Deputy's return felt like 'slap in the face' by Shirley Zane and Francisco Vasquez

On Monday night, members of the public packed the meeting of the Community Healing Subcommittee of the Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force. They were there to express their dismay, sadness, anger and, above all, their fear for their children and for themselves.

These same feelings were expressed at the Board of Supervisors meeting the next day.

As a member of the Healing Subcommittee (Vázquez) and as a supervisor (Zane) we, too, felt blindsided when we learned that Deputy Erick Gelhaus would return to patrol duty this week and that, depending on staffing needs, he might also be patrolling the Moorland area where he shot 13-year-old Andy Lopez less than a year ago.

During the this week’s meeting I, Francisco, did my best to explain that it was clear that Sheriff Steve Freitas was “going by the book” in making that decision. This simply means according to established law and procedures. (Just as the Sonoma County district attorney went by the book in not filing any charges against Gelhaus.)

One member of the audience rightly questioned why the book could not be changed. The reply was that a strong community and active citizen engagement can indeed make those changes.


A larger view of the book is the social contract. Historically, we as individuals were willing to give up certain rights in return for social order within our own clan or culture.

Later, civilization brought different cultures under one roof with the promise that every one of them would be treated equally under the law. However, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the author of “The Social Contract: The Principles of Political Right” once observed: There are city, state, and national laws.

But the real law resides in the hearts of the people.

What this means is that the shooting of Andy Lopez, like the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., awakens the memory of a long history of injustices.

By choosing to go by the book, Freitas ignored this larger context. Furthermore, the manner in which the announcement was made, without consultation with the Board of Supervisors or the task force, has done serious, perhaps irreparable, damage to the tremendous amount of work that has been done in the past eight months.

Yes, the sheriff has the legal right to put Gelhaus back on the streets wherever he needs him. But to assert that right without consultation with other members of an implicit social contract is inconsiderate at best and an arrogance of power at worst.

To those of us in the community who are grieving the tragic death of Andy Lopez, the decision and the manner in which it was announced felt like a slap in the face.

With $4.3 billion in military equipment, police forces throughout the country appear more and more like a military force.

This is not just a problem for the Latino community that grieves Andy Lopez or the African American community that grieves in Ferguson; this is a problem for the United States of America.

The individual rights of Gelhaus may have dominated the sheriff’s decision to put him back on the street, but at what cost? The trust of the community has been damaged once again.

Tragedies of these proportions deserve more than a by-the-book response. Sonoma County leaders will need to come together as never before to demonstrate that they are listening to the heart of the people. There is much work to do.

The guiding principles of compassion and doing what is best for everyone will lead us to the type of deep healing our community expects.

Shirlee Zane is a member of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. Francisco H. Vázquez is a professor at Sonoma State University and a member of the Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force, created by the Board of Supervisors in the aftermath of the shooting of Andy Lopez in October.

Militarized Police and the Threat to Democracy by Dennis Kucinich

Let's insist on the following principles:

  • Well trained, culturally diverse, de-militarized local police forces to protect our neighborhoods.
  • The military to defend our nation.
  • And a rule of law which applies to a man with a badge and a gun, just as it applies to an unarmed teenager.

The requirements of freedom demand no less.

To read more:

Protect and Serve or Occupy and Control?

Fred Ptucha - Vets for Peace Sonoma County - Remembering the Gulf of Tonkin Fifty Years Later

Hear David Swanson's interview with Fred as he remember the cables he read regarding the Gulf of Tonkin "incident."

Gulf of Tonkin "Incident" - 50th Anniversary - Remember It With Those Who Were There

Friday, August 22, 2014, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

The Peace & Justice Center and Veterans for Peace #71 invite you to learn the truth about the Gulf of Tonkin "incident." Local Vet for Peace, Fred Ptucha, was a young Naval officer off the coast of Vietnam in August 1964 and received the cables about what was supposedly happening in the Gulf of Tonkin - cables that would be used to justify increasing U.S. aggression in Vietnam. Fred will speak about his experience and what it meant to him and the United States. 

There will also be poetry by veterans and music by Hop Head (pop, rock, jazz, blues and folk) with vet Peter Tracy, Kim Richards and James Tepperman.

Gaia's Garden Restaurant, 1899 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa

$5.00 minimum purchase - beer, wine, tea, chai and juices available
Seating is limited. Come early for dinner and enjoy a wonderful vegetarian buffet. Reserve a table at 707-544-2491.

Returning to the Street to Protest the Return of Gelhaus to the Street!

Saturday, August 16, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., Sheriff's Dept., Santa Rosa

Outside the Sheriff's Dept.

On message!

Nicole Guerra and Nico

Terra Freedman being interviewed

Nico - Andy's best friend's little brother - growing up with Gelhaus on the streets

Marching to the corner of Bicentenial and Mendocino

Keeping a watch on us

Terri Carrion speaking out!

Sign of the times!

Double Victory! Israeli Ship Blocked for 2 Days!

Double Victory! Israeli Ship Blocked for 2 Days!

The weekend of August 16 and 17 was no more business as usual for the apartheid state of Israel in the Bay Area.

On Saturday, a mass mobilization stopped the unloading of an Israeli cargo ship. The Zim Piraeus was scheduled to dock and unload at the Port of Oakland on Saturday, August 16.

A rally at the West Oakland BART station was followed by a march of more than 4,000 people to the port gates. The march to the port was spirited with chanting led by members of the Arab Youth Organization.
The rally at the port also showed solidarity with the people of Ferguson, Missouri and the family of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old African Amercian man shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Demonstrators lined up facing the police with their hands up chanting, "Hands up, don't shoot."

The Zim ship actually arrived in the Bay Area in time to dock on Saturday. But in spite of the full backing of the Oakland police and other law enforcement agencies, which "protect" the port, the ship did not dock. It was the powerful mobilization of the people that forced the Zim Piraeus to stay at sea in hopes of avoiding the wrath of the movement against apartheid and the latest genocidal invasion of Gaza.

On Sunday, August 17, the Zim Piraeus finally docked at the Port of Oakland and was scheduled to be unloaded in the evening. A rapid mobilization of organizations and activists brought hundreds of people back to the port by 5:30pm to picket the Stevedore Services of America
(SSA) entrance gates.

Chanting "Long Live Palestine," and "Zim ship you can't hide, you support genocide," militant picket lines at four gates lasted for several hours. In the spirit of solidarity, the workers who unload the ships, represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 10, refused to cross the picket line and did not go to work. An important tradition of solidarity by the ILWU dates back to the struggles aginst many fascist and repressive governments, including apartheid South Africa in 1984, when the ILWU workers refused to cross picket lines protesting the unloading of goods from the South African regime.

Lara Kiswani of the Arab Resource Organizing Center read a statement to the crowd Sunday evening stating:

On August 17, 2014, Palestine was once again victorious in Oakland, California. For the second day in a row, the Bay Area community held off the Israeli Zim ship from unloading at the port. Thousands of people rallied on Saturday and successfully kept the ship at Bay on its regular scheduled day. Today, we got word that the ship had arrived and workers were being called to unload it. Within 30 minutes, we mobilized over 400 people back to the port and we won!

Workers honored the picket and stood on the side of justice, as they historically have. Oakland has said no to Zionism and blocked the boat for an entire weekend. This is the first time in history that this has happened. Israeli apartheid is falling one port at a time!

Palestine will be free from the river to the sea! Long live international solidarity and the struggle for liberation!

A coalition including the Arab Resource Organizing Center, ANSWER Coalition, Arab Youth Organizing, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and other organizations and individuals mobilized people from across the Bay Area. The call was to "Stop Israel at the Port! Zionism is not welcome on our Coast!" The action was endorsed by over 125 organizations.



Gelhaus Returns to the Streets - Protest Saturday, Aug. 16

A protest has been called for 1:00 P.M., tomorrow Saturday, Aug. 16th in light of the announcement that Deputy Sheriff Erick Gelhaus, 13-year-old Andy Lopez’ killer, will be returned to patrol duty. The protest will take place in front of the Sheriff’s Dept. at 2796 Ventura Ave. in Santa Rosa.

In the wake of the murder of Michael Brown by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, many in the United States are finally becoming aware of the extent of police brutality. But residents of Sonoma County, where sixty-four people have died in encounters with police and deputies or while in their custody since 2000, have long been aware of the militarization of the mindset of law enforcement.

District Attorney Jill Ravitch decided not to pursue charges against Gelhaus after releasing the results of an investigation designed, from the start, to exonerate Gelhaus. The investigation, which cost the county $63,000 above staff payroll, failed to ask very basic questions and relied on the work of William Lewinski, director of the Force Science Institute. “He’s the guy police departments go to when they are forced to defend an indefensible shooting,” says Oakland defense attorney, Michael Haddad, “Lewinski will find a way to exonerate the officer.”

Returning Gelhaus, who “feared for his life” when faced with a 13-year-old with a toy gun, to the streets is a reckless and disrespectful act on the part of the Sheriff’s Dept. Residents of Sonoma County will express their displeasure tomorrow.

Palestinians Express Solidarity With the People of Ferguson

We the undersigned Palestinian individuals and groups express our solidarity with the family of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black man gunned down by police on August 9th in Ferguson, Missouri. We wish to express our support and solidarity with the people of Ferguson who have taken their struggle to the street, facing a militarized police occupation.

From all factions and sectors of our dislocated society, we send you our commitment to stand with you in your hour of pain and time of struggle against the oppression that continues to target our black brothers and sisters in nearly every aspect of their lives.

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