Things That Matter

Dilan Cruz Becomes A Symbol Of Colombia’s Protest Movement After He Was Shot Dead By Police

As Colombians keep protesting the government of Ivan Duque, tensions are mounting due to the increasingly aggressive tactics being used by the police. The political climate in South America is extremely polirized at the moment, with waves of protests turning violent in Chile, Bolivia and now Colombia, where the Duque government is facing stern challenges that have led to unprecedented measures such as a curfew in the capital city of Bogota.

 Duque has at least admitted that the country has to enter a “national conversation”. But, at the same time, the conservative president has called for the “deployment of joint patrols of police and army in the most critical places”. Protesters argue that you can’t have both: you either enter a conversation or deploy the full force of the State. Multiple injuries and deaths have been reported. But the recent death of one Dilan Cruz is a momentum shifting event. 

The anti-government protests are being led by unions and student groups.

Credit: RCN Radio

Tens of thousands of protesters have flooded the streets of Bogota for the past week. According to DW, anti-government protests “are centered on discontent with Duque’s conservative government — a key ally of the United States, rumors of economic reforms, and what protesters say is a lack of government action to stop corruption and the murder of human rights activists”. Colombia has traditionally been a very divided country when it comes to the right/left ideological divide. The protests might have righteous motives, but is is hard to contain a movement.

As Reuters reports: “Marches have attracted thousands of peaceful demonstrators, but last Thursday and Friday were also marred by the destruction of mass transit stations, the use of tear gas, curfews in Cali and Bogota and the deaths of three people in connection with alleged looting”. Things might be getting worse before they get better as negotiations have been slow and sterile.

As CE Noticias Financieras reports: “Talks between the National Paro Committee and the government are stalled because unions demand exclusive negotiation and refuse to be part of a dialogue with employers and guilds that Duque convened as part of a “Great Conversation National””. 

A protester called Dilan Cruz has died after being hit with a police projectile.

As the protests led a fifth day on November 26, an activist lay in agony after being hit with a police missile. The protests intensified then, and have reached new proportions after Cruz died. Police tactics have been judged as way too harsh and disproportionate to the nature of the demonstrations. For example, the authorities used tear gas to disperse a crowd while the national anthem was being sung in front of the central bank headquarters. 

Remember his name: Dilan Cruz. He has become a symbol of the protest movement in Colombia.

Dilan Cruz grabbed a tear gas canister and threw it back at the police. Seconds later a shot was heard and he lay on the ground amidst screams from fellow protesters. He spent two days in hospital but died from the bullet he received in the head, according to reports from BBC. Dilan was only 18-years-old and had graduated from high school in the public institution Colegio Ricaurte the same day on which he died (talk about a cruel twist of fate). There have been dozens of reports of police brutality during these tense days in Colombia, but Dilan has become the flag of the movement. 

“Dilan vive, Dilan vive” is the new protest battle cry… 

Dilan’s classmates led protests towards the hospital where he died. With cries of “Dilan lives, Dilan lives” they denounced the human rights violations that activists have been subject to before and during the protests. On the corner of 19 and 4, which is generally a chaotic area of the capital city, there are memorials including candles, posters and graffiti. Dilan’s death also lead to a national strike. 

President Duque has extended his condolences… yes, really.

The president tweeted a message to the victim’s mother, grandfather and sisters. He also promised that an investigation would be launched to clarify the incident. However, some conservative voices have already started victim blaming, saying that since Dilan was a minor he should have been at home, and that the blame lays with his parents. 

Dilan will live forever as an icon of the protest movements.

Credit: somos_ugc / Instagram

Every movement or revolution has an icon. Dilan Cruz has become a martyr and his name will always be associated with social struggle and a watershed moment in which violence escalated and the world started to turn its eyes to 2019 Colombia and its many injustices, but also its voices of hope. 

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