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Press release & photo's from today's Justice for James Rivera Protest in Stockton
* * * FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JULY 22, 2011 * * * (STOCKTON, CA) California residents gather to help each other cope with the statewide disaster of police brutality and call for justice for its victims, including Ernest Duenez, Kenneth Harding, Charles Hill, Jagtar Singh Kang, David “Deacon” Turner, and Carrick “Eric” Vigen, to name a few. All six were killed by law enforcement in as many weeks, in Manteca, San Francisco, Yuba City and Bakersfield. Event organizers – including Mothers Cry for Justice, the Oscar Grant Committee, and the Central Valley Coalition Against Police Violence – are coming together from across the state as well.
The groups chose today, in Stockton, because it has been one year since James Rivera, Jr., was killed by members of the Stockton Police and San Joaquin County Sheriffs departments, and the family still has no closure and no answers. The officers who killed Rivera last year fired over 30 bullets at the 16 year old, were cleared of wrongdoing, and are still patrolling the streets today.
“Since the videotaped murder of Oscar Grant and 11 month slap-on-the-wrist sentence for Mehserle, it seems police are getting more violent, more often,” said Cary Downs, stepfather of James Rivera, Jr. “Our family still has no closure, we still worry about our loved ones being victimized by police, and it seems like every week another family gets thrown into this trauma. This is happening to African American families, white families, and especially Latinos and other immigrants who may not speak much English—and it’s just got to stop.”
Mesha Monge-Irizarry is the Director of the Idriss Stelley Foundation, named after her son, Idriss, who was killed in 2001 at the Metreon movie theater, shot by nine S.F. police officers who fired over 48 rounds. Irizarry has a clear plan: “We need Civilian Review Boards in every city, and the Boards need full power to discipline officers.” She continues, “and until grieving families enter, en masse, into a class action lawsuit for illegal and lethal, racially-biased policing, until we petition the Department of Justice and march to Washington, DC, our youth will keep dying violent deaths at the hands of the ‘Thugs In Blue.’”
“Law enforcement cannot be trusted to investigate themselves, especially with corruption running rampant among officers in Fresno, Contra Costa, San Francisco, and Stanislaus Counties, including bribery, conspiracy, drug dealing, murder, prostitution, buying guns for minors, and stealing evidence. In San Francisco alone corruption has forced the District Attorney to throw out over 800 cases,” says Tomas Mas of Modesto Copwatch. “And they commit perjury regularly, as we saw in the Mehserle trial.”
Coalition members are like a new kind of “First Responder,” explains Rachel Jackson of the New Years Movement. “We’re a bit like the Red Cross or Search & Rescue teams. We see a disaster – in this case police violence – and we set out to support each other, mobilize, train and build the movement for human rights in the process.” Jackson concludes, “With rampant racial profiling, mass incarceration and torture in prisons, and increasingly militarized police, we have our work cut out for us. But if we can change things here in California, folks can make change anywhere.”
On a quick note as we were marching a female Police Officer asked us what this was about. Words were mentioned regarding about James Rivera & whatnot. One of us said "you should be ashamed and at your dept." She says like 3-5 times. "why, it wasn't me, it wasn't my dept." For the Record, it was in fact her dept. Both San Joaquin City & Sheriffs dept. in the murder of James Rivera.
Organizers are seeking: 1) An end to police acting as judge, jury and executioner, and a stop to firing squads on our streets; 2) Independent, criminal investigations of all officers who kill and/or abuse citizens; 3) An end to the criminalization of our youth and the militarization of our streets. We are “the people,” not “the enemy!”
After the Rally, the public was invited to a memorial celebration and vigil for James Rivera, Jr., from 4:30pm to 7:00pm, at Salters Drive & Bancroft Way, where James Rivera, Jr. was killed in 2010.