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North Bay / Marin | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice

Santa Rosa: 80 youth march surrounded by 26 cop cars
by Richard Becker, LiberationNews.org
Saturday Nov 30th, 2013 5:09 PM
A November 26 march organized by high school and middle school youth protesting the police killing of 13-year-old Andy Lopez was met with overwhelming force by the Santa Rosa Police Department. The SRPD deployed 26 police cruisers and six motorcycle units to temporarily stop the march of about 80 young people, arresting one marcher and citing 12 others.
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The pretext for this massive and outrageous deployment of police power was that the marchers were in the street on Mendocino Avenue, but the seven previous protests of the murder of Andy Lopez had all taken to the streets of Santa Rosa without incident. Thousands of people have marched and rallied in an outpouring of anger and grief unprecedented in the city’s history.

After the arrests, the march was successfully completed to the office of Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch, where the protestors demanded that Ravitch indict sheriff’s deputy Erick Gelhaus for the killing of Lopez.

A broad-based Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez, incorporating many organizations in the area, has been formed and has charted an energetic campaign spanning the coming months. Actions are focused on the call for County sheriff’s Gelhaus to be indicted.

Thousands of children, youth and adults from around the world have posted photos and messages, in a tremendous outpouring of grief, anger and solidarity on the coalition’s Facebook page.

Andy Lopez, an 8th grade student, was shot and killed by Gelhaus on October 22, while walking with a BB gun in a field near his home in the southern part of Santa Rosa, a city of 160,000 located 50 miles north of San Francisco. 
That day, two Sonoma County sheriff's deputies pulled up in their patrol car behind Lopez. Gelhaus jumped out of the passenger’s sheet, took a firing position behind the door and yelled to Lopez to “drop the gun.” As Lopez, undoubtedly startled, began to turn to see who was yelling at him Gelhaus opened fire, hitting him seven times.

According to three eyewitnesses, only 2-3 seconds elapsed between the shouted command and the shooting.

Gelhaus, who admits that he’s “not sure” if he identified himself as a police officer according to media reports, claims that he believed Lopez was carrying a high-powered assault rifle and that the boy posed a threat to Gelhaus and his partner by turning and raising the barrel of the gun in their direction. The deputy who was driving the patrol car did not open fire.

The fatal bullet pierced Lopez’s upper right chest and went through both lungs and his heart, killing him almost instantly. According to Arnoldo Casillas, attorney for the Lopez family, the trajectory of the bullet definitively demonstrates that Andy had just begun to turn in the direction of the shouted command when he was hit with the fatal shot. The autopsy showed that several other bullets struck him when he was face-down on the ground. After the shooting, Gelhaus handcuffed Andy’s lifeless body and ordered the area evacuated.

Gelhaus is not a run-of-the-mill racist cop. He is a self-proclaimed weapons expert and weapons instructor as well as a deputy sheriff. He publishes regularly in weapons journals and websites, including SWAT magazine and the Firing Line Forum.

In a 2006 post titled, “He's Got a Gun!... A BB Gun...” Gelhaus outlined exactly what he would actually do on Oct. 22, 2013. He wrote that if police officers saw someone holding what might or might not be a real gun they should shoot first and later try to convince the authorities that they feared for their lives. “It's going to come down to YOUR ability to articulate to law enforcement and very likely the Court that you were in fear of death or serious bodily injury. I think we keep coming back to this, articulation—your ability to explain why—will be quite significant.”

At a packed press briefing on November 4, attorney Casillas, accompanied by Lopez’s parents, Sujey Lopez Cruz and Rodrigo Lopez, announced the filing of a federal lawsuit. Casillas called the official investigation by the Santa Rosa Police Department “a whitewash,” and said, “It’s a done deal, folks. They [the SRPD] have already concluded it was justified. Shame on them.”

Content may be reprinted with credit to LiberationNews.org.

Photo: Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez, Nov. 26, Santa Rosa, Ca

http://www.pslweb.org/liberationnews/news/santa-rosa-80-youth.html

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by L. Cramer
Saturday Nov 30th, 2013 7:49 PM
Is anyone at the least bit hesitant about declaring someone guilty before they've had a trial by a jury of their peers? The street rhetoric says no. As to the police enforcing the law, you will lose the public's sympathy you now enjoy if you continue to endanger pubic safety. The middle class of Sonoma County is disturbed by this tragedy, but not so disturbed to think that justice will result from flouting the law. Quite the opposite.
by Stop Fascism Now
Sunday Dec 1st, 2013 8:04 PM
The cop admitted killing the kid so there is no doubt as to guilt. As the article says, this cop was worse than the usual shooting cop as he had an agenda. It states:
" He is a self-proclaimed weapons expert and weapons instructor as well as a deputy sheriff. He publishes regularly in weapons journals and websites, including SWAT magazine and the Firing Line Forum."
and
"In a 2006 post titled, “He's Got a Gun!... A BB Gun...” Gelhaus outlined exactly what he would actually do on Oct. 22, 2013. He wrote that if police officers saw someone holding what might or might not be a real gun they should shoot first and later try to convince the authorities that they feared for their lives. “It's going to come down to YOUR ability to articulate to law enforcement and very likely the Court that you were in fear of death or serious bodily injury. I think we keep coming back to this, articulation—your ability to explain why—will be quite significant.” "

This particular cop had a history of outrageous behavior, including stopping motorists for supposedly a routine traffic stop and waving a gun at them. See
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Andy_Lopez
in particular:
"Santa Rosa resident Jeff Westbrook alleges that on August 21, 2013, Gelhaus stopped him on U.S. Route 101 near Cotati due to an illegal lane change. He accuses Gelhaus of pulling a gun on him and yelling at him to turn the car off. Several minutes later, Gelhaus wrote a ticket and allegedly pulled a gun on Westbrook a second time, asking him if he had any weapons before frisking him. Westbrook asked Gelhaus "Sir, is there something wrong with you?" and Gelhaus did not respond. Westbrook asked Gelhaus' supervisor if he could meet with Gelhaus to talk to him about the traffic stop incident, one day after Lopez's shooting, but Gelhaus was out of office.[6]"

Then there is the issue of wasting our tax dollars to show contempt for the First Amendment to the Constitution which guarantees free speech, freedom of assembly, and right to petition for redress of grievances among other things. A group of 80 children should be able to express themselves in a peaceful march without the taxpayers paying for 26 police cars and 6 motorcycle cops. Each car holds at least 4 cops. The police in the Bay Area generally earn around $100,000 a year and up plus benefits, and motorcycle cops get extra hazard pay. The only reason for this show of force was to perpetrate fascism at a time when this country is in a Great Depression and the ruling class is not the least bit interested in feeding the hungry and housing the homeless. The only way that will change is with labor organizing, going on right now at Wal-Mart and all the other cheapskate businesses.

Santa Rosa, once a sleepy farm town of 50,000 in 1970 at the northern edge of the San Francisco Bay Area in the heart of chicken raising, Gravenstein apple growing and wine grape country, now has 170,000 people. You can read all about Santa Rosa at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Rosa,_California

You will see in the government budget section the following on the police:
"The Santa Rosa Police Department currently has 259 employees, of which 172 are sworn peace officers. Its budget is more than $40,000,000, comprising more than one third of the city's entire General Fund Budget. Police shootings in 2007 led to calls for an independent civilian police review board.[35]"
THE TAXPAYERS OF SANTA ROSA ARE PAYING 40 MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR FOR THE POLICE instead of education, social services and job training for decent paying jobs, the only way to reduce crime. IN ADDITION, every single police shooting guarantees at least a $1 million police brutality settlement, paid for by the taxpayers.

The Latino community is overwhelmingly workingclass in Santa Rosa and is a major part of the labor force not only of Santa Rosa, but also for the rest of California. As of now, half the public school population in California is Latino. Lopez was not committing any crime at all. He had a toy gun he was returning to a friend. Toy guns are still legal. It would be best if both toy guns and real guns were banned, but that is not about to happen.

Every single taxpayer should be outraged all the police shootings that have been going on. They are all supposed to be trained to avoid using lethal force. That clearly did not occur in any of the police shootings that have been in the news. To add insult to injury, the protests are met with a huge armed force. That is not an accident; it means the ruling capitalist class wants police terror to prevent labor organizing which is not only a threat to profits but the whole stinking rotten private profit system that is the cause of all our grief.

The answer to all of this must be more labor organizing, with all deliberate speed.