was murdered by Santa Rosa PD a little over a year ago. He was mentally ill and unarmed. SRPD tased him, then shot him, then tased him again. Val is now working with the O22 Coalition and is in the middle of a lawsuit against the county and the SRPD.
The counter-protesters didn't seem interested in picking a fight with us either. Two representatives of O22 tried to enter the building to present our demands to the Sheriff. Unfortunately, the Sheriff is terrified of the organized resistance of the community and locked the doors. They did deem it necessary, however, to observe the marchers from the second story window, dressed in riot gear.
We held a brief rally in front of the office. speakers from different police accountability groups, as well as families of victims of police violence, spoke to the crowd. Then there was a short open mic and several more people from the march spoke. The march ended with everyone feeling very energized and optimistic. This campaign is gaining momentum and we are confident we will win.
The Sheriff says that the chances of them outlawing Tasers are "slim to none." This only means that we are going to have to step up our tactics and continue to put pressure on the Sheriff, both in the media and in the streets.
Upcoming actions include a vigils for Jeremiah Chass (16 year old shot to death by the Sheriffs two years ago) and Samuel Martinez (died after being refused medical treatment in Sonoma County Jail last year).
Planning meetings for the campaign take place every Sunday at 5pm at Free Mind Media infoshop, 546 Pacific Ave. Santa Rosa, CA
Everyone is welcome to join.