California meeting demands: ‘Justice for our communities’

Oxnard, Calif. — About 300 people from across the state of California attended the historic “Justice for Our Communities! Families Organizing to Resist Police Brutality and Abuse” conference at the Oxnard Community College. Attendees at the April 27 meeting included families of police brutality victims and community organizations from as far away as Sacramento and San Diego.

The event’s Facebook page stated: “This conference is a component in the ongoing grassroots community resistance that has been spurred on across the state in response to a soaring rise in police militarization, brutality and officer-committed abuse in working-class neighborhoods and communities of color. This conference will create an opportunity for the planning, coordination and organization of statewide events and actions to address and bring an end to these injustices.”

The daylong event, hosted by Oxnard College MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán), opened with a statement from the Todo Poder al Pueblo (All Power to the People) Collective, followed by a panel of strong presentations from the families of police brutality victims. The Oxnard-based collective, an independent grassroots formation, is credited with organizing the important event.

Speakers included family members and friends of Oscar Grant (Oakland), Manuel Díaz (Anaheim), Robert Ramírez and Alfonso Limón Jr. (Oxnard), Ernest Dueñez (Manteca), José de la Trinidad (Inglewood) Mario Romero (Vallejo) and Michael Nida (Downey). Also in attendance were the families and friends of police victims Victor Ortega (San Diego), Kelly Thomas (Fullerton) and many others.

Keynote speakers included Minister Keith Muhammad of the Nation of Islam’s Muhammad’s Mosque 26B in Oakland; Cruz Reynoso, the first Chicano associate justice of the California Supreme Court; Alex M. Salazar, a former Ramparts/Los Angeles Police Department police officer turned “renegade” cop; and Al Rojas, a longtime local labor organizer who talked about his experience working alongside César Chávez in the historic struggle for worker and immigrant rights.

The event also included a host of workshops covering such topics as “gang injunctions,” “youth rights in school,” dealing with the legal system after losing a loved one to police violence, community self-defense, police brutality as “an instrument of terror and subjugation,” and many more topics.

After the last workshop concluded, a final plenary session was held in an outside open “quad” area to strategize and re-energize the fightback against police terror in communities of color and immigrant communities. The group discussed organizing a statewide convergence on Sacramento to demand a change to the California Police Officers Bill of Rights, which is often used to protect officers from public accountability. Organizers also called for groups to go all out locally on Oct. 22, the annual day of national protests against police brutality.

Endorsers included many different grassroots organizations from across the state.