Rise Up Against Andy Lopez's Murder—Rally and March in Santa Rosa, California

July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader:

Saturday, July 12, saw the culmination of three days of protest in Santa Rosa, California, following the Sonoma County DA’s decision not to charge Erick Gelhaus, the cop who killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez (with seven shots in 11 seconds) on October 22, 2013, while Lopez had a toy gun.

The rally, called by Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez, drew 200+ people from all over Northern California to a downtown square, including activists from Fresno, Brown Berets from Sonoma County, and Stop Mass Incarceration Network members from the San Francisco Bay Area. Families of victims of police murder spoke of the need to stop this epidemic and take some action. The father of a man killed in Dublin, California, said, “We have to change things. I live in a neighborhood of crime, but I’m more afraid of the cops than the criminals.” The mother of James Rivera, killed by Stockton police, came with a contingent of young supporters, and said she was tired of having these police murders just ruin the families, and that she had concern for her other children. She said, “NOW is the time to stand up.” Friends of Andy Lopez spoke, including a 13-year-old girl who’d been bruised up by police, hours after a courthouse rally on Monday. Having gone through the trauma that this girl and her two friends experienced, it took courage to get on the stage and tell the world about this. These friends of Andy have maintained a stance of defiance and anger for almost nine months!

The march, numbering about 150, began with a die-in at a main downtown intersection. This was followed by several more die-ins through the shopping district, disrupting the “routine” character of the life in downtown, causing restaurant owners to close their doors, in spite of the fact that some of the diners (including tourists) were sympathetic to the protest. As bodies were outlined in chalk on the streets, one of the youths said, “I’m doing this for Andy. He can’t be here!”

As the march looped back to the main square, an announcement was made. The rally and march had made an important statement; but many want to continue this march and make some significant impact on society commensurate with the outrage felt by many toward the crime of letting Gelhaus (and many other killer cops like him) go! About 100 people continued the march toward the busy 101 freeway!!

With a loud cacophony of whistles and banners, chanting “blow your whistle, raise your fist, we refuse to live like this” and “whose world, our world” and the repeated “Andy, Andy, Andy,” the rally echoed up toward the freeway off-ramp. After a short confrontation with a line of cops, about 20-25 people made their way to the top and stopped traffic going northward with banners that read “We Are All Andy Lopez, the whole damn system is guilty” and “Rise up against Andy’s murder,” as well as another banner in Spanish. The remainder of demonstrators, about 50+ strong, had a die-in while confronting California Highway Patrol and Santa Rosa cops in riot gear (including canine units on standby) at the bottom of the off-ramp.

As the demonstrators blocked the freeway, CHP came out with beanbag guns and clubs, at one point aiming the gun directly a few feet from a demonstrator. But people stood firm and the traffic was halted for 15-20 minutes. Vehicles had meanwhile backed up 10 miles to the south. Afterwards, as people marched off the freeway through a gauntlet of cops, they joined up with others at the bottom of the off-ramp.

Still the march continued! Onto the mall, where about 50 people loudly marched through Macy’s department store. The march continued through to the other side and back to the square to talk about what happened.

A number of the young friends of Andy felt unleashed by the action. One of the girls said, “When are we doing this some more?” Another girl said, “They were afraid of us here!” An older woman with a walker said, “This was the best thing that ever happened to Santa Rosa.” Another protester said, “This city has been asleep for too long. We woke people up!” While this action aroused controversy among some, it emboldened others, including some who previously thought cops could be reasoned with to get justice for Andy and to stop police murder and brutality of the youth.

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