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Todo Poder al Pueblo Collective
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“Small city with big problems”: Oxnard Residents March to Community Relations Commission, Police Department to Demand End to Brutality
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Bereaved Mother Displays Son’s Photo Indicating that Brutal Beating Played Role in Son’s Death, City of Oxnard and Police Covering-Up Foul Play
(OXNARD, CA) On Monday, August 20, 2012, over a hundred local residents gathered in Oxnard’s Plaza Park before marching through downtown and into City Council Chambers to denounce police abuse and brutality at the Community Relations Commission (CRC) meeting. The community strongly conveyed that the CRC must carry out its mandate, “to promote better human relations among all city residents,” and ensure that these issues be placed on the next agenda of the Oxnard City Council. The community marched to the Oxnard Police Department headquarters where they powerfully chanted “Killer Cops, Off our Streets!” and similar slogans for approximately 30 minutes before returning to the park.
Full video here (28:13) : http://youtu.be/-RTZWFSJzAs
The Commission originally informed the Oxnard-based Todo Poder al Pueblo Collective that there were going to be formal presentations on the matter, and that the issue of severe misconduct on the part of the Oxnard Police Department (OPD) was going to be an item on the agenda. However, four days prior to the meeting, organizers were informed that interim City Manager Karen Burnham, City Attorney Alan Holmberg, and Chief of Police Jeri Williams had met and decided to block the item. Despite this setback, the community persisted by testifying on their experiences of police brutality and laid out its demands during the public comment segment of “items not on the agenda.”
The community’s core demands mandated systemic change to Oxnard Police Department practices in order to halt the ongoing pattern of police abuse and brutality. Additionally, the community called for the establishment of an independent, community-based, Police Complaint Review Board with the power to take action when police officers mistreat or harm the community in any way.
The bereaved family of Robert Ramirez, who died in the custody of the Oxnard Police Department on the night of June 23, 2012, spoke out and made an anguished appeal for an independent investigation of his brutal death. Concerned that Ramirez was possibly experiencing a drug overdose, family friends who were seeking medical attention called 911. Eye witnesses (who wish to remain anonymous) informed the family that they saw what appeared to be Tasers used on the young man, in addition to the savage beating of the handcuffed Ramirez by seven to ten Oxnard Police officers. A poster-sized photograph of the deceased Robert Ramirez was presented by the family before the CRC clearly indicating extensive facial bruising and physical trauma – evidence that the young Ramirez had been severely beaten prior to his tragic death.
Choking back tears, Teresa Ramirez stated that the OPD’s current practices could claim the lives of Commission members’ children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews if OPD brutality isn’t put to an end. The grieving mother noted, “I’m not saying that every single police officer in this town is brutal and mean. But everyone knows who they are, and they’re still in our streets.” She also asked, “Why does the City ignore us? We are being brutally abused.” She then called for an independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding her son’s death.
Individuals present during public comments were unanimous: “We’re a small city but we have big problems.” This statement was made by Alberto Ramirez, who emotionally detailed his experiences with Oxnard police officers: “I’ve got bills from the hospitals because officers also abused me. And I end up having to pay for them – for the x-rays.” Appealing to the Commission, he asked that they “just help us out… the police are getting away with too much.”
Also, the marchers strongly urged the CRC to assess the large, discriminatory gap between the police budget (which consumes nearly 60% of the city budget) versus monies allocated to parks and recreation, youth programs, and the employment of local youth.
A sign displayed by a community member read “Crooks and Killers Step Down!” Foul play has long been an open secret at the Council Chambers of the City of Oxnard. Recently, the City was the target of a two-year FBI investigation that began with federal raids on the offices and homes of city officials and ended by uncovering what the Ventura County district attorney office has gently called, “a clear pattern of fiscal waste.” This pattern of waste and corruption has included “improper borrowing” by the currently-suspended City Manager Ed Sotelo as well as self-rewarded retirement perks. The DA’s report (read complete report here)also uncovered the usage of “virtually unlimited” city funds spent on “travel expenses” related to lavish vacations by city officials, including trips by the outgoing Mayor Tom Holden to the home of a wealthy Oxnard land developer—undoubtedly—an issue of conflict of interests. The disgraced mayor and suspended city manager are currently facing a combined $23,000 in fines from the state ethics agency.
Los Angeles Times: Corruption Investigations in Oxnard
Los Angeles Times: Oxnard officials face ethics fines for accepting improper gifts
The Todo Poder al Pueblo Collective has called for a mobilization to the next meeting of the Oxnard City Council, Tuesday, September 11th. The action is set to begin at Plaza Park (5th and C St.) in downtown Oxnard at 6pm and the City Council meeting will begin at 7PM.