By William Kelly
Sitting in court listening to police officers identify disembodied hands and feet from still images of cell phone videos projected on a large screen, I want to know why any of this is happening. Because the prosecution is asking that five young people, the youngest is 19 and the oldest is 22, be separated from their families, their communities, their careers, and for two of them, separated from their seven-month-old son, but I can’t believe that this is what the people of Davis really want.
After all, Davis is a community that cares about others. We care about the people who were injured or killed by white supremacists in Charlottesville, we care about the safety of our Muslim neighbors after their Mosque was vandalized, we care about people all over the country who might die if they lose their health insurance, and we care about undocumented immigrants who have been forced to live in fear of any and all contact with law enforcement. Surely we must care about Alexander, Angelica, Antwoine, Iszir, and Elijah.
Because I believe that if we were talking about five undocumented UC Davis students who had been racially profiled, attacked, and arrested downtown in broad daylight by ICE agents the people of Davis would see this for what it really is. We would see five people under attack and afraid, not just for themselves but for their brother, their partner, their friend, and even a stranger. We would be shocked by images of a plainclothes peace officer choking a young woman and throwing her to the ground, and we would immediately understand why a young man, not knowing that the woman’s attacker was a law enforcement officer, felt compelled to intervene.
We’d be disgusted by the prosecution’s use of sleazy, racially-tinged innuendo, like when they decided that an image of one of the defendants smoking a blunt needs to be projected onto the wall of the courtroom, or when a witness went out of his way to point out that the two defendants who share a child are not married, or any of the other indignities that the defendants gracefully endured. We would see how the prosecution is trying to make the defendants’ fear and confusion look like anger and aggression and we wouldn’t fall for it. We’d demand that those in power be held accountable for their own actions first.
Local elected officials, political clubs, and community organizations would be out in full force and we wouldn’t just fill the courtroom, we’d fill the courthouse.
But that’s all hypothetical because these young people aren’t undocumented students, they are our not-so-distant neighbors; and the law enforcement officers aren’t ICE agents, they are our own police officers; and this struggle isn’t about resisting Donald Trump, it’s about overcoming our own bias and indifference.
But what these two cases — one real, one imagined — have in common is the harm that is done by tearing the defendants away from their families and their communities, and the message sent to anyone who looks like the defendants about the dangers of visiting Davis, even in broad daylight.
The preliminary hearing will continue at 8:30 am on August 29th and 10:00 am on August 30th at the Woodland courthouse and there will be a protests outside the courthouse starting at 7:30 am on the 29th and 8:30 am on the 30th. In the meantime, Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig is an elected official who needs to hear from his constituents (530-666-8180 / District.Attorney@yolocounty.org / tinyurl.com/Justice4PicnicDay5).
It’s not too late.
William Kelly is a Davis resident and local activist.