By Jose Medina
STATE CAPITOL (SACRAMENTO) – Families of police brutality victims held a unity rally at the STATE CAPITOL late last week to push for more police accountability.
Impacted families held a rally, in honor of Willie McCoy who was killed by Vallejo Police Officers while sleeping in a fast food drive-through, and gathered outside the California State Capitol with a set of demands to hold police departments, like the Vallejo Police Department, accountable for the murders of Black and Brown people.
They were joined by Civil Rights Attorneys Melissa Nold and Adante Pointer.
In order to hold police departments throughout the state accountable, the impacted families demanded state laws be put in place to require all police agencies to furnish body-worn cameras and require statewide oversight for all officer involved shootings in California.
They emphasized it is crucial for impacted families to know exactly what happened in these cases of police brutality to make appropriate legal actions against institutions that claim to keep the community safe.
In light of Willie McCoy’s death at the hands of Vallejo police officers and their abhorrent badge bending ritual to represent the people they have killed, impacted families urged the CA Attorney General open a criminal investigation into the badge bending scandal and coverup.
They also demanded every elected official in California decline campaign donations from police unions so that lawmakers not be influenced by police union donors, so that police oversight laws can move forward without undue influence.
Nold pointed out, “How can you as lawmakers make decisions on police oversight when you get money from them, it’s a huge conflict of interest”
Nold emphasized the importance of mobilizing and organizing in honor of Willie McCoy and those who have lost their lives to police brutality. She explained “we wanted to do something productive and active to mark the legacy of Willie McCoy and that legacy is change, the things that have happened and will continue to happen.”
She added “the result of Willie’s murder is going to be the transformation of the Vallejo Police Department and policing in the State of California whether they like it or not!”
It is important to be persistent when it comes to demanding concrete solutions to systemic racism that plagues the entire country, said Nold, who reminded everyone at the rally that “police murder is not exclusive to Willie’s murder it happens all over the state and the country.”
On the subject of the badge bending scandal, Nold explained Vallejo Police Chief Andrew Bidou “rounded them up and instead of disciplining them he told them to fix their badges on their own so there wouldn’t be any receipts of the misconduct.”
Nold hinted at the unflinching resolve of the gathered group, saying “we’ve been discouraged and that’s fine but we have to try to push and change what the law is”
Willie McCoy’s brother, Kori McCoy declared that despite all the pushback it’s about time that Vallejo police are held accountable, saying “the police have been conducting themselves illegally by murdering its citizens and it has been covered up, ongoing conspiracy by the powers that be.”
McCoy summarized the most recent events that have led to these demands, noting, “we have videos of our loved ones being murdered, and no, we are not conspiracy theorists, these things have actually happened and taken place…Willie was murdered and a blood ritual by police where they bend their badge has happened.”
Willie McCoy’s cousin, David Harrison, reminded everyone that these demands “are about the family members that we lost.”
Harrison did not mince his words he stated the Vallejo Police “are dogs out here feeding and they are being let loose by the City Council of Vallejo.”
Elaborating further on his analogy, Harrison continued,saying “when your dog bites somebody you act like you have no accountability yeah but you gotta put the dog to sleep and we gotta send the owners of the dogs that were set loose to go to jail like any other normal citizen.”
He sharply criticized the local government as well, saying “the City Council, after they killed all these Black and Brown men, decided to vote out drug testing on officers who were clearly hopped up on something because how do you become fearful of a sleeping man in a car and shoot him 55 times and take a turn.”
Pointer lamented the systemic racism present in the country, stating if you are Black “you’re born as a defendant within the way this society is set up.” but made sure to point out that change is possible.
He motioned behind him where the Capitol stood tall and proud, saying “within this building these lawmakers are supposed to have the passion and mandate to do what needs to be done in order to protect us.”
Pointer took the time to give the rally a history lesson on the 1967 Black Panthers’ march into the Capitol “to keep the police from continuing to harm and violate the community.”
He reminded everyone that “what was supposed to be the greatest symbol of democracy, was instead met with hostility and their guns were taken away and they were marched out of here and taken to jail.”
Pointer stated that when it wants to, the “legislator moves swiftly to change the laws,” adding “we know as the result from this was to change the gun laws in the state of CA to make it illegal to open carry a gun within an incorporated area, they stripped the community of its ability to defend itself at a time when the community had enough and got organized.”
Noting that Black and Brown communities now depend on the elected officials to defend their communities, Pointer added that “the decision-makers have been turning a blind eye from the carnage and the blood in the streets.”
Appalled by elected officials’ lack of effort to protect Black and Brown communities, he prompted everyone to know that the victims of police brutality “are real people, they are loved and gave love, their families cry tears for their losses.”
“We deserve a District Attorney that responds to what we need. She has an inherent conflict of interests and tried to put her responsibilities someone else,” he added.
“Represented a man by the name of Melvin Ainsworth who was walking across the parking on the bridge and cops ran up from behind, jumped on him and broke his pelvis and essentially affected his life until he passed away just because he couldn’t do what he always did, which was walk across the bridge for exercise,” he noted.
Co-founder of the Oscar Grant Committee and former Black Panther Party member, Gerald Smith voiced his support for the set of demands and the coalition of impacted families efforts to mobilize and organize.
He charged “strategy is not something we can take lightly…it’s something you need to work on, do inventory, and sometimes we gotta look at the mirror and be critical of ourselves…discuss it, debate it, and then go forward, you have to listen to the families.”
When having these difficult conversations about police brutality and police oversight it’s important to note “police are not workers, the police union is a self-interest group that exploits people’s fears about public safety,” he added.
A COMMUNITY’S RESOLVE
Samaria Rice lost her son Tamir Rice to police brutality after an officer mistook his toy gun in Ohio. She reminded everyone that “there’s nothing comfortable about killing Black and Brown people, you gotta make lawmakers uncomfortable to get some results.”
Rice made it clear to “demand a ceasefire on Black and Brown people” the community has to go to the workplaces of elected officials to directly advocate for concrete systemic change.
She added that it is important to center the impacted families of police brutality when advocating for police accountability, stating “we need people who have lost loved ones, friends and family to police brutality to come up here and join this one aligned movement.”
Cyndi Mitchell and Kris Kelly were present at the rally passionately advocating for police oversight. They lost their brother Mario Romero after Vallejo officers shot him as he sat in his car in front of his home.
Mitchell criticized the Vallejo Police Department and their role in her brother’s killing.
She questioned whether or not police actually uphold their promise to keep communities safe by pointing out that “instead of upholding the conditions of these contracts, my brother was murdered in his car, getting his seat belt put on he was murdered without warning.”
Mitchell also criticized the Vallejo Police Department for attempting to vilify Romero when he was just “sitting in his car in front of his home in the middle of the night…he didn’t need to explain why he was up.”
She recalled how her mother was robbed of her last few moments with her beloved son when they waited at the hospital where Romero was transported to get an update on his condition. When the doctor told them he was dead Mitchell recalled hearing her mother say, “I could have prayed with him if you had let me in back there. Why didn’t you let me go in?”
The doctor answered by saying that Romero had already been dead by the time he arrived at the hospital.
Mitchell criticized the Vallejo Police Department’s argument for using force, asking “how can you feel threatened by a guy trapped in his seat belt?”
“He had an old car with its problems the seat belt not working, his biggest fear was getting a seat belt ticket, not getting murdered, he had to roll down his window to open the car door from the outside.”
Kelly advised everyone to not be discouraged by the long fight ahead and confided that she has been told by detractors “it’s been eight years and you haven’t gotten justice, why keep going?” She said she answers them, saying “because it’s something worth fighting for.”
She acknowledged that police brutality has existed for a long time and noted “we knew we were in for the long haul because that is what you are supposed to do, there were other families before us and after us who deserve justice.”
Kelly is fed up with the similarities found in police brutality cases and encouraged everyone to mobilize and “achieve justice for everybody else” through the creation of police accountability.
She concluded by calling out the Vallejo Police Department’s apparent disdain for Black and Brown community members, saying “while they’re riding around in their armored car with all their bullets they feel like they don’t need to know you, respect you, or give a damn about your life.”
Paula McGowan was accompanied by her sister, Angela Sullivan, to demand the Vallejo officers that killed her son Ronell Foster be held accountable for their disregard of human life.
Foster was riding his bicycle when he was stopped by police for not having a bike light. He was subsequently chased down, hit on the head multiple times with a flashlight, tased multiple times, and shot in the back.
McGowan pointed out how unnecessary the use of force was, stating “my son was targeted, he was on his bike minding his business, the officer chased my son, shot him, and split my son’s head open for not having a light on his bike, why chase him down and kill him like that?”
Sullivan added “that’s three weapons in a matter of minutes on an unarmed Black civilian.”
Knowing how arduous the road for police accountability is, McGowan stated “I’m in it for the long haul, you cannot silence me or all these families.” These words were clear to all impacted families in attendance.
Alicia Saddler was in attendance as well—her brother Angel Ramos lost his life after being shot by police. The City of Vallejo even tried to spread a false narrative saying he was stabbing a child and that his death was considered lawful. This narrative has been proven to be false, she said.
Saddler expressed that there is an empty feeling “when you can’t be with your loved one to tell them you love them, sing them happy birthday, give them a gift.”
She added that “we’ll keep on fighting this fight” to protect Black and Brown communities from police brutality.
Sisters Michelle and Ashley Monterrosa were at the rally in honor of Sean Monterrosa. Sean Monterrosa was unarmed and killed by Vallejo police in the summer of 2020.
They could not stress enough the “need to show up all the time for these families.” and that her brother shared the same spirit of solidarity for victims of injustices.
The Monterrosa sisters revealed that in one of Sean Monterrosa’s final texts to them he wrote before he died was “here’s the baton, run with it.“
Using his final text as a source of inspiration, they stated “we need people to care about Vallejo and hold the city council accountable” despite them not being from Vallejo.
The Monterrosa sisters added, “It’s time to humanize our loved ones and what they stood for; let’s uplift Willie and pray for his family, friends, and mother.”
Jose graduated from UC Davis with a BA in Political Science and has interned for the California State Legislature. He is from Rocklin, CA.
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