Family and friends demand justice for Martin Figueroa and other victims of police brutality. Photo by Ernesto Saavedra

Stop the Slaughter

By Ernesto Saavedra

It’s June 16, 4 p.m., I’m on my bike and I’m running late. I’m pedaling like I’ve never pedaled before, ignoring my aching thighs and sweat in my eyes. I get a rush as I approach, “all right, let’s get loud!” However, my excitement levels out as I’m hit instantly by a somber feeling. This is family.

I take out my camera.

A neon green sign with a picture of a young man catches my attention; written on it “Martin Figueroa: 3/13/87 to 5/20/14.” He was just about two years younger than me, 26 if my math is right. Other signs quietly lean on a coffin: “FRESNO POLICE SHOT 17 TIMES UNJUSTLY MURDERED MY BROTHER” and “IMMIGRANTS ARE NOT ANIMALS! STOP THE BRUTALITY STOP THE SLAUGHTER.”

Everyone there greeted each other with their eyes as if to not take away from the words written on the signs. Everyone lines up. They march! I march! We march!

We march for the fallen; we march for justice. We march to demand that the

  • Fresno Police Department (FPD) use negotiations and mental health intervention when confronting a suspect who appears to be suffering from a mental or emotional crisis regardless of time or cost, and
  • FPD use less than lethal force as their first response when confronting suspects who appear to be a threat to themselves or others, weapon or no weapon.

The “powers that be” in City Hall heard loud and clear and promised to meet with the family members of police brutality victims, as well as the community activists and professionals that support them. Small, but a victory nonetheless.

The sun begins to go down as if it stayed up purposely in a selfless act of solidarity to make sure we weren’t just heard but seen. We circle up and a few words are spoken; then someone begins to clap. The claps go faster and louder; echoing off of the buildings of these deeply oppressive institutions.

We’ll be back to fight another day.

To support and or learn more about the current Fresno fight against police brutality, contact Juan Avitia, MAPA (Mexican American Political Association) state and national president, at 559-977-4247.

*****

Ernesto Saavedra is the current editor of the Community Alliance. Contact him at ernesto.fresnoca@gmail.com.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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