Beating on drums, pans and blowing on plastic stadium horns, about 150 activists protesting the shooting death of Andy Lopez picketed a re-election event Tuesday evening for Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch.
The demonstration was staged at the Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Rosa, where Ravitch was holding a pasta-feed fundraiser. The action is aimed at putting pressure on Ravitch to bring charges against the sheriff's deputy who shot and killed the 13-year-old Santa Rosa boy.
"We're here to send a message to the D.A. that we are not happy how she has addressed this issue," said Donny Williams, part of a local group called the Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez.
"Essentially, she needs to make this a priority, being that a 13-year-old was killed," Williams said.
Inside the event, in one of the building's side halls, Ravitch supporters ate to the constant din of protesters outside. Every now and then, a protester banged on a window or closed door.
Activists have said they chose the protest venue in an attempt to hit Ravitch where it counts and exert political pressure. The demonstration was the first of two actions activists held Tuesday to protest the Lopez shooting.
"It's not going to work," Ravitch said of the pressure to reach a decision quickly. She said one of her issues when she sought the District Attorney's Office was, "Justice, not politics."
"I will hold true to that and will continue to hold true to that as long as I have the privilege to hold this job," she said.
But protesters, who at times chanted "Jailhouse for Gelhaus," insisted that the investigation should not be taking so long.
"If I shot someone how long do you think that investigation would take," Williams said.
Ravitch is responsible for evaluating the criminal investigation into the shooting to determine whether to file charges against Deputy Erick Gelhaus.
Gelhaus, a 24-year veteran with the Sheriff's Office, told police he fired at Lopez because he thought the boy's airsoft BB gun — designed to resemble an AK-47 assault rifle — was a deadly weapon.
Critics, however, question whether Gelhaus gave Lopez enough time to understand what was happening.
The purpose of her analysis, she has said, is not to determine whether police policy or procedures were violated or whether Gelhaus' actions may be subject to civil sanctions.
Ravitch has made it clear in statements to the public that her task is to determine whether Gelhaus committed a crime. At Tuesday's fundraiser, she stressed that the case is still being investigated by the Santa Rosa Police Department, and that there is no decision to be made while an investigation is ongoing.
"You can't rush it," Ravitch said. "It's denying justice to rush the results."
Several times, protesters attempted to enter the veterans building but were escorted — and sometimes pushed — out by what appeared to be plainclothes security guards or police officers.
Later during the event, police in riot gear arrived and stood guard at various entrances to the building. At one point, guards attempted to shut a set of double doors on the left side of the building, but protesters blocked the doorway with their bodies to prevent the door from closing.
"I wasn't letting them close the door," said Ramon Cairo, 30, of Santa Rosa and a member of the local Brown Berets. "We cannot allow the police officers to shut the door on us and leave us outside, trying to make us forget, like the death of Andy Lopez has no meaning."