There’s been a lot of organizing in Vallejo following the horrifically violent murder of Mario Romero by the Vallejo Police Department on September 2, 2012. Mario Romero was sitting in his car in front of his home with his brother-in-law when police opened fire on both men. Over 30 rounds were fired into the car, and Mario’s sister, Cynquita, saw the killing unfold. Their brother in law, who was protected by Mario’s body, lived through the barrage. The family of Mario and the community around them has refused to take this quietly.
There have been rallies, marches, community meetings, and press conferences. In the latest of an ongoing series of responses to this violence, the Reverend Floyd D. Harris, Jr., president of the National Network in Action, invited Berkeley Copwatch to Vallejo on Saturday, September 15th, 2012 to present a Know Your Rights Training, to discuss ways to document police activity and organize against police violence, and to meet with Vallejo civilians to discuss the role of police in all of our communities. We met at the Vallejo Police Station, and then moved to the park in the afternoon sunlight.
There was an impressive community presence: long time and senior members of the Vallejo community, including Native American activist and allies, young people and mothers, families who have also lost loved ones to the police, including the family of Guy Jarreau, Jr. (killed by police on December 11, 2012) and vibrant children everywhere. Among these gathered was Mario’s family. It is difficult to put words to how the Romero family showed up there. In numbers alone, they are a presence. But it is something beyond this that affirms the family as something to reckon with, a force. They were massively pulled together and sharp and strong. They bore witness to the violence as a family.
We offer, again, our immense solidarity with this family, and our sadness with their loss.
There are stories in Vallejo about the police that are disturbing, and that echo stories from Oakland to Anaheim, and towns across California. There is the unrelenting killings of black and brown men that rise weekly in this state. There is the immediate and sprawling devastation that is wreaked on families and friends, on the circles and layers of communities affected by each police killing. And other stories emerge–the chilling details that speak to neighborhoods terrorized by police: where cops practice “predatory policing” (in these cases, specific people or families remain targets for years, even generations); where cops repetitively shine lights into the same people’s living rooms night after night; where cop cars roll up on innocent civilians with their lights off, or plain clothes cops crash a scene without uniforms, and violence follows; where violence by cops is investigated internally, by the cops themselves; where ambulances don’t arrive for extended periods after a police shooting, no matter how close the hospitals are; where cops make a traffic stop and the first question they ask the driver is, “Where’d you get this car?”
Everyone there knows the figures: Mario’s killing was the seventh police shooting since May of this year in Vallejo, five of these were deadly. To be clear: Five people have been killed by police in Vallejo since May of this year. Vallejo has a population of roughly 117,000, with a per capita income of $26,000 and an unemployment rate from two years ago at 15.8%. People are being killed in front of their homes in Vallejo, and the community has no access to the names of officers who have used deadly force against their community in the past and who remain on the force. Even in cases where they may have fired, say, 30 rounds into a car. And, as is far too common in cases of police murders, families have difficulty accessing the autopsy reports. And, as in the recent incident, when families and friends and others in solidarity and anger organize rallies that demand answers, the Chief of Police won’t come out to meet them and address their concerns.
We saw a lot of homemade buttons with Mario’s pictures on them, commemorating his life cut short. We saw Guy Jarreau Jr.’s family wearing t-shirts with the date and street names of the intersection of Guy’s murder remembered on the front of the shirt, and a picture of Guy. We waited to start the training because the family was holding a car wash to raise funds for the funeral.
Berkeley Copwatch stands with the family of Mario Romero, Guy Jarreau Jr., and all the other people shot by police in Vallejo. In these struggles for justice and safety, we remain committed to offer whatever solidarity, training, and resources we can to support Vallejo Copwatch and other police accountability initiatives.
In Vallejo, as in Oakland, Berkeley and across California, we need transparency into police behavior that cannot be achieved as long as Copley, the Police Bill of Rights, and the Caloca Boards are in place to protect police behavior from public scrutiny. It is from this reality that the task of patient documenting of police behavior becomes a critical aspect of a larger struggle to redefine community safety, combined with gathering together to share what we have seen, what we know. These gatherings are inspiring, and in these spaces, we find each other to fight back.
Watch this interview with Mario’s sister Cynquita to see some of what is going on in Vallejo:
For local coverage of the recent Berkeley Copwatch training, see
Check this out for a personal account of Guy Jarreau Jr.’s murder by his brother Joshua Henry: