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Broad protest of Andy Lopez shooting

  • Organizer Terri Carrion introduces speakers in front of an effigy of sheriff's deputy Erick Gelhaus during a rally for Andy Lopez in Julliard Park in Santa Rosa on Saturday, November 9, 2013.

    (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Henning-Adam offered tearful condolences to Lopez's mother, Sujey Lopez. Later Henning-Adam, who lives in Auburn, addressed the crowd and said she had come to Santa Rosa to "honor the memory of Andy Lopez." An effigy of Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus was placed near the stage microphone.

"You belong to a club that you never wished to belong to," Henning-Adam said, referring to her participation in the Statewide Coalition Against Police Brutality, which advocates for more than 50 families who have lost relatives in fatal encounters with law enforcement.

"I had no idea what was going on with the police in the United States of America until it happened to my family," she said.

Lopez was shot by Gelhaus on Oct. 22 after the deputy spotted the boy walking along Moorland Avenue in the middle of the afternoon carrying an airsoft BB gun that resembled an AK-47 rifle.

Gelhaus told police investigators he thought the gun was real and feared for his life when the boy failed to comply with with an order to drop the weapon and instead turned toward the deputy. But critics question whether Gelhaus gave Lopez enough time to understand what was happening.

At Saturday's rally, activists took testimonials from local residents who said they've been regularly harassed by law enforcement officials in the Moorland neighborhood and southwest Santa Rosa. Many residents described an ongoing sense of mistrust of law enforcement that has only worsened since Lopez was shot last month.

The rally was organized by local and outside groups. Local groups included MEChA de Santa Rosa Junior College; 100 Thousand Poets for Change; Nicole Guerra, a friend of the Lopez family; and Donald Williams, co-president of the Second Chance Club at Santa Rosa Junior College.

Michael Rothenberg, one of the founders of the poets group, said that among the recurring complaints from those who gave testimonials was harassment for "walking down the street at night or sitting in front of their houses."

"People are calling the police for help and then end up defending themselves from the police," he said.

Activists distributed several petitions during the rally, including one from MEChA that, among other things, calls for transparency in the Lopez investigation, the creation of community review board and better training for law enforcement in dealing with diverse communities. Organizers said they got about 450 signatures at the event.


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