Sunday, December 22, 2013

Civil Rights Are Non-existent In My Barrio

A young man was shot three times in the back, in my neighborhood. There were people near him as he laid face down on the dirt street; by the time the police arrived they stood around, and a person told them to fucken do something. One of the cops looked traumatized like he hadn't seen a person who had been shot before. The person that told them to fucken do something, started being pushed away from the young man by another cop. A woman held the young man's hand, and tried talking to him, another cop yelled at her to get away because it was a crime scene, she ignored them, the cop checked his pulse, and yelled out, "We've got a pulse." So the woman kept talking to him, and the young man laying face down, taking his last breaths turned his head toward her. Eventually one of the cops called in for an ambulance and took out a first aid kit from his patrol car, to try to assist the young man.

My mother recounted this to me a few days ago, along with some other things. The cop with first aid kit apparently really didn't seem to know what he was doing, because he looked unsure. The cop turned the young man's body over, and placed something plastic in his mouth, possibly to perform cpr. Somehow when the cop raised the young man's upper torso, he either lost his grip or lost his nerve, and the young man's head hit the asphalt hard. A woman in the crowd yelled out, "Oh my God, he killed him!" That's how hard the young man's head hit the asphalt. My mother was trying to film everything on her cellphone but one of the cops came over and told her to turn it off, to which she replied she didn't have to. The cop threatened to take her phone away and keep it as evidence. My mother protested further, but she put her phone down and in doing so didn't save the incompetence she had been trying to record on her cell phone. The young man passed away, the father showed up, but the officers didn't let him go near his son, people were questioned.

The day after the murder, some of the young man's friends gathered in the spot he had passed away. They were having a vigil, paying their respects to their friend. My brother and mother were among the crowd of mostly young men, but eventually some neighbors began to come out to participate. As this was occurring, an Asian cop that patrols the area and is known to intimidate and harass many of the locals showed up, and demand they disperse. He started threatening to arrest people. My mother confronted him, letting him know they weren't doing anything wrong, they were paying their respects for the young man who had been killed the day before. The Asian cop said, he knew what they were doing, and accused them of having a "gang gathering!" My mother said are you kidding me, and asked him to prove it. He pointed to some of the young men and the way they were dressed, typical teen attire in our barrio, the baggy clothing. The Asian cop yelled out, "I know some of you are on probation! If you don't leave I'll arrest you!" Admittedly some of the those young men were on probation, and started to walk away. My mother ignored him and returned to the vigil.

At which point the cop, approached my brother and accused him of being on probation, and said he was going to arrest him. My brother told him he wasn't on probation and therefore couldn't do that. Another cop leaned in and started telling the Asian cop to arrest him, just do it. My brother told him to run his name, so he could see for himself that he wasn't on probation. By this time more cops showed up, my mother approximated ten in total. He ran my brother's name, found that he had an unpaid parking ticket and said he was going to take him for that. Another guy, with a ponytail was called out from the crowd. Apparently he was the older brother of the young man who had been killed. He told the cops he was going to be honest, he was going to give them his name, but he had just gotten out of prison, and was therefore going to show up as being on probation. But he told them he was there, because the young man killed was his brother. The cops didn't arrest him, but they didn't care if he was there to pay his respects, they told him to go home or they'd arrest him regardless. He walked away.

 Seeing my brother getting harassed by the Asian cop, my mother walked toward them. As my mother approached the Asian cop, some of the people in the crowd began recording with cellphones. Many of the cops took out their flash lights and turned the light toward the cell phone users, so that the light would make it difficult for the crowd to record. My mother asked the cop for his name and badge number, and he replied he didn't have a card on him. Pretty convenient she told him, my mother had faced off with this fucker before, and he never had a card. She then said that's fine, let me see your badge number. He covered his badge. My mother said she wanted all their names and badge numbers, all the other cops followed suit, and covered their badges. One cop eventually offered his commander's card, which she took. The Asian cop told her he could arrest her. She told him, go ahead do it. He walked slowly toward her, and she stood her ground. But she realized that my brother might get angry, and snap if the cop put his hands on her, so my mother turned her back on him, and walked back to the vigil. The cop felt triumphant, and yelled at her, "That's right! Stay on that side of the street and don't come back here!" Little did he know my mother was trying to save my brother from a Rodney King-style beating at the hands of him and his fellow abusers of power bestowed upon them by the badge. My mother called the commander's number, but was sent to a voicemail, of course, and left a message, asking the commander to please tell his officers to stop trying to intimidate and harass the people in our neighborhood while they were holding a vigil. She knew the commander wouldn't return her call, nor do anything about his underlings. Eventually the Asian cop released my brother, but accused him of having called him racist. My brother hadn't called him racist, and my brother told him as much. Another cop leaned in and whispered something to the Asian cop, after which he let my brother get back to the vigil.

The cops stayed there staring down the crowd until they finished. People dispersed, and that was the end of it. My mother told me that at one point she had spoken to the young man's parents after he had been killed. The father relayed a story about his son to my mother. He told her, that his son had been in trouble and was on probation. He had been walking down the street when he spotted the cops, at which point he began to run. His son apparently jumped over a fence, lost his footing, and injured himself when he landed. The cops had given chase, and had managed to catch up to him. The young man had yelled out, "I'm over here, but I'm already hurt!" Apparently one of the cops didn't give a fuck, and kicked him in the back. The son had told his parents about this incident, and in true old-school-traditional-Mexican-parent fashion, the father had told him, "That's what you get for being a troublemaker, cabron!" Having told this to my mother, the father let her know he regretted having said that to his son, after the cops didn't let him approach his son lay dying.

I've lost sleep since my mother told me about what happened with the cops. The cops aren't supposed to cover their badges or refuse to identify themselves. That tells me, they know they're doing something wrong, and are covering their badges to avoid complaints being filed against them. They're taking advantage of the situation, because it's a Mexican barrio, and they believe they can intimidate and harass people without regard for their civil rights. They figure no one is going to complain, because they think working class Mexicans living in the barrio don't knows their rights. However once they confront someone who does know their rights, they try to intimidate them more, by threatening to arrest them. This latest transgression is to me one of the worst, fucking with people while they pay their respects to one of the barrio's sons. As they say in Spanish, "Ya se estan encajando los cabrones."

The community had tried working with the cops to keep the neighborhood safe, but the way the cops wanted to work with the community was by asking them to report anybody they knew violating probation, or if they saw anything suspicious, like a bunch of cholo-looking teenagers hanging out on the street. They wanted the community to turn in their own people. As a result, the community chose not to work with the cops.

I continue losing sleep, angrily wishing I would have pursued a law degree instead of whatever the fuck it is I'm doing here now. That way, I'd at least be able to protect my family in some way from those cops especially the Asian cop who has done a lot intimidating and harassing, and using shady tactics. All I could offer my mother was to contact the local ACLU even though they lag in their response to such cases in our area. She said she had better luck with a local chapter of LULAC. In the mean time I sit here and stew, maybe its because I'm the oldest son, and feel a need to protect them somehow, but am unable to do so. I don't think that Asian cop would ever want anyone to harass or intimidate his mother, nor threaten to arrest her for no reason in particular other than she challenged their authority. But he obviously seems not to care about this, all that matters to him, is control of the people in barrio, and making sure they stay in their place.

I don't know the young man that was shot and killed. My family did, he was friends with my brothers. My mother once found him sleeping in one of our cars after his parents had kicked him out of their home. I hope his murder is solved and may he rest in peace.

I also hope attention is given to the violation of civil rights being perpetrated by the cops in that barrio, and that something is done about it. Wishful thinking.


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