Santa Rosa, CA:

Thousands March Against Police Murder... Andy Lopez ¡Presente!

November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From readers:

On October 29, some 1,000 to 2,000 (maybe more) people—mostly high school and junior high students—poured into the streets of Santa Rosa, a city of 170,000 north of San Francisco, in the latest in a string of marches and protests against the police murder of 13-year-old Andy Lopez. It was the largest outpouring against police murder in Sonoma County in memory.

Several thousand people poured into the streets of Santa Rosa, California on October 29, 2013 to protest the police murder of 13-year-old Andy Lopez. Photos: Special to Revolution.

Andy was shot down by County sheriffs on October 22. This cold-blooded murder was shocking and outrageous. Andy was just minding his own business, heading to a field to play, carrying a toy rifle. According to an ABC TV news report, the Santa Rosa police have released a timeline showing that "only 10 seconds passed from the moment that the Sheriff's deputy and his partner called dispatch to report a suspicious person to the moment they called back to say shots had been fired." Within those 10 seconds the two deputies rolled up behind Andy, ordered him to drop his "gun," and one deputy exited the patrol car and fired eight shots, seven of them hitting Andy. This veteran cop who killed Andy is a police weapons instructor and led U.S. military squads in combat in Iraq. Andy never had a chance to fully turn around or to understand what he was being told, much less to explain himself.

Adding fuel to the fire are the sickening lies and bullshit now being spread by the pigs and their apologists—like the deputies feared for their lives; they have to react instantly and they can’t tell a toy gun from a real gun (never mind that Andy never pointed this toy at them much less “fired” it, never mind that the pig who shot Andy was supposedly a weapons expert); it’s all a tragic accident.

But this bullshit isn’t washing with thousands and thousands of people, including Andy’s friends and classmates and other youth—particularly Latino youth. And the defiance of these youth—including a very militant protest last week that broke through police tape to come right to the front of the Sheriff’s station and write messages in the still-drying concrete that had just been poured there. This very bold spirit and resistance was key in turning Andy’s murder into a society-wide question—covered on national TV news, discussed on Bay Area radio and TV broadcasts, generating messages of support for the youth and condemnation of the police from around the world.

And precisely because of the outrageousness of Andy’s murder and the rebellion it provoked, there was a lot of anticipation on all sides for the October 29 march.

The main Santa Rosa newspaper, the Press Democrat, warned of “outside agitators” joining the protest. Heavily armed Sheriffs were waiting in the wings and on the roof of the Sheriffs’ Department. Indeed, people from all over Northern California showed up, including a bus from Stockton, which made a stop in Oakland; and there were a few people from East Oakland as well. But well over half of the crowd were local high schoolers, junior high, and students from Santa Rosa Junior College, mostly Latino, but a fair number of all nationalities. (It was something special to see Black people in the crowd including from Santa Rosa JC’s Black Student Union, all there for Andy.) There were many homemade signs like “Toys Don’t Kill, Sheriffs are killers,” “I’m 13, are you gonna shoot me too?” And people held up a banner at the first stage at Old Town Square which read “We are All Andy Lopez, the whole damn system is guilty... visit us at” The Stolen Lives banner that shows people killed by police—with a picture of Andy newly added—was held by a group of young high school women.

The first speakers included junior high classmates, one of whom bravely spoke about being hassled by police just walking home from school, as if he were a criminal, giving voice to the fact that "criminalization of youth" begins with children. One junior high youth told us that the police are a constant presence at their school both in the morning and afternoon. “The only time I don’t see the cops is in my bedroom.” Later, some parents who were by the stage, told of their children being beaten severely by cops!

The march charged off in a boisterous way, with the youth setting a defiant and enthusiastic pace, undeterred by some of the organizers who argued people should not march in the street. They quickly took over both sides of busy Mendocino Avenue, breaking from the plan of taking only one side, chanting loudly "Andy, Andy, Andy, Andy"; "Andy was just a boy, it was just a fucking toy"; “Justice for Andy" and many others. It was beautifully uncontrollable. During the march, a statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party, Bay Area Branch, "On the Murder of Andy Lopez," found its way into many hands as it was passed down the rows.

We marched for three miles, blocking traffic all the way, till we arrived at Santa Rosa Junior College, where a number of speakers took the stage to decry the murder and call for justice. A revolutionary analysis and viewpoint were urgently needed in the mix, and there was struggle to have such voices heard. Larry Everest, a writer for Revolution newspaper, was able to take the mic. He offered the RCP’s “deepest condolences” to friends and family of Andy. He talked about the boy who “made people happy... who had potential,” but who was cut down before he could realize it. Referencing parts of the RCP statement, he asked, “What kind of system does this?” He then saluted the defiance and resistance of the youth, “without which we wouldn’t even stand a chance,” and added “we have to get to the root of the problem. I’ve been protesting this for 40 years. I don’t want you to have to do that.” He urged people to get into Bob Avakian and the film BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less!, and get with the RCP which is determined to lead a revolution and bring a world where “police murder is a thing of the past.”

The march then continued for another half mile to the barricaded and heavily armed Sheriff’s station. A makeshift stage allowed family victims of police murder to speak as well as others like Veterans for Peace who railed against the increased militarization of police. Attorney John Burris, who represented Oscar Grant’s family, spoke, and a statement from Oscar Grant’s Uncle Cephus Johnson was read earlier in support of the protest.

Pigs in riot gear surrounded the station as if it were a fortress; and there were armed cops on the rooftop as well. But the police show of intimidation (along with a few who wanted to calm the youth down) was met by many youth who defiantly shouted “fuck the police,” dared them to “take off your badge and come down here”: and one young man spoke into the bullhorn “Being Mexican is not a crime, mothafucka.”

There were many in the crowd who also wanted a deeper understanding of why the police act this way with impunity! Lots of yellow posters of BAsics 1:24 (on the role of the police) and 3 Strikes posters were distributed, the latest issue of Revolution nearly sold out, and 100s of palm cards announcing a showing of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! in Berkeley were distributed.

Stay tuned for further developments.


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