Fierce

As A School Teacher, I’ve Learned That Ensuring The Safety Of My Immigrant Students Starts With Gun Violence

On February 14, the day of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., my school 50 miles away paused for a moment of silence. It, unfortunately, isn’t the first that we’ve observed. Along with lesson plans, active shooter drills are becoming frequent enough that this generation will mistake them as normal.

When I saw students in our first drill being instructed to stay still, to secure and get away from the door, I was reminded of another exercise I’ve had to practice in my life.

On the inside of the entrance to my home, there is a handwritten note that says, “Do not open this door.” It’s been there since Donald Trump took office last year.

It’s meant to protect us from his deportation agents, and it’s an instruction to my little sister. She’s not allowed to answer the door if there’s a knock or the bell rings because she might not know to check through the window to see if there’s danger on the other side.

There’s no comparing the two experiences. I’m aware because I know people who lost someone in the Parkland shooting and I know people whose close family has been deported. They are not the same, but they are both terrible. And when I arrive in the school where I work, with several students like me, we carry the stress and fear of both into its halls.

I’m aware because I know people who lost someone in the Parkland shooting and I know people whose close family has been deported.

They are not the same, but they are both terrible. And when I arrive in the school where I work, with several students like me, we carry the stress and fear of both into its halls.

When I saw the Parkland students speak out, I got chills. To see their bravery and their determination gave me hope. I’m someone who has been organizing with my mom for immigrant rights for the past six years. I’m someone who has watched Sen. Marco Rubio and other politicians make promises they haven’t kept and offer progress only to turn around and block it. So when Parkland survivor and activist Emma Gonzalez said, “We call BS,” I felt a deep cheer and echo inside of me.

I grew up almost all my life in Miami, but in 2012, when I wanted to go to college, I found my entry into activism, because Florida treated students like me as out-of-state, making it impossible for me to afford.

Friends of mine and I started to organize.

We lobbied politicians and held protests, much like the students currently demonstrating for gun control.

And at the same time, we had to do personal campaigns when one of our parents was taken by ICE agents. We did it all not knowing if we’d be pulled over ourselves or if our family members would return home each day.

And we did it knowing that if we were to get politicians to actually care about us, we were going to have to make them care through organizing.

I want to tell the students fighting for their lives now to keep going. Organizing does work.

They’re already proving it, and I’ve seen it in my own life. In just the five years I’ve been active, we won deferred action that gave Dreamers the ability to study, work and live with less fear. We won in-state tuition that lets someone like me pursue my career to be a kindergarten teacher. And if our efforts were combined, we could achieve so much more.

My little sister may only be 12, but she has already learned a lot from my mom and I dragging her to our meetings over the years and as part of advocating for our family. Like the other students who are mobilizing now, she has worries that no kid should have to carry and she sees the opportunity for change. She’s using the skills she has learned organizing for immigrant rights to now start a walk-out at her school and hopefully send students to Washington, DC, for the March for Our Lives.

If politicians were wise, they’d be stepping away from their NRA donations and be moving to stand with these young people.

They are giving us all a civics lesson. My mom taught me to never make a promise I couldn’t keep, and it’s time the people elected learn it, too. We’re not stopping until we have the safety that every human being and young child deserves. That means taking away the threat of gun violence and addressing all the threats that we face in our lives — not adding to them. They can either vote for us or be prepared to be voted out.

I have faith that the students will make it happen, and I’ve been in it long enough to be ready to help.

Christell Cayaso is a member of the National Domestic Workers Alliance’s We Belong Together Campaign, which mobilizes women in support of common-sense immigration reform that will keep families together and empower women. 

Shooting Death Of Ahmaud Arbery Is Another Example Of White Privilege In America

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Shooting Death Of Ahmaud Arbery Is Another Example Of White Privilege In America

Ahmaud Arbery / Facebook

The rallying cry “Black Lives Matter” is once again front and center – on the tips of all of our tongues – after yet another shooting death of an unarmed black man. This time the victim is 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery of Georgia who was shot and killed by two white men who allegedly thought he was responsible for a string of burglaries in their largely white neighborhood.

Recent video footage has cast serious doubt on their story and is sparking outrage across the country as more and more people call for an investigation. Keep in mind: the two men who shot and killed Ahmaud haven’t been charged with any crime, let alone arrested.

A man called 911 to report ‘black male running’ prior to the shooting.

Credit: @BLMAtlanta / Twitter

In Georgia, the parents of a black man killed by two white men armed with a revolver and a shotgun called for immediate arrests yesterday as they faced the prospect of waiting a month or longer before a grand jury considers charges.

Their son, Ahmaud Arbery, had gone for a jog in Satilla Shores, near the Georgia coast. The 25-year-old was known around the neighborhood, and would sometimes wave to residents as he ran. But that day, a series of events unfolded that ended in his killing at the hands of Gregory McMichael, and his son, Travis McMichael.

Lawyers for Arbery’s family have said his death was a “lynching” and requested it be investigated as a hate crime

A recently released graphic video shows moments of incident but leaves out several important details.

Credit: AP News / YouTube

Video footage captured by an unidentified witness in a vehicle being driven behind Arbery shows him as he jogs along a two-lane road. Ahead, a white pickup truck is parked, with one man standing in the truck bed and another standing by the driver’s side.

Arbery is seen running toward the truck’s right side and he then veers in and out of the camera’s frame. A gunshot rings out. Arbery is then seen entering into a struggle with one man, who appears to hold a long gun. Another shot then rings out; Arbery was shot at least twice before he fell to the pavement.

The shooters – who are identified in a police report as ‘witnesses’ – say they thought Arbery was responsible for a string of burglaries.

An incident report identifies Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, as the two men who pursued Arbery.

Gregory McMichael said he saw Arbery run by his front yard and alerted his son, according to the police report — he says they thought he resembled a suspect behind recent break-ins in the neighborhood. Both men then grabbed weapons and attempted to follow Arbery in their pickup truck. After a chase, the men pulled up beside Arbery and shouted at him to stop, McMichael claimed, and Travis McMichael got out of the vehicle with a shotgun. Gregory McMichael alleged that Arbery then attacked Travis and that the men began fighting over the weapon before any shots were fired— an assertion which appears to contradict the footage appearing to show Arbery only began grappling with a man after the first shot.

The shooting took place in late February – what is going on with the investigation?

Credit: @BLMAtlanta / Twitter

Arbery was ambushed and shot dead by two men despite not being guilty for any crime. Yet more than two months after his death, no one has been arrested or charged for the crime of gunning down an innocent man.

The handling of the case has been marred with conflicts of interest, since one of the men involved is a former investigator for the District Attorney’s office and a former police officer. Several law enforcement officials have had to recuse themselves from the case because of their connections to the McMichael family.

Lee Merrit, an attorney for Abery’s family, said “The Glynn County Police Department has the authority and legal imperative to make an arrest today, pending the presentation of this case to a grand jury. These men must be taken into custody pending their indictment.”

Durden, District Attorney of Georgia’s Atlantic Judicial Court, has said a Glynn County grand jury should make the decision on whether criminal charges should be brought in the case. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, grand juries are prohibited from meeting through June 12.

As the outrage grows over this man’s death, a growing number of major voices are calling for justice.

Former United States Vice-President Joe Biden has joined politicians calling for a just and transparent investigation into the fatal shooting of unarmed Arbery.

In a tweet on Wednesday, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Biden called for “a swift, full, and transparent investigation” into Arbery’s murder.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, another former candidate for Democratic nomination, also said the video was “sickening”.

“The fact that no action has been taken after two months is unacceptable. Ahmaud’s friends and family deserve accountability and justice,” she tweeted.

Ilhan Omar, a Democratic member of the House, tweeted on Wednesday: “Arbery was lynched. Killed in cold blood simply for being a Black man in America. Far too often, our criminal justice system fails us. We can’t let that happen this time.”

He Spent Nine Months Fighting For His Life Since The El Paso Shooting But Unfortunately He Became The 23rd Victim Of The Massacre

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He Spent Nine Months Fighting For His Life Since The El Paso Shooting But Unfortunately He Became The 23rd Victim Of The Massacre

Facebook / Garcia Family

It’s been nine months since the El Paso Massacre – on August 3, 2019 – in which now 23 people lost their lives. Amid the global Coronavirus pandemic, El Paso and its Latino community struggle to rebuild their faith and their hope.

In the wake of the attack, much of the nation was grief-stricken as El Paso’s large Latino community came under attack by an alleged white nationalist. Now, the community is once again mourning the loss of one of their own as the massacre claims another victim – nine months later.

A victim of the attack died in the hospital nearly nine months after the massacre.

In a statement, Del Sol Medical Center’s CEO said, “After a nearly nine-month fight, our hearts are heavy as we report Guillermo ‘Memo’ Garcia, our last remaining patient being treated from the El Paso shooting, has passed away.”

“His courage, his strength and his story have touched many lives, including those of our caregivers, who tirelessly fought with him and for him every step of the way,” the statement continued. “We are grieving with his family and with our community.”

His wife Jessica, who was also shot, said in a statement to KDBC-TV, “Last night at 11:22 we lost a warrior, but gained an angel. He fought long and hard, with the help of all his troops he won many battles but lost the war.”

“We would like to ask the community to continue to lift Memo in prayer and allow us to grief this tremendous loss, we are asking for privacy during this time,” Garcia said.

Memo and his wife Jessica had been in the Walmart parking lot fundraising for their daughter’s football team.

Credit: @CAMERONTYGETT / TWITTER

The family had set up a lemonade stand in the Walmart parking lot to help raise money for their daughter’s local soccer team. Memo was shot twice in the leg and once in the back as he protected his two children, who were also there. Jessica had been shot three times in both legs; the couple’s children were not struck.

One week after the shooting, Jessica Garcia rose from her wheelchair to deliver an emotional speech from across from the courthouse where the suspected attacker was being kept and decrying the racism that apparently motivated the attack.

“Racism is something I always wanted to think didn’t exist. Obviously, it does,” she said.

The shooter was an alleged white nationalist who specifically targeted the Latino community of El Paso.

The FBI is investigating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism and a possible hate crime. The shooting has been described as the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern American history.

According to CNN, the shooter drove more than 10 hours to the store, located near the Mexican border, specifically to find and kill Latinos. Officials believe he was the person who wrote a racist, xenophobic manifesto posted online minutes before the massacre, in which he warned about a “Hispanic invasion” of Texas.

A relative of one of the victims told the El Paso Times that the shooter was mainly looking for Hispanic shoppers to gun down. There are reports from white and Black customers that the gunman let them leave, so he could target Latino shoppers.

Memo’s family plans a proper memorial but given the social distancing rules in-place that will be held at a later date.

The family is planning a proper memorial once the Coronavirus pandemic passes.

“When the pandemic and social distancing orders pass we will have a proper memorial and mass, where the community can pay their respects to an El Paso warrior!”

In the meantime, a vigil for Guillermo Garcia has been planned for Monday, with attendees being asked to remain in their vehicles and “demonstrate our love and honor for Memo by turning on our headlights”, instead of candles.