Santa Ana Community Marches for Michael Brown
Over 150 community members and activists gathered in downtown Santa Ana last Wednesday night to hold a vigil, as well as a protest, for Michael Brown, the victim of a police shooting in which the officer received was cleared of an indictment.
In August, the 18-year-old Brown was shot by officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Documents and testimony show that Wilson shot Brown in the head as he was running away, an act of police brutality in clear explicit violation of protocol. Additionally, an array of issues surrounding the shooting have arisen since then, which point to deep racial implications regarding the murder of a Black teenager by a white police officer. Statistics show that St. Louis county, of which Ferguson is a part of, is the 9th most segregated metropolitan area in America.
Although over 60 percent of Ferguson’s residents are Black, its mayor and police chief are white. Only 3 of its 53 police officers are Black. Several UCI graduate students were in attendance, including Michael Mitchell, a first-year criminology, law and society graduate student.
“I sympathize with Mike Brown and all the Mike Browns in America,” he said. When asked about why he decided to come, his answer was simple.
“I’m a Black man in America. You know, I could be a victim at any time,” said Mitchell, who felt compelled not only to show up, but to also bring along peers from his department. Transplanted from Dallas, TX for only two months, Mitchell said that the first time he faced racial profiling from police was here at UCI.
He said that his experience as a Black man at UCI has generally been okay, save for an incident where he was stared down by police officers from their car as walked to his apartment late at night. Although nothing happened, the incident did shock him.
“At that moment, I was in fear,” said Mitchell, who was afraid that the officers were going to get out of their car and accost him.
Before the vigil began, the organizers asked everyone to respect the four and a half minutes of silence that Brown’s family has called for.
“Of course you want to be positive, that you believe you live in a country where there’s justice but unfortunately there isn’t,” said Erika Martinez, one of the action’s organizers.
A member of Colectivo de Mujeres Migrantes Unidas, a community organization that advocates for undocumented women, Martinez organized Wednesday’s action in conjunction with Zuleica Zepeda and Marilynn Montaño after hearing the verdict of no indictment last Monday evening.
Following the vigil, the crowd took to the streets of downtown Santa Ana, blocking eastbound traffic.
“Shut it down for Michael Brown!” the protesters yelled.
Hands were raised as police officers appeared in order to cordon traffic.
“If there’s kids, make sure that they’re safe too,” someone yelled.
For Quinn and Lance Boyce, children are imminent concern.
“It made me think of my unborn children, they’re going to be Black and I’m going to have to explain to them why these things happen,” said Lance, who had previously believed that racial discrimination didn’t exist.
For Quinn, Ferguson also served as a moment when she had to reckon with what she described as Black guilt for not recognizing before the discrimination her community faces, especially the kind manifested in instances of police brutality.
For the recently married interracial couple, the protest was a cathartic moment during which they both reckoned with the realities of race in America.
Among the speakers at the vigil was Donna Acevedo, mother of Joel Acevedo, who was shot and killed by Anaheim police in 2012. Last Wednesday was his birthday.
When asked what she would do if she met Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s mother, Acevedo was at a loss.
“I don’t think there are any words. I think I would just hug her,” she said.
“I wish more people would pay attention, because it needs to end.”