Community gathers for missing college students

“Hands up. Don’t shoot,” could be heard Wednesday night, when students and members of the community gathered in solidarity for the 43 missing college students in Mexico who were presumed abducted by local police in September. 

More than 30 students from Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College and members of Sonoma County lit candles, voicing their concerns on the missing 43 students and concerns on police tactics around the nation, which are described by many as police brutality among minorities. 

“The abuse of power today is disgusting, and we are tired too,” said student Griselda Madrigal.

Madrigal organized the event of solidarity with members of Santa Rosa Junior College’s and Sonoma State’s El Movimiento Estudiantíl Chicano de Aztlán, and concerned members of the community. Madrigal was inspired to take action in her community after taking a Chicano and Latino studies class, “Latinos in Politics” with instructor Ron Lopez. 

The protest was held between Darwin and Stevenson hall on campus Wednesday around 6:30 p.m. 

Students came together lighting candles, before marching to Seawolf Plaza and through the Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center and University Library.

The protestors quietly marched with signs in silence while students studying watched.

The march led back to Seawolf Plaza where protestors marched inside the Student Center, and were told to leave or that police services would be called. 

Protestors quickly responded by leaving, but one child who accompanied her mother in the march was frightened and ran out crying when she heard they would be calling the police. 

“I believe events like this inspire further events and demonstrations that people will not let go until we obtain justice,” said Evelyn Novaro, a Santa Rosa resident and member of the Brown Berets of Sonoma County.

The event was part the national day of action for peace in Mexico on Wednesday, where 43 cities held protests for the 43 missing students in Mexico. Some of the cities included Berkeley, New York City, and St. Louis, Missouri. This event served as a symbolic protest around the nation, demanding the United States to stop funding Mexican drug war.

This is the second event that took place at Sonoma State this fall. On Nov. 20, students held a protests and solidarity for the 43 missing students in the plaza between the library and information center. 

Outrage has broke out in Mexico and around the world about the 43 students who were abducted by police in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. The 43 students were of Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ college of Ayotzinapa and on their way to hold a protest against the local government on what they considered discriminatory hiring and funding practices. 

“This is definitely a situation where the more attention is shown, the more something will happen,” said Emily Crawford, a Chicano and Latino Studies major. “I’m pretty excited that for us to get together and really come together as a community, especially on a day like this.”

By local accounts, the students were placed under custody by local police and given to “Guerreros Unidos,” a local gang to deal with the students. Most are presumed dead; authorities that are investigating have found multiple mass graves, none of which are the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa.

Investigations has led to the allegation that former mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez and his wife ordered the arrest and handing over of students to the local gang. 

Protests have been organized around the nation about the use of force by law enforcement, recent protests include the deaths of Andy Lopez, a 13-year-old who was shot by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy in October of last year,  and Eric Garner who died in Staten Island, New York on July 17 after a police officer had him in a chokehold as he could be heard repeating “I can’t breathe” several times.

The most recent case is that of the shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown was shot multiple times after fleeing police after altercation. Eyewitnesses at the scene have given accounts of Brown attacking the officer, and other accounts of brown surrendering with hands up.

All police officers involved in the fatal shootings have not had any charges filed against them, sparking outcry among communities. 

“I am getting really tired of violent solutions, whether it’s in Mexico or in the United States,” said Susan Lamont, with The Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County. “It feels like it’s getting worse, maybe it’s being recorded more, I don’t know but there are problems in this world and there are ways to solve them that are not violent.”