Oxnard Police Chief Attempts to Intimidate Marchers in Ventura County Star column


(NOTE: Our response will be released in the coming days… No justice, no peace!)

  • Posted October 27, 2013 at 1 a.m.

Re: Frank P. Barajas’ Oct. 20 guest column, “Waiting on the justice system”:

On the topic of public demonstrations in Oxnard, this recent opinion article delved back in time through Oxnard’s century-long history, citing past events in which the Oxnard Police Department responded to demonstrations with the use of batons and tear gas.

Most of the examples cited by the historian were from the 1940s and 1950s — such a long time ago, and a much different time altogether. These examples, intended to set a backdrop for today’s issues, are not reflective of modern-day policing.

The opinion article ignored the more recent history of the past two decades, a time in which the Oxnard Police Department implemented a host of progressive efforts and developed a strong and positive relationship with the community. The article’s academic perspective was obsolete, one-sided and distant from today’s Oxnard Police Department. We live in a much different time than those long-past decades.

During the past 14 months, five demonstrations have taken place in front of the Oxnard Police Department. Two weekends ago, about 150 people participated in a rally that observed the one-year anniversary of the tragic death of Alfonso Limon. This event was preceded in June by a demonstration that marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Robert Ramirez.

On Oct. 22 of last year, the Oxnard community witnessed a larger demonstration during National Day of Action Against Police Brutality, when approximately 450 people marched through the La Colonia neighborhood to the police station. Two other similar rallies were held in August of last year.

All of these demonstrations have involved marches to Oxnard’s Civic Center, including the Police Department’s headquarters building and Plaza Park.

It is a fundamental responsibility of the Oxnard Police Department to respect the public’s right to free speech and assembly, as is afforded by the First Amendment of the Constitution. This stance has been in place for many years, as demonstrated by the way the Police Department contended with more than 1,500 Proposition 187 demonstrators in 1994, and hundreds of Proposition 227 protesters in 1998. Both events, among the larger protests in Oxnard’s recent history, remained peaceful.

The Police Department has made many efforts to accommodate protesters. Last year, the Police Department made arrangements to facilitate parking for demonstrators. Preceding the recent demonstrations, our department made numerous efforts to reach out to its organizers, advising them of our role, but we received no response.

We have also been in regular communication with the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Services, whose conciliation specialists help mediate issues between the community and the police.

Though we continue to receive no response from the event’s organizers, we continue to contact members of the community, in hopes that the public understands our need to balance the right to free speech with the public’s safety.

Our department is committed to working with the community. Our officers have taken an oath to protect and serve our community. We will ensure that protesters’ rights of free speech and assembly are protected. However, we also have a responsibility to maintain order and protect the public’s safety.

During the recent marches, participants created traffic hazards by walking in the roadway of major thoroughfares. The demonstrators blocked both 3rd Street and ‘C’ Street in front of the police station as participants defaced the sidewalk, street, trees and bus stop with chalk inscriptions, much of which was profane.

In La Colonia, a transit bus was blocked from continuing on its route, and a pizza delivery driver was treated in a hostile manner by members of the crowd. The crowd ignored traffic signals and violated traffic laws as it walked up Oxnard Boulevard from 5th Street.

The participants walked north in the southbound lanes of Oxnard Boulevard, against the flow of traffic. This included children and marchers who were pushing toddlers in strollers. At one point, the group deliberately blocked all lanes of Oxnard Boulevard at Cooper Road for about 15 minutes, completely shutting down traffic in both directions.

This caused an immediate impact on traffic flow on Oxnard Boulevard, a major thoroughfare in this city, which required officers to divert traffic into residential neighborhoods. The actions of the group created a safety hazard to motorists and marchers alike.

While we recognize that demonstrators have a right to express themselves, they also have a responsibility to obey laws. California law allows police officers up to a year to cite or arrest for traffic infractions and misdemeanors. As with the other marches, evidence will be examined for intentional acts committed by individuals that jeopardize the public’s safety.

© 2013 Ventura County Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

SOURCE: http://www.vcstar.com/news/2013/oct/27/jeri-williams-different-times-call-for-different/

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