Report from Protest Against Police Murder of Antonio Zambrano-Montes

Shut Down Pasco!

March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:
A group of revolutionaries, along with family members of loved ones lost to police murder, traveled to Pasco, Washington, for a rally on February 21 against the police murder of Antonio Zambrano-Montes.

Antonio, 35, was originally from Michoaćan, Mexico, and worked in the orchards in this area in southeastern Washington State. On February 10, cops chased down Antonio, who was unarmed—when he stopped, turned around, and put his arms halfway up, the three cops gunned him down in a hail of bullets.

People immediately took to the streets after he was murdered, with rallies and protests being called for every weekend. There is also a daily presence outside Pasco City Hall organized by Occupy Tri-Cities (Tri-Cities includes Kennewick and Richland along with Pasco). A man at one of these rallies said, “When three cops all do the same thing, it’s obvious that’s what they were trained to do!”

Our group was welcomed with open arms—people opened their homes to us, appreciating that we traveled so far and helped them to not feel isolated and alone. Pasco is an agricultural community of almost 70,000. The majority of the population is Latino, with most of the people, who work almost every day, facing deep exploitation and intense physical labor where they are often injured. We heard stories of immigrants who had been threatened to be fired for reporting injuries while their white co-workers would receive very different medical treatment for the same injuries. A young woman we met works two jobs, seven days a week, and goes to high school online.

Antonio's aunt said he was a very hard worker who himself had an accident at work where both of his arms were broken, and he had to have screws in them. He had been making about $800 a week but after his accident the company gave him $80 a month. In the video of his murder, you can see that he is only able to put his arms up slightly. People told us over and over again that police could have handled this situation without killing Antonio.

A lot of the people, including the youth, are harassed by the police on a daily basis. Many of them say that they have been pulled over by the police for no reason at all. There is one small Washington State University extension in the Tri-Cities, but most of those growing up there don't have plans for college or university. Their future is about working in the fields or food processing plants.

We heard stories of cops pulling guns on people just sitting in cars or assisting disabled people at work. Some describe the cops as being “trigger happy.”

One woman told us that while handcuffed in the backseat of the police car, a cop maced her right in the face. Another time, “[A cop] grabbed me by the vagina." She said, "We have to stand up for ourselves, nothing is gonna change unless we stand up for ourselves, it's not." She works at a food processing plant chopping the tops and bottoms off onions all day long: “Everyone who works there is on work release or immigrants or old and nobody else wants to hire them. They get paid $10.25 an hour. One time the sewer flooded and they told us it was fine and to keep working. They don't give our breaks on time. My throat hurts, my back hurts.” She tells people to stand up and speak out against police brutality, but she says people are scared, especially of deportation.

A young woman whose dad was deported said that at a May Day rally, cops threatened to deport people if they didn't stop marching and they brought out huge police buses. She said her dad received horrific treatment at an immigrant detention center, only getting fed stale bread once a day, and that he told her that two other immigrants were shot for trying to bring food in.

So this gives you a sense of what life is like in this area for people. There is a very strong feeling that what happened to Antonio Zambrano-Montes could happen to anybody—that it could be their parents, their kids, their brothers and their sisters. In this light, it is very significant that a section of people here, mainly young people, have overcome being scared and have begun to find their voices, to speak out, taking the streets, blocking intersections, and even shutting down a major bridge. They are refusing to put up with this anymore, and this has begun to get connected up with the Call for the April 14 shutdown, with a bit of a buzz about it going on in town. One person said we have to stop business as usual, shut down the whole city, and they are a big part of this economy. He also said the body cams on cops aren't doing a damn thing.

We are told that the police give out stickers to kids at the schools, but the kids are no longer taking them, because they don't trust police. A college student who came in from a neighboring town said, “The system is based off of the oppression of us, Blacks and Latinos. Without oppressing us, their system doesn't work.”

People spoke bitterness at the rally on Saturday, February 21. People really appreciated it when a statement was read from Uncle Bobby, whose nephew Oscar Grant was killed in 2009 by transit police in Oakland, California. There was a woman holding a poster with an enlarged photo of her husband who had been killed by the Pasco police, and their four children standing there with her, without their father.

Joey Johnson (JJ), Stop Mass Incarceration Network activist and longtime revolutionary, spoke about why he and a crew of folks from Oakland came up to Pasco to stand with the people. He talked about how millions of people around the world have seen the video of the Pasco police’s heinous murder of Antonio Zambrano-Montes—how clearly he was not thinking rationally and needed mental health care, but instead the system sent the assassins. And that THREE cops pulled their guns and pumped bullets into Antonio’s body! JJ talked about the crossroads the movement against police murder is at, with the system trying to rule the rising of the people all over the country over last fall and winter “Out of Order!” and shove the genie of the masses' resistance back into the bottle. He spoke about the importance of April 14 to re-seize the initiative and shutting down the business-as-usual of police murder. And JJ talked about how we need revolution to really get at the root of all this madness and bring into being a new society, where this police murder and all the other outrages of this system are a thing of the past.

In the march following the rally, we went through the neighborhoods, calling people out of their houses and into the streets. People did die-ins at the different intersections. As dusk approached, young people came out, including kids on bikes and skateboards, and we headed towards the big bridge with the setting sun lighting its white towers. We were chanting loud as we marched onto it, a large suspension bridge that crosses the Columbia River and links Pasco to Kennewick.

We were chanting “¿Qué queremos? ¡¡Justicia!! ¿Cuándo? ¡¡Ahora!! What do we want? Justice!! When do we want it? Now!!” “Antonio did not have to die, we all know the reason why, the whole system is guilty! Indict, convict, send the killer cop to jail, the whole damn system is guilty as hell! ¿Cuál es el problema? ¡El sistema, el sistema! ¿Cuál es la solución? ¡Revolución! ¡Revolución!”

We also did some beautiful chants that captured the imagination about April 14, saying, "Pasco, shut it down! Seattle shut it down! LA! Shut it down! Detention centers! Shut it down!" And on the bridge were all ages, including whole families with two or three little kids with their parents. Little shorties carrying signs. There were Stolen Lives banners and a bunch of United Farm Workers flags. There were also some very cool white people who came out who hate the way Blacks and Latinos are treated. New leaders from the masses were stepping up to help organize and lead things. The march was a very, very bold thing to do, and obviously something that drew impetus from the fall and winter upsurge in the rest of the country. Taking the march to the bridge really captured the young people's edge and imagination. 

During this day there was some racist shit from a few passersby, and an incident where the pigs tried to fuck with the revolutionaries for speaking out on a street corner before the march, but overall the cops had a hands-off approach to the march. They want to sweep this under the rug, and there is some sense, possibly coming from the national government and police leadership, that if they hit back too hard, it will just bring more attention to this question.

The question of where all this will go is still being posed and struggled over. Will people's outrage get repressed or sucked into some dead-end reform? Or will people get organized to stand up on April 14 to stop business as usual, with many more getting into the movement for revolution that could actually end police murder and all the horrible conditions that people face here and around the world.

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