Things That Matter

People Are Outraged That Colombian Police Shot And Killed A Teenager A Week Before His Graduation

If you haven’t already heard, thousands of people in Colombia have been embroiled in severe anti-government protests for almost a week. These protests began after rumors of reforms and pension cuts spread among unions, but they quickly escalated to include demonstrations from indigenous groups, students, and retired folks. While each of these groups has its own unique reasons for protesting, all of them are rallying against the extreme right-wing policies of President Ivan Duque.

Police involvement has grown more intense over the past few days, and on Saturday, an officer threw an unknown projectile as a means to disperse the crowd, resulting in the death of a Colombian teenager.

Credit: _dilan88_ / Instagram

Dilan Cruz, 18, attended high school in the capital of Bogotá and was due to graduate this week. He had plans to study business administration, but like the majority of his peers, he needed funding to do so. Cruz allegedly joined the protests to represent other students facing similar challenges accessing universities amid cuts to public education. Even prior to his death, his friends were showing up to the demonstrations, hoping to draw attention to the disparities affecting students all over the country.

After the initial trauma from the impact of the object (which some speculate was a stun grenade, a tear-gas canister or a rubber bullet), paramedics were able to resuscitate Cruz before rushing him to a hospital. There, he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury caused by a “penetrating object.” On Monday, a vigil was held by fellow protesters outside of the medical center, and marches were led all over the country in Cruz’s honor.

“Dilan didn’t die. Dilan was killed,” shouted hundreds of demonstrators, days after the death of Dilan Cruz.

Credit: sebasmostro / Instagram

Cruz was the fourth person to be killed during the unrest – the other three deaths occurred in incidents that, according to the police, involved looting in the western city of Cali, as well as in Bogotá (two deaths were actually linked to the city of Buenaventura, and one to the town of Candelaria). When the protests started last week, they were mostly peaceful, though violence began to erupt in Cali, where a curfew was quickly imposed. As a means of preventing the protests from spiraling out of control, a ban on alcohol sales was imposed in Bogotá for 24 hours. Additionally, the borders between Colombia and Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Venezuela were closed, prohibiting entry into Colombia by land and water. They were reopened Friday morning.

Though relative chaos has persisted, violence has been widely avoided by the demonstrators. As such, riot police are facing criticism for forcefully attempting to disperse nonviolent crowds and causing deaths like that of Dilan Cruz.

Police Chief Óscar Atehortúa stated that the police officer involved in the incident had been suspended and would be investigated. The Attorney General’s office has also opened an investigation, and various officials – including Claudia López, mayor-elect of Bogotá, Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, and President Ivan Duque – have offered their condolences to Dilan Cruz’s loved ones. President Ivan Duque addressed the late teen’s mother, grandfather and two sisters on Twitter, expressing his regret for Cruz’s death.

In response to the demonstrations, President Ivan Duque held a televised address on Thursday.

Credit: ivanduquemarquez / Instagram

He said: “Today, Colombians spoke. We hear them. Social dialogue has been a main principle of this government and we need to deepen it with all sectors of society and speed up the social agenda and the fight against corruption.” Of course, people were not satisfied with this statement, and Duque met with some protesters on Tuesday to engage in that much-needed “social dialogue.” Alas, the protesters asserted that their conditions have not been met, and as a result, the National Strike Committee said on Twitter that “[We] are going to strengthen and increase protests … the strike continues.”

The Committee announced another strike on Wednesday, but Sergio Guzman, director of Colombia Risk Analysis, says that it will be difficult for Duque to adequately respond to the protesters’ demands.

“His party doesn’t really support some of these ways of thinking. So in a way, he would be generating much more internal opposition if he were to implement some of these things,” Guzman told AlJazeera. He added that the main tenets of these demands – like the full implementation of the 2016 peace deal, a pension reform and the eradication of the riot police (ESMAD) – will likely be the most challenging demands to fulfill.

On top of protestors’ renewed vigor following the conversation with Duque, Dilan Cruz’s death has sparked even more fuel for the protests.

“People will be very upset [over Cruz’s death], and it probably give people more reasons to protest,” Guzman said. “Depending on the government’s response, things may even escalate.”

READ: Colombia Becomes The Latest Latin American Nation To Face Massive Protests And Here’s Why

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

A Native American Veteran Shared a Video of Himself Being Tased By a Park Ranger on Sacred Grounds in New Mexico

Things That Matter

A Native American Veteran Shared a Video of Himself Being Tased By a Park Ranger on Sacred Grounds in New Mexico

Screenshot via hou5edm/Instagram

Recently, a video went viral of a New Mexico park ranger tasing a Native American man that sparked a conversation about the right non-Indigenous government authorities have to exert over Indigenous Americans.

Last Sunday, a Native American man named Darrell House shared a video of himself screaming in agony and calling for help as a park ranger tased him.

In the four-minute long clip posted to Instagram, House screams for help and writhes in agony on the ground as the unnamed park ranger continuously uses his taser on him. The woman recording the altercation repeatedly yells “What are you doing?” at the ranger while the ranger continues to demand that House show him his ID.

House, who grew up on a reservation and is of Navajo and Oneida descent, wrote a lengthy caption describing in detail what had transpired.

House wrote: “Today 12/27/2020, I was tased for being off trail at the Petroglyphs. I come here to pray and speak to my Pueblo Ancestor relatives. Even though I’m Navajo and Oneida, I honor this land.”

“Here, you will see a white man abuse his power. Both men pulled tasers on me after the first 1 couldn’t keep me down. This could have been a civil interaction. The law doesn’t work for the Indigenous. The government doesn’t give a shit about us. This was uncalled for. You see I’m clearly on the trail. I explained my reason for being off trail (which I shouldn’t have to. If anyone has the right to be off trail and wander this land, it’s the NATIVE INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY!”

“I didn’t feel I needed to identify myself for doing absolutely nothing wrong.
I’m traumatized. My left leg is numb and still bleeding. [My dog] Geronimo is shaking and hasn’t stopped. I’m shaking.”

Darrell House, who is also a military veteran, added: “I’m good people, the Marines I served with would agree. The many people I’ve crossed paths with–you know me.”

In response to the public outcry, the National Park Service said they were “investigating” the incident.

The National Park Service says that House was cited for walking off-trail at Petroglyph National Monument. House does not deny the claim, but says that walking where he wants to on sacred indigenous grounds is an ancestral right.

“Nature is what we’ve been worshipping … and protecting it has always been our job,” he told NBC News. “I am Native, you know. I have rights to this land. I have rights off the trail.”

House also doesn’t deny refusing to identify himself to the park ranger. “I didn’t see a reason to give my identification,” he said. “I don’t need to tell people why I’m coming there to pray and give things in honor to the land. I don’t need permission or consent.”

The local Albuquerque government has since become involved, releasing a statement that said the incident had been “elevated to the Federal investigation level”.

City Councilor Cynthia Borrego wrote that the incident was “troubling” and “uncomfortable” to watch and that her officer “recognizes and supports the investigation into any indigenous rights that may have been violated as a result of the actions taken in this unfortunate incident.”

The statement concluded by reiterating that Native Americans have the right “to practice their cultural beliefs as protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Latino Southern California Man Dies in Police Custody After Footage Shows Officers Aggressively Beating and Restraining Him

Things That Matter

Latino Southern California Man Dies in Police Custody After Footage Shows Officers Aggressively Beating and Restraining Him

Photo via christian.ghc/Instagram

The family of a Southern California Latino man who died in police custody is demanding justice for what they believe was the unlawful use of excessive force.

33-year-old Ernie Serrano died on December 15th after being forcefully restrained by multiple police officers for an extended period of time.

Although authorities are claiming Serrano had a gun and was threatening their safety, civilian and police body cam footage paints a more complicated picture.

The gruesome civilian cell phone footage begins with Serrano being violently beaten on his arms by a police officer’s baton. The officer then wrestles Serrano to the ground before other officers pile on, tackling him.

The corresponding body cam footage shows a bloodied-up Serrano being forcefully held down by police officers on the checkout’s conveyor belt. The officers appear to be using their bodies to restrain him, heavily leaning on him.

Serrano repeatedly says “let me go”, and at one point even calls the officers out for using “excessive force”.

Appearing to be desperate, Serrano yells his name, his birthday and other important information, ostensibly in order to identify himself in case things take a turn for the worse.

As the video progresses, Serrano slowly begins to lose energy as multiple officers lean on his back. His pleas of “let me go” becoming weaker and weaker. Eventually, Serrano becomes motionless.

One of the officers that was restraining him calls out his name once he becomes unresponsive. When they realize he isn’t breathing, they lower his body to the ground and attempt to resuscitate him. But by this time, it’s too late. According to Riverside County authorities, Serrano was pronounced dead at the local hospital.

The authorities’ official autopsy ruled Serrano’s death a result of acute methamphetamine intoxication.

“While detaining Serrano, he continued fighting with the deputies and did not comply with their commands. At that time, a use of force occurred,” said Riverside Sgt. Lionel Murphy to Fox11 News.

But regardless of whether Serrano was using drugs or not, civil rights activists have long made the point that drug-use does not and should not equal an automatic death sentence at the hands of law enforcement. If someone is indeed high or intoxicated while interacting with law enforcement, the proper lawful paths should be taken to correct the behavior. People who use drugs do not automatically “deserve” death.

After viewing the footage leading up to Serrano’s death, his family believes that there are some inconsistencies to the police’s story.

For one, Serrano was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon and the Riverside police say they used force on him because he had a gun. But the footage does not show Serrano wielding a gun against the officers. Serrano’s family believes his death could have been prevented.

“Fear, anxiety, all of those elements were there that [the police are] trained to recognize. And instead of helping him when he’s saying ‘help’, what do they do? They keep him in that position and they’re smiling when they’re doing it,” said the family’s lawyer, Humberto Guizar at a December 21st press conference outside the grocery store where Serrano died. “They killed him. This is murder.”

“Pigs are lying about what took place,” wrote Serrano’s aunt, Michelle Castillo on Facebook. “But there’s plenty of video to show what really went down.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com