Sonoma State University’s Social Justice and Activism Club held a silent rally Thursday in protest of police brutality and to honor the two year anniversary of Andy Lopez’ death.
Lopez, 13, was fatally shot on Oct. 22, 2013, while walking around a vacant Santa Rosa lot and carrying an airsoft gun that resembled an AK-47 assault rifle. Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy Erick Gelhaus mistook the toy gun for an actual firearm. Lopez was one of several hundred people killed unjustifiably by law enforcement officers in 2013 alone, according to politifact.com.
Lopez’ case was one of the many where no criminal charges were filed against the officer involved. Gelhaus is still on duty with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s department.
Lorena Guerrero-Diaz, the president of the Social Justice and Activism Club, said the club members chose to hold a silent rally in order to emphasize the power of peaceful protest.
“We decided to do [the protest] because I feel like it’s not really what we’re saying, we can have a bunch of speakers and they can get to people, but what really matters is what has happened,” said Diaz.
Diaz said during the rally, she was approached by a student whose brother was killed by a police officer in Sacramento a few months ago. “She just came and told us that she doesn’t know what to do,” said Diaz. “It’s just the little things like this, they don’t have to be big, they just have to be known.”
Many Sonoma State students believe that police brutality has become common in the U.S. and are glad to see students organize things like Thursday’s silent rally.
“It is good to see that people care about these issues at SSU. This type of thing can happen anywhere, to anyone,” said sophomore Hutchins major Scotty Santina during the rally. “We have to do what we can to be sure these types of things stop.”
Ann Drews, a freshman nursing major, said “The police have to stop abusing their power. They keep pushing people around like it’s their job. Their job is to enforce laws, not to enforce their own opinions.”
Matt Ramón, a sophomore business major, said that police brutality is “much too common in modern America, and it’s tragic that no one has the power to deal with it other than the police themselves.”