‘There is no mechanism left but civil disobedience.” The chalk message remains on the curb at the site of Santa Rosa’s most raucous protest in the Andy Lopez saga. The quote by author and activist Chris Hedges may be all too true.
Last week, the NAACP of Sonoma County sent a letter to the association’s national president, Esther Haywood, to thank her for her efforts surrounding the Ferguson situation. Ann Gray Byrd, president of the Sonoma County chapter, mentions the similar situation in Santa Rosa with Andy Lopez: “At the very least, you have gained the attention of the U.S. Justice Department—we have not.”
The situation in Ferguson become national news when police aggressively tried to quell a protest—a peaceful demonstration, at the time—taking place in the streets of the town, whose population is about 70 percent African American.
The similarities of the situations are hard to ignore: unarmed minority teenager shot multiple times from far range by a veteran officer who was just doing his job. The outcomes are vastly different. In Santa Rosa, children walked out of school to participate in demonstrations; one protest closed part of the freeway for an hour; and a few protesters were arrested over the course of a month.
The shooting of Andy Lopez made national news, but did not spark a federal investigation. Yes, the Ferguson situation has gained the attention of the Justice Department, but considering how it happened, is that really what we want in Santa Rosa?
The deputy behind the gun that killed Lopez, Erick Gelhaus, has been exonerated of criminal charges and returned to patrol last month, 10 months after killing a toy-gun-wielding 13-year-old. Instead of listening and acting upon the screams for justice, our guardians just telling us to shut up, slapping us on the back of the head with a reminder that “there’s plenty more where that came from.”
Perhaps all we have left is civil disobedience, but the word to emphasize is “civil.” Only beating hearts with loud voices can achieve the results that reckless action desires.
Nicolas Grizzle is staff writer for the ‘Bohemian.’
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