Statement read at Salinas demonstration August 17th, 2014
Sin Barras (Spanish for “Without Prison Bars”) is a Santa Cruz grassroots organization to abolish prisons and support prisoners’ rights and struggles, part of Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB).
Frank Alvarado Jr., murdered by the Salinas Police Department on July 10, was a member of Sin Barras. We met him in April in Watsonville, at the annual Walk to Stop the Silence against childhood sexual abuse. He signed a petition to stop jail and prison expansion and a letter to stop retaliation against CA Prisoner Hunger Strikers who are fighting the torture of long-term solitary confinement and for better conditions. He talked about having been locked up for eleven years and getting out and working to heal from prison trauma. The next week he joined us, spoke openly about his experiences inside and outside of prison, and worked for healing, resources, and rights for Formerly Incarcerated Persons. He took great joy in encouraging and helping everyone he met.
On May 14, Sin Barras and CURB sponsored an event at the Santa Cruz courthouse to protest the governor’s latest budget, which added $500 million to build new county jails. Frank held a sign saying “Invest in Protecting and Healing, NOT in Caging.” He spoke out powerfully against building more prisons that create violence and break up families. He said: “I made it through 11 years of hell…when I came out, I came out to …[no]…schools…parks…treatment… nothing. You want to take everything back and you want to build more prisons…” A UCSC City On a Hill Press report quoted Frank: “Now that I’m released, I don’t have anything to go to —…I would love to see the funding go back into anything that has something to do with re-entry from federal prison, state prison or county jail and back into the world.”
Frank spoke about his great love for his son, saying: “But he’s no longer my son…I lost him when I was in prison” and about taking care of his grandfather diagnosed with terminal cancer. He said, “I’m finally gonna be able to be around my family that loves me.” He continued, “…I won’t let go of the love I have for myself now, because I can finally respect myself. …I made it through so much in life and I’m gonna keep making it, because…I deserve it.” Watch the video here of Frank speaking at a rally two months before he was killed by Salinas police, and videos of his sister and niece speaking out after his murder. Check out media coverage of his work on behalf of current and former prisoners, such as the Monterey Weekly story on ID cards to help parolees reintegrate into society.
Frank had an incredible life as a grassroots community activist ahead of him. August 1st, 2014 would have been his 40th birthday. He deserved a world without racist mass incarceration, and to come out of prison with resources, treatment, mental health services, and civil and federal rights. He deserved living wages to care for his grandfather, decent housing, education, and quality of life. Now Frank and all the others deserve justice for their brutal murders by SPD. He was the fourth unarmed Latino man killed by SPD since March 20: March 20, Angel Ruiz, age 42; May 9 Osman Hernandez, 26; May 20, Carlos Mejia, 44; July 10, Frank Alvarado, Jr., 39. We demand Salinas PD release the names of the cops [update: names were released September 30, 2014, and all murderers were white officers: Officers Sergeant Mark Lazzarini, Daniel DeBorde, and William Yetter killed Angel Ruiz; Sergeant George Lauricella and Officer Derek Gibson killed Osman Hernandez; Sergeant Danny Warner and Officer Josh Lynd killed Carlos Mejia-Gomez; Sergeant Brian Johnson and Officer Scott Sutton killed Frank Miguel Alvarado.] We demand they be held accountable and support the families’ call to investigate anti-Latino discrimination and violation of federal rights, and to file federal civil rights lawsuit(s). Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin denies police racism, but how else do you explain that Salinas’ population is 76 percent Latino, but 100% of those murdered by Salinas police were Latino? We demand his resignation. We need a mass peoples’ movement to get real justice.
James Baldwin wrote: “…the only way to police a ghetto is to be oppressive… Their very presence is an insult, and it would be, even if they spent their entire day feeding gumdrops to children. They represent the force of the white world, and that world’s real intentions are, simply, for that world’s criminal profit and ease…” The police are militarized to protect the property and profits of the rich and white power structures. In East Salinas, they protect wealthy agribusiness and other exploiters of under-waged Latino labor – domestic, homecare, and farm workers who commonly make less than minimum wage. The police call their lettuce knives and gardening tools weapons and falsely accuse workers of threatening or attacking cops.
In the 1960s, Black, Latino, and Native American communities organized for civil rights and for self-defense against extra-judicial executions by law enforcement. The U.S. government assassinated and falsely imprisoned leaders; many are still behind bars, and in the 1970s began mass incarceration of Black and Brown people in the name of Wars on Crime and Drugs, but actually a War on the Poor. Police arrest and kill with impunity every day of the year. On August 9 national media covered the police killing of a young unarmed Black man, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, a two-thirds Black town just outside St. Louis. There is a march and rally today in Santa Cruz to denounce national police brutality and militarization.
After Frank’s murder, Salinas media protected the police, emphasized Frank’s criminal past, and published racist public comments about him being a gang member or illegal. Frank was born in the U.S., but no human is illegal, with or without papers. The U.S. creates conditions that force people to immigrate, and depends on very low-waged labor to do our hardest, most dangerous jobs, then targets immigrants with violence, detention, deportation, and separation of children from families. 47.6% of immigrants and their U.S.-born children live in or near poverty.
The police are trained to shoot to kill; they don’t want lawsuits for injuries. Frank Alvarado Jr. had only a cell phone, yet he “…was gunned down…[by] 6 cops…shot so many times, 5 houses down…a tree knocked down…,” a cop car was shot, and there were at least 24 bullet markers on the floor. The California Public Safety Officers Bill of Rights protects a long list of law enforcement and officials from public disclosure of the content of charges of brutality and killing.
Sin Barras will continue to expose the brutality and racism of the Salinas cops and media, and to support the families and community to win justice for Frank and all killed by Salinas PD, and to end all police murders and brutality. We will continue to fight in the spirit of Frank Alvarado Jr. for the rights of all prisoners and Former Incarcerated Persons, and to abolish modern-day slavery in poverty, prisons, and jails. Invest in caring for people and the planet, not in killing and caging.