December 14, 2014, Riverside, Ca -- A group of about fifteen supporters and participants in December 6th's March and Rally gathered at the Gandhi statue in Riverside on Sunday evening. Some were victims of the BMW driver who plowed through the peaceful #BlackLivesMatter demonstration as they chanted "They think it's a joke, they think it's a game." (Video link.)
A written statement that was read at the beginning of the press conference noted that the status of the investigation by Riverside Police Department per a December 11th press release stating that the driver has been identified, with a search warrant served on the suspect's home in Chino, but with no arrest made, is yet another instance of where the bias in our justice system grants some people due process and not others.
The speakers included Nikhol Vandel who provided a spoken word recap of her experience of the hit-and-run, as well as impassioned speeches by Gloria Willis, a longtime activist in Riverside; and Lauren (Rep Tar) who was among those hit by the vehicle. Additionally, Michael Harrington of the Inland Empire National Lawyer's Guild provided a statement legal affirmation of the community's right to assemble in public spaces and acknowledging the City of Riverside's decision to adjust traffic and street closures to allow for increased public safety.
The moderator of the press conference, Bobbi Jo Chavarria, whose toes were run over from the fleeing car, founder of the Inland Empire Do Peace & Nonviolence Alliance, and co-founder of Catalina's List, seconded Nikhol Vandel's call for a community conversation on how law enforcement works in Riverside County and the Inland Empire as a whole. Vandel recounted a recent event providing a discussion on safe spaces in schools and Chavarria, referencing several disturbing posts on the Press Enterprise's website, called for a mature and responsible conversation about the #BlackLivesMatter movement and for community to come together to Rethink Policing in our communities. Some of the posts she shared had applauded the violence of the hit-and-run, with quite a few saying they would have done the same thing, or that the "dumbass"es deserved to be hit for demonstrating in the street at a family event like the Festival of Lights.
Ultimately, each of the speakers painted a vision of creating space for the community dialogue and public policy changes necessary not only in the Inland Empire, but around the country to "Rethink Policing." Willis indicated that after Tyisha Miller's killing by officers in the Riverside Police Department, she and other community members "marched for two years" until those officers were fired. She and Chavarria both called for Inland Empire residents to model what could happen across the country with nonviolent approaches and policy solutions that are already offered in legislation like H.R. 808 A Bill to Establish a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding and in some of the reforms that happened in Riverside since Miller's death.
The speeches and calls to action attracted several attendees of the Festival of Lights who stopped to watch and listen to the group in front of the Gandhi monument, including two high-school students from the Victorville area who noted their pleasant surprise at finding the "We Demand Justice" rally in the Inland Empire. Both had been in Los Angeles the day before and had seen the large rally and march there.
The event concluded with an invitation to join the movement for justice and the group taking part in a Facebook singing challenge issued by renowned actor, Samuel L. Jackson, whose lyrics read, "I can hear my neighbors crying, 'I can't breathe,' / Now I'm in the struggle and I can't leave / Calling out the violence of the racist police / We ain't gonna stop, 'til people are free / We ain't gonna stop, 'til people are free." The group then welcomed participants and others in the crowd to a "Vigil for Peace" hosted by the Inland Communities Fellowship of Reconciliation (IC FOR) taking place down the street in front of the Riverside Public Library.
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Joint Statement from some Hit and Run Victims and Witnesses at a “Black Lives Matter” Demonstration at Riverside’s Festival of Lights
Press Conference: We Demand Justice
Michael Harrington, 760-501-8261
Email: harringtonlaw <at> aol <dot> com
For Immediate Release
December 14, 2014
We participated in the march and rally because we firmly want to live as Martin Luther King, Jr., dared in his statement, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
In this vein, we will very briefly comment upon the current status of the hit-and-run investigation and those of us who have elected to speak, may or may not share our individual experience or injuries from the hit-and-run.
We demand justice. It is because of the unequal application of our criminal justice system, the unequal protection of the law granted to some and not others; that we remain cautious in our hope that the hit-and-run driver will be held accountable. We will cooperate with the District Attorney’s office and Riverside Police Department in relation to this case, but we will remain attentive to the fact that overwhelming evidence, video and pictures are often not enough to hold those who commit dangerous and criminal actions accountable, not because of the facts in evidence, but because of other factors that create the very injustices we were demonstrating against.
It remains to be seen if justice will be served to those of us who were affected by the individual’s criminal actions. We will not say alleged, because we know that the driver of a BMW drove through a peaceful demonstration, the vehicle touched, hit, and knocked over several people and he drove away. To us, that is quite simply a hit-and-run.
According to a press release titled, “Driver in Vehicle Identified with Regard to Protest Incident,” on Thursday, December 11th, by the Riverside Police Department, a search warrant was served upon a residence in Chino for the home and vehicle on December 10th; the investigation continues and the RPD “will be submitting the case to the Riverside District Attorney’s office for review.”
Additionally, we ask that more victims and more witnesses come forward with any information that is relevant by contacting Detective Galbreath at 951-826-8716.
Assisted by Michael Harrington, attorney
Inland Empire Group of National Lawyers Guild
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On December 6, 2014, we came out in support of the purpose and message of the march and rally by artists and organizers who invited others to join on Facebook at the Festival of Lights. #BlackLivesMatter
December 12, 2014
WHAT: Rally for JUSTICE! Press Conference
WHEN: Sunday, December 14, 2014
TIME: 5:15 pm
WHO: Victims of Hit-and-Run Driver at Protest March & Rally December 6th
WHERE: The scene of the crime. In front of Gandhi Statue, Downtown Riverside, Main St Walkway & Mission Inn Avenue
WHY: Too often, those in the minority are abused and our biased justice system blames them. It isn’t ironic, it’s a sad fact, that in protesting for equal justice, the victims of a hit-and-run driver have had to wait for justice from the process while, at the same time, having to endure public conversation in both social and traditional media; and from law enforcement statements; that give the benefit of the doubt to the dangerous and criminal actions of the driver; and NOT to the people who were in the crosswalk on a busy street.
The evening of the incident, Riverside Police Department confirmed in news reports that there was a Hit-and-Run incident and they were investigating as such. Late Thursday afternoon, the Department confirmed through a press release that the driver has been identified, and a search warrant served at a home in Chino. Suspect not in custody. No arrest has been made. No charges filed. Why not? Suspects across the country are immediately placed into custody or killed, with less evidence for lesser or non-existent crimes. This is why we protest.
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Strong visuals. Signs, posters, crowd. As a local organizer of National Lawyers Guild, Attorney Michael Harrington will give a brief legal statement accompanied by statements from victims and witnesses that have come forward.
FACEBOOK EVENT Page:
Too often, those in the minority are abused and our biased justice system blames them. (M.H.)
It is NOT OK to drive through people using a moving automobile as a cow-catcher.
It is REALLY SAD to think it IS OK because you don't agree with the #blacklivesmatter #ferguson protest - whatever the reason you don't agree (time, place, message, messenger)
It is DISHONEST to say this man slowly drove through the crowd.
Yes, we were protesting for equal justice in the judicial system! That's why it's MADDENING to know this man was NOT arrested or detained once identified.
JOIN US for a RALLY for Justice and PRESS CONFERENCE to begin at 5:15pm
On Saturday, December 6th members of the Inland Empire community were exercising our power of FREE SPEECH about the systemic discrimination and prejudice in our judicial system. We answered a call to action by a local group of artists and young adults who wanted to have that the nationwide conversation to the IE. The collective who organized the event is firmly rooted in the practices of Martin Luther King and Gandhi, nonviolence at the forefront.
AND the driver who HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED BY RIVERSIDE POLICE DEPARTMENT drove his BMW through a crowded street, revving his engine more than once, hit a group of people. Stopped, and then drove straight ahead with eyes forward, with NO REGARD for the people who were in his way or those who were knocked over by his vehicle.
The system must treat people equally. Both suspects and victims. Also, the system must recognize that we have many vulnerable populations that don't come forward as victims BECAUSE they have little to no trust in the system that they will be treated fairly or EQUALLY because of any number of factors - race, gender identity, ethnic background, country of origin and more.
WANTED: Faith in the system.
Can it be done? It's up to the Riverside PD and District Attorney. Don't BE THAT CITY that proves some get justice and some don't.
WANTED: Justice served on this HIT AND RUN driver!
WANTED: Justice from Riverside PD to handle this NOW by doing the following and MORE:
- A complete investigation AND prosecution to the fullest extent of the law
- Affirmation that the ONLY reported crime committed the evening of the protest was by this DRIVER and not the peaceful protesters rallying for JUSTICE.
- STOP saying he drove slowly through. DO NOT say that it wasn't a Hit and Run as it was called the first evening.
WANTED: Any participants who were injured to contact Riverside PD to give their statements and any proof of bruises, bumps, etc. Keep it real.
Any additional photos and/or video footage, especially close to the vehicle or of the people in the car.
It is TIME to have a powerful and significant discussion -- at every level of community -- on how we can #ReThinkPolicing and live up to #JusticeForAll. That's why we were there. That's why this matters.