Salinas P.D. Kills Three. Let's Have a Rally!
On Saturday, May 31, approximately three dozen people, most with ties to the Salinas Police Department or other law enforcement, rallied at the intersection of West Alisal Street and Lincoln Avenue in Salinas to show their support for the Salinas Police Department. Event organizer Ashley Ray wrote, "we organized the rally as a show of support for the police department and their efforts and EVERY action to keep the community safe. We do not support abuse of authority, racism, bigotry or oppression."
In response, the Direct Action Monterey Network (DAMN) and their comrades in Salinas mobilized a small counter demonstration "because a pro-cop rally in response to what's been going on is a pro-murder-of-Latino-farmworkers rally and can not be left unanswered."
DAMN explains, "This is not about specific cops or their personal attitudes and beliefs. This is about exposing the Salinas PD for being the violent, oppressive institution that it is. Their daily intimidation and harassment, as well as these recent murders, reinforces a racist, exploitative system. We are standing up to them, as well as to those members of the community who are voicing their support for such an institution."
Before the rally began, I spoke with Eleazar, a older gentleman sitting on a bench in downtown Salinas. Eleazar is from Michoacán, Mexico and has lived in Salinas for 35 years. He is, "against what the police are doing. People came here to work and should be left alone." I asked Eleazar how he felt about people from around the state of California mobilizing to Salinas for last Sunday's rally and march. "When people from around the state gather it shows support and solidarity, and shows that people are paying attention."
Supporters of the Salinas Police Department began their rally in the courtyard in front of City Hall. Terry Heffington, a retired police commander, kindly offered me a donut when I arrived, but I graciously declined.
Reporters working for KSBW interviewed Ashley Ray. The most interesting portion of the interview was the issue that was not brought up. The KSBW cameraperson, who also participated in the interview of Ray, stated off-camera that he believes the police officers should not have killed Mr. Mejia. "The taser malfunctions so you shoot the guy? What policies, if any, are in place for when a taser malfunctions? I'm surprised people aren't bringing that up."
Just before walking from the City Hall courtyard to West Alisal and Lincoln, Trisha Deblois, a nurse for 30 years at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, lamented, "It's a shame there's not more people here. Maybe we should have got the homeless to march with us."
At the intersection, Deblois chanted loudly, "We support Salinas police officers. They're our heroes. That's why they have to kill criminals. To keep us safe." Deblois told me that nurses, doctors, and all healthcare workers signed a flag in support of the Salinas Police, and "there wasn't enough room for more signatures."
While speaking with Heffington, the retired police commander, I asked what role LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) is having. She said that she wasn't sure, but "LULAC seemed to be unifying the community with the Police Department to understand the laws and policies. People in LULAC are unifiers."
I also asked Heffington how she felt about LULAC having a role in organizing last Sunday's march. She stated, "They do it in a systematic, calm, and civil way. The march was to bring up questions. I'd want some questions answered if it was my son."
Heffington had thoughts for the media too, "Instead of putting shooting victims on the front page, how about kids winning awards?"
I crossed the street and spoke with Carlos Ortiz of Seaside, the boyfriend of organizer Ashley Ray. Ortiz, a young Latino man, held a sign that read, "Thank you Salinas P.D." I asked him how he felt about the police killing Carlos Mejia, and Ortiz replied, "It might have been a little excessive. They did their job. I want to get into the Academy. And I'm here to support my girlfriend."
Loud anti-police chants were emanating from the kitty-corner of the intersection, "No Justice, No Peace. Killer Cops Off The Streets."
In response to the anti-police chants, one woman theorized, "That's truly the Bob Marley corner over there." I asked her if I heard correctly and she confirmed, while further explaining, "I think they're using some of it, and that clearly affects their judgment."
Irma Gowin was born in Mexico and grew up in Castroville. She stated that she, "Understands the culture. I've travelled to many places in the world and there's lots of corruption abroad. There's corruption all over the world. But not in the USA. The USA is unique." Gowin continued, "There are some bad police, but the Salinas Police are good police. Of course I am going to support the Salinas Police."
I ventured over to the "DON'T Support the Salinas PD" Rally and talked with Rudy Medina who was born in Salinas and holding one side of a banner that read, "Desarmen a la policía (Disarm the police)." Medina attends graduate school in Utah and was home visiting his family. He, "saw this was happening and came to support. It's been brewing for a long time. The Police Department can't get away with abusing and murdering youth."
A young woman born and raised in Salinas held a sign that read, "How to get away with murder and get paid vacation?? Be a Cop!!" Her friend, also from Salinas, had a sign asking, "What Are You Supporting? Murder??"
Another young woman displayed a sign reading, "Killer Cops Off Our Streets," and a young man who grew up in East Salinas held a sign stating, "2 Shootings in 11 Days by SPD Not Acceptable."
Bradley Allen is a photographer, Indymedia volunteer, and website developer living in Santa Cruz, California. All photos free for non-commercial reuse, on non-commercial websites (So Not On Facebook). For other use, please contact me. Photo credit and a link to this article is appreciated. Support local independent media.