Nearly 800 people filled the Sonoma Academy gym Sunday evening in Santa Rosa to rally for progressive community issues, such as immigration overhaul, new efforts to keep kids in school and better access to public transit.
Yet grief over the shooting death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez surfaced throughout the meeting of the North Bay Organizing Project, which contains members from various local nonprofit, religious and activist groups. And it peaked when Graton Rancheria Chairman Greg Sarris presented the Lopez family with a check for $8,000.
From the podium, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, told the audience filling the gymnasium bleachers at the foot of Taylor Mountain that before he spoke about immigration changes, he would "reflect on the tragic shooting that's truly rocked our community."
On the afternoon of Oct. 22, a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy shot and killed Lopez, who had been walking on Moorland Avenue carrying an airsoft gun designed to look like an AK-47 assault rifle. Investigators said the deputy believed the gun was real.
"We are going to need a transparent investigation into this tragedy," Thompson said. "While there is no good in this tragedy, I know that a compassionate and caring community together can get through this."
The crowd stood in applause, including Lopez's parents, Sujay and Rodrigo Lopez, and his siblings, who filled folding chairs in the front row.
The meeting was the latest in near-daily community events where people have expressed grief and outrage over Lopez's death. The shooting has sparked vigils at the vacant lot where Lopez was killed at the corner of Moorland and West Robles avenues. Teens and others have taken to the streets for at least five marches and rallies demanding a thorough investigation.
At Sunday's meeting, North Bay Organizing Project president Leticia Romero said in her opening remarks that she wanted to recognize how the shooting of Lopez "is indicative of what's not working in our society."
"The community is mourning and, at the same time, rejoicing for all the work that has been done," Romero said. "We will no longer be spectators."
The emotion in the room was palpable when Sarris presented Lopez's brother, Anthony Lopez, 17, with the check.