Monday, October 4, 2010
Anger fueled protests get mad solidarity!
Recently, in West Side Modesto on Paradise and MLK Jr. BLVD., about 100 people gathered in protest against the police killings of Francisco Moran in early September 2010, and the recent murder of Rita Elias by (supposedly) an off duty Stanislaus County Sheriff. Banners read, "RIP Francisco Moran, RIP Rita Elias," "DISARM MPD," and "From LA to Oakland to Modesto, Resist Police Terror, 209 RISE UP!" Family members and friends of Elias wore shirts with her image, and earlier that day they had helped fundraise for her funeral expenses and for her three children that she leaves behind. Police and Sheriffs (despite rumors) made no attempts to contain or disperse the angry and growing crowd, which protested from 6pm - 8:30pm.
Many people saw the protest and joined. "My father was killed in the Stanislaus County jail. They broke his jaw. I grew up without a father because of this," said one man. People talked on the megaphone about the need for united community action against the police, urging unity across racial barriers in the fight against out of control departments. Flyers were handed out for a larger march happening on Saturday, October 23rd. The march will meet at 10th and J Street, and then march on the jail and the Modesto Police Station. The demonstration will be held to remember and fight for all those that have been killed inside the local jail and on the street by the police. Family members and friends of loved ones killed are invited to come out and bring their stories to the public.
The crowd also took to the various intersections, marching around while chanting "Justice for Rita! Justice for Francisco Moran!," "Fuck the Police and the Modesto Bee!," "Cops! Pigs! Murderers!" The huge display of public support for the demonstration was immense. At some points, it was hard to talk due to the amount of honking passing motorists gave to the protest.
But, surprise, surprise, as people were taking to the streets of Modesto, the Sheriff's Department was quick to produce their story which they hoped would absolve them of any wrong doing, and further public outrage. According to the Sheriffs, Elias had a realistic looking BB gun in her hands and threatened the off duty officer with it.
Some media outlets that came to the protest last night, refused to run interviews with Elias family and show footage of the demonstration, yet still ran with the police side of the story, totally absolving the Sheriffs of any wrong doing. The BB gun, they claim, helped justify the murder. Of course, police are not going into detail as to why the officer got into an argument with Elias in the first place, or why she was over at her house to being with. Furthermore, just as police always do, they will be investigating the shooting themselves. Can we really expect anything resembling justice?
Of course, witnesses and family members paint a much different picture of the shooting. An investigative report on the Voice of Modesto online news site describes interviews with friends and family of Rita Elias conducted yesterday:
I talked to several people at the fund-raiser and have heard information that conflicts with what has been reported in the Modesto Bee.
The Bee has reported that Detective Kari Abby was at the home of Ms. Elias on personal business. The house Ms. Elias lived in was owned by the Abby family. There has been speculation that Detective Abby was there to evict Ms. Elias. First of all, it is inappropriate for a detective to involve themselves in the personal business of family members. Evictions are carried out by deputies, but they are on-duty and would not be involved in evictions that involve their own family members. I was also told that no eviction paperwork has been filed at the courthouse and the two men that shared the home with Rita were told there was no rent due.
A friend of Rita’s who lives four blocks away, told me that she heard gunshots at 6:00 p.m., not 6:30 as reported in the Bee. She was adamant about this, ”the shots were definitely at 6:00 PM”. She also said the first shot was “in the air” about the height of someone standing up. Then there were a few seconds before the next shots. The rest of the shots sounded “low” as if someone were leaning over to the ground. If the first shot put her on the ground, why was it necessary to lean over her and empty a gun into her body. She wasn’t going anywhere after that first shot to the face.
It’s hard to tell what really happened. I was told that a man who lives near Rita stepped outside just a few seconds before the first shot. He said that it was a man who shot Rita, not a woman. He saw the entire shooting episode. A man shot Rita, left the scene, then 15 minutes later, Sheriff Deputy Kari Abby came on the scene with two other men. Why is Detective Abby taking the fall for the man who shot Rita? A neighbor of Rita’s was in a barber shop the day after the shooting and overheard a deputy saying that the reason he was so upset about this is that the women who was shot didn’t even have a gun? Who really shot Rita Elias? Why is the Sheriff’s Office participating in yet another cover-up?
Additionally, as if it wasn’t enough that their family member was murdered, the Sheriff’s Office has refused to let Rita’s family view her body. She has not been identified by any member of her family. Does that seem cruel to anybody else? I spoke with Luis Elias, Rita’s father. While fighting back tears, he told me they have not let him see his daughter yet. While the investigation is on-going, and the family is trying to raise money for a funeral, right now this grieving father simply wants to see his daughter. If I were in his shoes, I would not believe it was my family member who was killed until I could actually see them. What possible negative affect can come about as a result of her family identifying her? It won’t affect the outcome of the autopsy. It won’t affect any information gathered from witnesses. The Coroner’s Office says it doesn’t have room for an entire family to view a body. However, there is not reason they can’t let Mr. Elias and another family member identify Rita. It is just a cruel way of controlling a grieving family. The Sheriff’s and Coroner’s Offices should be ashamed.
I was also told that the nine witnesses to the shooting each reported that Rita did not have a gun in her hand. The Sheriff’s Office is now saying that Rita had a replica gun.
While the tragedy of the murders of Francisco Moran, Rita Elias, and all others that have died at the hands of the police on the streets and in the jails continues to unfold, we must stand together. Our tasks are great. We must support each other, not only through the deaths of our loved ones, but also against attacks by the police and the media. We must raise money to help pay for funerals and help put food on their kids' table. And, we must turn our rage into action against the police themselves. We must not be afraid to raise our voice, and come together to organize against institutions that preserve their power through fear, intimidation, and the threat of violence. Together, we live, work, and go to school with hundreds of thousands of other people who like us, have a similar relationship to the police.
As we discover that we all share similar experiences, we organize ourselves and begin to act. The divisons between us based on the color of our skin and where we live in this city begin to slip away, as we understand where are true enemies are. When this happens, those in power will do everything they can do to lie, disrupt, and stop us from confronting the conditions that make our lives miserable. They have the power of the media, the government, and money on their side - but we have each other. And there will always be more of us, than them.
and even more recently...