FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Coalition for Slain Andy Lopez Founded

A new, powerful coalition of Latino, social justice, green, progressive Democrats, student, civil liberties, peace, and other groups has emerged in Sonoma County, California. The killing of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by sheriff’s deputy Erick Gelhaus on October 22 unites them.

Over forty members of diverse groups met–many who had never been in a room together–on November 19 to strategize about how to keep the strong momentum going in response to the slaying of Lopez. Many of those who spoke identified themselves as mothers or fathers, who felt the pain of the parents whose son was taken from them.

Lopez was killed while walking near his home with a toy rifle. This slaying has gotten regular front-page coverage locally and has been widely reported around the United States and internationally. Some compare it to the killings of African-Americans Trayvon Martin in Florida and Oscar Grant by a police officer in Oakland. That police officer is now in jail, one of the few cops ever charged for killing someone. Both those slayings ignited communities to demand justice.

The large, peaceful actions by Latinos and their allies could make changes in how Latino neighborhoods are treated by law enforcement. Latinos make up 25% of the populations of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County; they are the fastest growing group. Their continued mobilization on behalf of Andy indicates the rise of a mass movement.

“The Lopez family wants justice for the killing of Andy Lopez, which would be the prosecution of the law officer,” said the family’s attorney Arnoldo Casillas. Those gathered decided to found a Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez. It would focus on the demand for prosecution, and raise other concerns during the sixty days following the meeting. That date was chosen because District Attorney Jill Ravitch must complete her investigation 90 days after the slaying of Lopez.

Among those at the meeting were representatives of the following and other groups: American Civil Liberties Union, North Bay Organizing Project, Latino Democratic Club, Peace and Justice Center, 100 Thousand Poets for Change, Green Party, Police Accountability, Clinic, and Helpline (PACH), Peace and Freedom Party, students from the Santa Rosa Junior College, and close friends of the Lopez family.

“The vacant lot (where Andy was killed) as a park would mean a lot to the family,” attorney Casillas said. The neighborhood has already constructed a large memorial for Lopez there, where it holds regular prayer vigils. Other demands include the creation of a transparent Civilian Review Board to investigate police accountability and cameras for all police officers to wear to document their interactions with residents.

“The lawsuit is a federal civil rights lawsuit. Andy’s civil rights were violated, as were those of his parents. We will later file a wrongful death suit,” Casillas explained. “We are going to look at the policies and practices of the Sheriff’s Office. Many witnesses are afraid to speak to the police. The investigation is a whitewash. I believe their decision has already been made. The conflict of interest is clear.”

Casillas previously won a $24 million settlement in a lawsuit, which went to trial, for a family whose boy was paralyzed by a Los Angeles police officer with only one shot.

Casillas reported on the physical evidence of an independent autopsy. “The first bullet hit his heart and he fell to the ground immediately.” Gelhaus fired seven more shots, six of which hit the dead boy. “The other officer (present) was an 11-year-veteran of another police force. He did not shoot. One shot and the other did not see a threat and did not shoot,” noted Casillas.

The thousands demanding justice for 13-year-old Any Lopez, slain by combat military veteran Gelhaus, had a busy November; more actions are planned for December and beyond. Numerous large marches, rallies, and prayer vigils have been held, as were Teach-Ins at both Santa Rosa Junior College (JC) and Sonoma State University (SSU).

DA Ravitch admitted at a November 14 meeting with Latino leaders that she considers the sheriff a “personal friend.” According to the National Prosecution Standards, this could be grounds for the DA to recuse herself and appoint a special prosecutor. Ravitch is supported by the sheriff in her reelection campaign, as well as by the Santa Rose Police Officers’ Association—a cozy relationship likely to lead to the mutual returning of favors.

SRPD’s current police chief is scheduled to resign and be replaced on December 20, according to Taylor Anderson-Stevenson of the Women’s Justice Center. A totally secret selection process for a new chief appears to be happening; not even elected SR City Council members are involved in a closed-doors, out-of-sight process. Yet transparency is essential to democracy, so that citizens, rather than an elite, make decisions, especially when it comes to life-or-death issues.

At the overflow SSU gathering of around 150, Chicano and Latino Studies professor Ron Lopez commented, “Kids do not have appropriate places to play in southwest Santa Rosa.” Parks and libraries do not exist in this area, which has been neglected. “These are forgotten people, seen as ‘the enemy.’ He fired too fast, too many times.” Dr. Lopez added. “May the community be awakened. You have a social responsibility to take action to prevent these things from happening,” he said to the SSU students, faculty, and staff.

“The Andy Lopez tragedy is intimately implicated with the militarization of the police,” SSU sociology professor Noel Byrne noted later. “The culture of this militarized force promotes a perceptual framework akin to that of an occupying force. Most of the general public is seen as like the populations of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan during wartime,” added Byrne.

The JC Teach-In drew around 800 people inside a packed room and outside listening on a loudspeaker, according to a JC staff member. “This shooting had the same significance as Rosa Parks saying she would not give up her seat on the bus,” declared Alicia Sanchez, an attorney and president of KBBF bi-lingual radio. “I am proud of the youth. You have taken this killing up as Cesar Chavez taught us—non-violently.”

“I am disturbed by the ongoing need to further include protection for cops. We need protection from cops, not for cops,” JC trustee Robert Edmond said later. “No cop has been killed here since Deputy Frank Trejo in 1995. On the other hand, during that same period, at least 70 people have been killed in cases in which the Law Enforcement Involved Fatal Incident Protocol has been invoked.”

Prayer vigils are ongoing at the vacant lot near where Lopez was killed. A December 3 protest at a fundraiser for DA Ravitch’s re-election is scheduled for the Santa Rosa Veterans building. Information about pending events is available at https://www.facebook.com/marchforandylopez. Those events are planned to climax in a January 20 rally on Martin Luther King Day, which would be at the end of the sixty days.

“Andy Lopez is not going to be forgotten,” attorney Casillas noted near the end of the new coalition’s founding meeting. “There is something that resonates deeply in the hearts of people about the killing of Andy.”

Shepherd Bliss teaches college part time, farms, and has contributed to two-dozen books. He can be reached at: 3sb@comcast.net.

More articles by:

Shepherd Bliss teaches college part time, farms, and has contributed to two-dozen books. He can be reached at: 3sb@comcast.net.

July 09, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
COVID-19 Exposes the Weakness of a Major Theory Used to Justify Capitalism
Ahrar Ahmad
Racism in America: Police Choke-Holds Are Not the Issue
Timothy M. Gill
Electoral Interventions: a Suspiciously Naïve View of U.S. Foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War World
Daniel Falcone
Cold War with China and the Thucydides Trap: a Conversation with Richard Falk
Daniel Beaumont
Shrink-Wrapped: Plastic Pollution and the Greatest Economic System Jesus Ever Devised
Prabir Purkayastha
The World Can Show How Pharma Monopolies Aren’t the Only Way to Fight COVID-19
Gary Leupp
“Pinning Down Putin” Biden, the Democrats and the Next War
Howard Lisnoff
The Long Goodbye to Organized Religion
Cesar Chelala
The Dangers of Persecuting Doctors
Mike Garrity – Erik Molvar
Back on the List: A Big Win for Yellowtone Grizzlies and the Endangered Species Act, a Big Loss for Trump and Its Enemies
Purusottam Thakur
With Rhyme and Reasons: Rap Songs for COVID Migrants
Binoy Kampmark
Spiked Concerns: The Melbourne Coronavirus Lockdown
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela is on a Path to Make Colonialism Obsolete
George Ochenski
Where are Our Political Leaders When We Really Need Them?
Dean Baker
Is it Impossible to Envision a World Without Patent Monopolies?
William A. Cohn
Lead the Way: a Call to Youth
July 08, 2020
Laura Carlsen
Lopez Obrador’s Visit to Trump is a Betrayal of the U.S. and Mexican People
Melvin Goodman
Afghanistan: What is to be Done?
Thomas Klikauer – Norman Simms
The End of the American Newspaper
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Merits of Medicare for All Have Been Proven by This Pandemic
David Rosen
It’s Now Ghislaine Maxwell’s Turn
Nicolas J S Davies
Key U.S. Ally Indicted for Organ Trade Murder Scheme
Bob Lord
Welcome to Hectobillionaire Land
Laura Flanders
The Great American Lie
John Kendall Hawkins
Van Gogh’s Literary Influences
Marc Norton
Reopening vs. Lockdown is a False Dichotomy
Joel Schlosberg
“All the Credit He Gave Us:” Time to Drop Hamilton’s Economics
CounterPunch News Service
Tribes Defeat Trump Administration and NRA in 9th Circuit on Sacred Grizzly Bear Appeal
John Feffer
The US is Now the Global Public Health Emergency
Nick Licata
Three Books on the 2020 Presidential Election and Their Relevance to the Black Live Matter Protests
Elliot Sperber
The Breonna Taylor Bridge
July 07, 2020
Richard Eskow
The War on Logic: Contradictions and Absurdities in the House’s Military Spending Bill
Daniel Beaumont
Gimme Shelter: the Brief And Strange History of CHOP (AKA CHAZ)
Richard C. Gross
Trump’s War
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Racism May be Blatant, But the Culture He Defends Comes Out of the Civil War and Goes Well Beyond Racial Division
Andrew Stewart
Can We Compare the George Floyd Protests to the Vietnam War Protests? Maybe, But the Analogy is Imperfect
Walden Bello
The Racist Underpinnings of the American Way of War
Nyla Ali Khan
Fallacious Arguments Employed to Justify the Revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s Autonomy and Its Bifurcation
Don Fitz
A Statue of Hatuey
Dean Baker
Unemployment Benefits Should Depend on the Pandemic
Ramzy Baroud – Romana Rubeo
Will the ICC Investigation Bring Justice for Palestine?
Sam Pizzigati
Social Distancing for Mega-Million Fun and Profit
Dave Lindorff
Private: Why the High Dudgeon over Alleged Russian Bounties for Taliban Slaying of US Troops
George Wuerthner
Of Fire and Fish
Binoy Kampmark
Killing Koalas: the Promise of Extinction Down Under
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail