To protest against police brutality and to call for the resignation of District Attorney Summer Stephan, the Racial Justice Coalition of San Diego held a press conference on Saturday May 15. The press conference was held in front of the Hall of Justice and invited community activists, families of victims affected by police brutality, and local nonprofit founders.
The press conference was moderated by RJCSD founding member, Buki Domingos and community activist Yusef Miller.
“The reason we’re standing out here, on the steps of the Hall of Justice is because we are sending a strong message to our district attorney, Summer Stephan.” Domingos said. “She has been district attorney for at least a couple of years now. And for at least a couple of years nothing has changed in the prosecution of rogue officers.”
Summer Stephan, the second female district attorney for San Diego, has been the district attorney for San Diego since 2017, when she took over to finish the term of the previous district attorney. Her office, following the Black Lives Matter protests, introduced proposals to prevent excessive police force, but members of RJCSD are demanding for more.
“We cannot continue to have families be shot in the streets in the county of San Diego, we cannot continue to have knee on neck constraints here in San Diego,” Domingos said. “We are here today to strongly demand that Summer Stephans prosecute rogue officers or simply resign […] this is asking and telling her to hold her accountable and to fulfill the reason she was elected.”
According to the flyer for the press conference, in the past 25 years, more than 450 people were shot by law-enforcement officers in San Diego County. However, no police officer has ever served time or been prosecuted for any of these shootings.
Speakers at the event included families of victims killed by police officers, Anthony Carolino, the brother Dennis Corolino who was shot seven times by the SDPD as well as family members of Stephen Harris who was killed in El Cajon in November 2020. Other speakers included local activists and nonprofit leaders, including the founder of Gente Unida, the president of American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, chairman of All of Us or None, and members of the San Diego Original Black Panther Party for Community Empowerment.
Many of the speakers discussed their personal experiences of having a loved one killed by law enforcement with zero ensuing legal action from the district attorney’s office.
“When my brother got killed, I learned a lot. I believe the San Diego police officers, they’re sick-insane […] because they’re repeatedly killing innocent people. Which is why I call them sick-insane,”Carolino said.
Others, including Chairman of All of Us or None and former gang member Curtis Howard expressed his disapproval of police conduct, which he believes to resemble that of gang members.
“When I see the police and the way they operate now, I see the same thing in the way that I used to operate when I was a gang member,” Howard said. “I pulled up on people just like they do and said ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Where you from?’ ‘Where you going?’[…] The same questions that the gang members ask, the police ask right now when they stop you […] The cops are gang members now.
“They need to be held accountable more. Because you expect this behavior from a person like me who’s a documented and known [former] gang member, you expect me to do the type of [stuff] that I do, but you don’t expect the police to do that.”
Concerns about police violence have been an on-going discussion in the region. On May 14, footage of Jesse Evans being forcibly beaten by San Diego Police officers led to public outcry throughout the UC San Diego community and activist circles. Additionally, the UC community expressed backlash against new proposed UC measures that would increase police presence on campuses. Many expressed the belief that an increased police presence will increase the frequency of instances of police brutality.
Another speaker, James Tillory, shared his frustration with the treatment of black people by law enforcement.
“We’re tired of being victimized and murdered under the cover of the law,” Tillory said. “We need a department to protect black people […] Put another department in there, just like you have one for child protection services and you know mental health services, how about black people? We’re a special group all by ourselves!”
Tillory’s speech was followed by Miller who urged others to learn the local issues and the local names of victims.
“Now we heard names like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor. We heard names like Eric Garner, Tamir Rice,” Miller said. “National names that everybody knows, but I tell you here today that if you don’t know the local names, then you’re doing a disservice to this movement […] If you are only interested in the national steam and the national fervor you are disrespecting the issues that are going on here.”
Miller referenced local names such as Angel Hernandez, who was killed in October 2020 by Metropolitan Transit System security workers kneeling on his neck for over six minutes. He also pointed to San Diego’s incarceration death rates, which are the highest in the state of California.
The press conference ended with attendees chanting the names of local victims of police brutality.
Please refer to the following for more information regarding local victims including Angel Hernandez, Dennis Carolino, Toby Diller. And for those interested in supporting this cause, can sign RJCSD’s Pledge of Resistance to demand the prosecution of guilty law enforcement officers by the district attorney’s office.
Photo courtesy of Racial Justice Coalition of San Diego.