Nearly 800 faith leaders, victims of police misconduct, family members of people killed by law enforcement, and other community members staged a sit-in outside of Governor Brown’s office Wednesday, Sept. 2nd following a march and rally for police reform.
Chants echoed through the halls as participants called on Governor Brown to affirm his support for a bill to combat racial and identity profiling by law enforcement in California.
The actions were connected to the growing demands for systemic police reform as the country reels from the recent, high profile deaths of several unarmed people of color over the past year.
AB 953: The Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015 was introduced by Assembly member Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) to combat racial and identity profiling by law enforcement.
“Recent incidents have forced us to confront some ugly truths about the persistence of racial bias in law enforcement. One of our best defenses is information about who is stopped by police and why. Currently, information on these incidents isn’t provided publicly in a comprehensive way,” Weber said.
According to an independent analysis, unarmed Black men are seven times more likely than unarmed white men to die by police gunfire.
Yet while the deaths of unarmed men of color have dominated the conversation on race and policing nationwide, organizers for Wednesday’s events also stressed the impacts of biased policing on women, members of the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and religious minorities.
“For far too long Black, Indigenous, Latino, and immigrant communities have been unfairly profiled, harassed, and killed by law enforcement,” said Rev. Ben McBride, Director of Regional Clergy Development for PICO California.
“Law enforcement has gone unchecked and the state legislature has failed at protecting those most vulnerable to police misconduct,” he said. “The passage of AB 953 is just one way state legislators can begin to root out the evil ingrained in the culture of mass criminalization that exists in our state. Black lives matter. People of color matter. We must demand that our elected officials and law enforcement officers do what they are paid to do and that is protect us.”
With 129 people killed by law enforcement this year alone, California holds the ominous record for the highest number of deaths in the country. Alarmingly, the Los Angeles Police Department has killed more people than any other agency in the country. However, the state still does not collect, analyze, or make available basic information about who the police, stop, search or even shoot.
Among those at the rally was Ruben Bermudez, whose son, Eduardo, was shot and killed by LA County Sheriff deputies in East Los Angeles on November 16, 2014. Ruben has been a parent leader with the Youth Justice Coalition ever since, working with other families who have survived the killing of their loved ones by law enforcement to push for recognition, respect, dignity and human rights for the victims of law enforcement profiling, suppression and use of force.
He traveled to Sacramento to speak at the rally and in front of the Governor’s Office about Eduardo. He choked back tears as he spoke.
“Eduardo was a good boy,” Bermudez said. “He didn’t deserve to die like an animal in the street. His sister witnessed him getting shot. His aunt yelled at the sheriffs – ‘Please don’t shoot; he won’t hurt you.’ And they shot him down anyway.”
We will never be the same,” he said. “I can’t sleep any longer. I can’t stop crying. We have to fight back. We have to push the legislature and governor to pass AB953 for the data.”