Things That Matter

Protesters In Chile Have Been Brutally Attacked By Police And Now The President Just Admitted The Police Are Guilty

From Haiti and Puerto Rico to Ecuador and, now, Chile, communities around the world are standing up against policies that they view as contributing to growing income inequality.

After Chile’s President had announced a planned increase in public transit fares, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to announce their opposition to the plan. Chile has already been combating extreme income inequality and a growing cost of living that has outpaced wage growth, making Chile one of the most expensive Latin American countries to live in.

This growing inequality has led to major demonstrations across the country and with them, accusations of police brutality.

Chile’s President Piñera has admitted for the first time that police have abused protesters.

Credit: AFP

Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera condemned for the first time what he called abuses committed by police in dealing with four weeks of violent unrest that have rocked the South American nation.

“There was excessive use of force. Abuses and crimes were committed, and the rights of all were not respected,” the president said in a speech to the nation Sunday as it marked a month of turmoil that has left 22 people dead and more than 2,000 injured.

Accusations of police brutality and human rights violations have been levelled since the protests broke out, prompting the United Nations to send a team to investigate. Amnesty International has also sent a mission.

“There will be no impunity, not for those who committed acts of unusual violence, nor for those who committed excesses and abuses. We will do what is best for the victims,” Pinera said, referring to protesters first and then the security forces.

Public prosecutors in Chile are investigating more than 1,000 cases of alleged abuses.

Credit: Rafael Ibanez / Getty

The accusations range from torture to sexual violence – by the police and military. Police have also been accused of stopping rescuers helping a dying protester.

Chile’s independent human rights watchdog said it would file a formal complaint for murder against police officers who allegedly prevented paramedics from attending a heart attack victim amid a protest last Friday.

Security forces firing tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons made it impossible for rescuers to properly treat the victim, Chile’s publicly-funded National Institute for Human Rights said.

Twenty-nine year old Abel Acuna died shortly after at a nearby Santiago hospital. The case joins more than 1,000 others currently under investigation by public prosecutors. Accusations of abuses by security forces ranging from torture to sexual violence have multiplied during weeks of anti-government unrest.

Even the country’s highest medical body has expressed concern at the growing injuries.

Credit: Reuters

Last week, Chile’s main medical body said at least 230 people had lost sight after being shot in an eye with lead or rubber projectiles while participating in demonstrations. Of those, at least 50 people will need prosthetic eyes.

“We are facing a real health crisis,” said Dr Patricio Meza, vice-president of the Medical College of Chile.

“In three weeks, we have had the highest number of cases involving serious ocular complications due to shots in the eye.”

At demonstrations, it’s common to see police firing pellet guns at crowds. Often, “they’re firing at 90 degrees, which is to say, directly at the face,” Meza said. He said most of the injured say it’s the national police force – known as the Carabineros – who are the ones firing.

Furious Chileans have been protesting social and economic inequality, and against an entrenched political elite that comes from a small number of the wealthiest families in the country.

Credit: EPA

The massive demonstrations have been mostly peaceful, but it’s common to see hooded protesters infiltrate the gatherings, hurling rocks, raising barricades and confronting police, who clamp down with violence.

The demonstrations started originally over a rise in the fare of the metro in the capital, Santiago, but quickly spread across the country and widened into more general protests against high levels of inequality, the high price of health care and poor funding for education.

Harsh repression by the security forces further stoked the anger of those protesting as did the response by President Piñera, who declared a state of emergency and said the country was “at war”.

The government and protesters have reached at least one agreement – and that is the plan for a new constitution.

Credit: Prensa Latina

On Sunday, Pinera also praised an agreement reached last week under which Chile will draft a new constitution to replace the current one that dates back to the rightwing dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled from 1973 to 1990.

Many in Chile see this step – getting rid of a charter that smacks of a dark, repressive chapter in the country’s past – as a way to help end the crisis.

“If the people want it, we will move toward a new constitution, the first under democracy,” Pinera said in a speech from the presidential palace.

A Texas Police Officer Gave A Homeless Man A Sandwich Made From ‘Dog Feces’ And He’s Back To Work Already

Things That Matter

A Texas Police Officer Gave A Homeless Man A Sandwich Made From ‘Dog Feces’ And He’s Back To Work Already

@KoltenParker / Twitter

Congressman Joaquin Castro called out a San Antonio police officer who was fired after colleagues reported him for feeding a dog feces sandwich to a homeless man but who successfully appealed his case. The incident happened in 2016, but Castro was reacting to an investigative journalism series on KSAT-12 called “Broken Blue.” 

Matthew Luckhurst, a bicycle patrol officer, was placed on indefinite suspension after the act was reported. However, Luckhurst won his case appeal through a loophole last March. San Antonio authorities insist he is still suspended and has not been reinstated to his job. 

Joaquin Castro calls out the San Antonio Police Department.

“One police officer gave a feces sandwich to a homeless man, was fired, appealed, got his job back,” Castro said of the importance of the “Broken Blue” series’ examination of San Antonio police corruption. 

The Texas representative believes law enforcement unions court public distrust when they side with bad officers.

“Police unions too often stand by bad officers regardless of how bad they’ve acted. It severely undermines public trust. I also believe the umbrella unions, such as the AFL-CIO, have a responsibility to speak up to help change this,” Castro continued. “These are some of the reasons I cannot support the further expansion of collective bargaining specifically for police unions across the country. Not until the disciplinary process is fixed and bad officers are properly held accountable.”

City Manager Erik Walsh echoed Castro’s feelings on collective bargaining to KSAT news

“Current collective bargaining agreement limits the Chief’s ability to appropriately discipline officers that deserve to be disciplined. We intend to bring those issues to the next contract negotiation with the police union,” he said.

The San Antonio Police Association (SAPOA) responds to Castro’s tweets. 

SAPOA released a statement saying the “Broken Blue” series was nothing short of an attack on the San Antonio police. The statement called the series “misleading and sensationalistic” and said that the cases featured were old and resolved several years before. 

“This series attacks SAPOA and our members by saying we’re too powerful and that we make it difficult to remove ‘problem’ officers,” Michel Helle, president of SAPOA, said in a statement. “While I agree we’re a strong organization when it comes to the discipline and appeals process, our role is simple and transparent: ensure that the rights of officers are observed and protected.”

SAPOA claims that in 10 years there have only been 40 “indefinite suspension” cases with 2,300 total police officers, making up .00017 percent of the force. Skeptics might say a lack of disciplinary action doesn’t necessarily equate to a lack of wrongdoing, which is precisely the issue many critics of law enforcement have.

In the Atlantic’s 2019 piece about police accountability, reporter Ted Alcorn suggests that local police departments lack the transparency that allows public scrutiny. 

“Compared with other institutions of municipal government, police departments are unusually insulated from scrutiny,” Alcorn wrote. “Whereas other agencies give the public an opportunity to comment on policy changes before they go into effect, the decisions of law enforcement may be shared only after the fact, if at all. While the police chief usually answers to the mayor, city councilors, or members of a police commission, those officials can be reticent about second-guessing their public-safety officials.”

Luckhurst was able to win his appeal through a legal loophole. 

Colleagues reported that on May 6, 2016, Luckhurst fed a dog feces sandwich to a homeless person while on bike patrol. While there were no witnesses to the incident or bodycam footage, police officers found out because Luckhursthad been allegedly bragging about it. 

At first, Luckhurst challenged the events. Instead, he claimed that while clearing an encampment filled with litter, he told a homeless man to toss a piece of feces with a piece of bread he had picked up. Then, Luckhurst challenged the May 6 date. He claimed he had medical documents that meant he wouldn’t have been able to bike from April 6 to June 14, 2016. 

An arbitrator decided that because of the date flub and a lack of evidence that Luckhurt’s indefinite suspension should be voided. His indefinite suspension was shortened to only five days. Last May, Chief William McManus said they overturned the decision because a policy requires punishments to be doled out with 180 days of the incident. 

“He is still facing a separate indefinite suspension and we will vigorously defend the decision to terminate him,” McManus said.

However, Luckhurst has not returned to work because of a different incident where he was placed on indefinite suspension. In June 2016, police allege that Luckhurst defecated in the woman’s bathroom stall at the police department’s Bike Patrol Office. Officers say he spread “a brown, tapioca-like substance” on a toilet seat, according to My SA. 

Luckhurst is currently on indefinite suspension while he awaits the outcome of this arbitration. 

A San Francisco Mural Is Honoring An Undocumented Guatemalan Immigrant Who Was Unarmed And Killed By Police

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A San Francisco Mural Is Honoring An Undocumented Guatemalan Immigrant Who Was Unarmed And Killed By Police

cialuart / Instagram

The people of San Francisco have a lot of heart. Yes, the wealthy thrive there, and the homeless community continues to grow, but somewhere in the middle is an empowering group of fighters for justice. They do not back down but instead make their voices heard loud and clear. It’s a tight-knit alliance that is responsible for forcing change on all fronts of authority. San Franciscans are also incredibly beautiful at honoring fallen residents. 

Almost five years after 20-year-old Amilcar Perez-Lopez was gunned down by police in San Francisco, artists are honoring him with a massive mural in the Mission District.

Credit: crashgrammy / Instagram

The mural was designed and directed in community and collaboration by Carla Elana Wojczuk with, Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth (HOMEY), Justice4Amilcar Coalition, Mission community, Lucía González Ippolito, and assisted by Flavia Elisa Mora; Lead Muralists: Carla Elana Wojczuk, Lucía González Ippolito, Cristian Muńoz, Anna Lisa Escobedo, Adrianna Adams, Flavia Elisa Mora (painting and poetry), Pancho Pescador; lettering: Sonia G Molin. The mural is titled “Alto al Fuego en La Misón” and the most prominent subject on the mural is Perez-Lopez, the undocumented young man from Guatemala.

On Feb. 26, 2015, Perez-Lopez was fatally shot by the SFPD, who were in plainclothes in the Mission District. The officers reported that they “opened fire to protect themselves and others from a man who was acting erratically and was armed with a knife,” the SFGate reports. Witnesses told a different story. They said Perez-Lopez was running for his life, which is why he was shot in the back. 

The Perez-Lopez investigation went on for years, and in the end, the SFPD was never charged, but Police Chief Greg Suhr did resign from his post. However, it wasn’t just because of the pushback from the Perez-Lopez investigation but from multiple fatal shootings of unarmed people at the hands of the police. His parents eventually won a settlement from the SFPD

Aside from the artful depiction of Perez-Lopez, the mural also pays tribute to Black and brown people who have died as a result of police brutality as well as people who have died on the southern border.

Credit: amaya_papaya28 / Instagram

During the year in which he was killed, Perez-Lopez “was one of the 67 Latino people killed,” the Guardian reports. The publication adds that Perez-Lopez was also one of the 58 percent who was killed and unarmed. 

“‘Why didn’t you put in Jessica Williams?’ Or, ‘Why didn’t you put in this person?’ The truth of the matter is that we just didn’t have enough space,” Ippolito told the SFWeekly. “And I wish we could include a lot more.”

Ippolito said she and the rest of the mural team were confronted with the fact they didn’t have enough space to put every person that lost their life because of the SFPD. The mural is already one of the largest murals “to be painted in the Latino Cultural Corridor in a decade,” according to the local publication. 

“That was the hardest part,” Anna Lisa Escobedo, another artist on this project, said to SF Weekly. “From the community, a lot of people were saying, ‘We are missing this person, this person, this person.’ We could do five more murals and focus on people who had the same circumstances, and that is sad.”

This isn’t the first artwork that has honored Perez-Lopez.

Credit: msmichellemeow / Instagram

His painted portrait was seen throughout the streets of San Francisco when residents demanded justice in his death. A couple of months after he was killed, artist YESCKA painted a mural that included Perez-Lopez. The mural was painted on the sidewall of the gallery Red Poppy Art House, which is located just blocks two from where Perez-Lopez was shot and killed. 

The mural by Ippolito is pretty remarkable because of its use of bright colors, and the inclusion of Mexican motifs, both the Guatemalan and San Francisco landscape, and Perez-Lopez in his signature Giants baseball cap. But the mural is also representative of an altar of sorts. Perez-Lopez is pictured inside an altar, and the rest of the people that are honored in the painting are seen on prayer candles. 

The other deceased individuals on the mural include Roxana Hernandez, Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, and Oscar and Valeria Martinez, who died either on the southern border or in ICE custody. 

Credit: cialuart / Instagram

This mural is a perfect addition to the many outstanding paintings that the city of San Francisco has to offer. 

One of my favorite things to do when I am back in the Mission is to go on a walking tour to gaze at the stunning murals that depict the people of San Francisco, but also the history of our community.  

READ: One Of The Major Artists In The Chicano Art Movement Has Died At 75