May 6, 1992
By Yolanda Reynolds
Great sadness and controlled frustration characterized the mood of many in San Jose over the Rodney King police brutality jury decision. The very afternoon of the jury decision ruling which found the four Los Angeles police officers involved in the video-taped beating of an African American, Rodney King. “not guilty,” brought a quick reaction in San Jose as it did elsewhere in the state and nation.
What occurred of that decision in Los Angeles and other cities throughout the nation, as a consequence of that decision, has been widely reported. The violence that followed has been justiﬁably deplored by all.
What many do not know is what has and is happening in San Jose. Here college and University particularly students attending San Jose State, have had a series of peaceful demonstration of protest.
Wednesday afternoon, at one of the largest gatherings at the student union amphitheater, students came together to express how they felt and decided that they needed to in some way their sorrow and frustration. Later that afternoon they formed a “Direct Action Alliance.”
If any good can be said to have occurred front the savage beating and the subsequent devastation that followed: it has been the coming together of many in our diverse community in unity to protest what many perceive to be a miscarriage of justice. The group, “Direct Action Alliance,” is such an example. Members of that Alliance include members of organizations representing African Americans. Chicano, Asian, Homeless people, Gay and Lesbians, Women and Native American/Indian as well as others campus groups.
The Alliance joined the San Jose NAACP chapter on Thursday evening for a gathering on Sixth street. Approximately 1,000 people joined in the protest march organized by the Alliance. It followed a gathering at the NAACP headquarters where African American leaders assessed the events in Los Angeles and exhorted the crowd to direct their sorrow, anger and frustration towards nonviolent and productive ends.
Reverend James Davis of the AME Zion Church said, “racism has been a problem for a long, long time, but we must blame ourselves – we have put in office, public ﬁgures who run on a racial platform.” He added that moving the police trial from L.A. (where the beating took place) to Simi Valley was comparable to justice in South Africa.
Davis said that had a dog been handled and beaten as King was that the consequences would have been different probably involving jail time for the attackers. Davis said that since the person who was beat up was a black man, some people believe that “justice had been served.” Most Americans do not believe that “justice” was served.
Lem Hollins, a spokesperson from the African American Center said that the events in Los Angeles have set Civil Rights back 50 yeas. He too, exhorted those in attendance to vote for candidates who sincerely have the interests of the community in mind. He said, “do not let San Jose become like L.A.”
Mildred Evans, President of the Black Corrections Officers, said “we are all angered by the decision” but she added. “to you, our young leaders of tomorrow – go in peace – they expect destruction but instead, teach peace and go in peace and get answers.”
Juan Haro, a San Jose student and a leader of the Direct Action Coalition, said that “what occurred in LA is not an isolated issue, that sort of conduct occurs in every city all over our county.” Ham added that because of that he was asking those at the NAACP gathering to join the Alliance in a peaceful protest march later that evening – to march later that evening – to march first to the Federal building to make a demand that the Federal Justice Department Act with dispatch to investigate what many believe was a violation of King’s Civil Rights.
The marchers, subsequent destination was the San Jose police station. where the strident leaders met with Chief Cobarruviaz and San Jose City Manager, Les White. The Alliance was given assurances by them at that meeting (which occurred around 10 p.m.) that the City would establish and work with the community group task force that would meet monthly with the chief of police to discuss police protection and behavior – and the Alliance leadership would also be able to speak directly to the police officers regarding Alliance concerns.
On Friday morning, a gathering of the Alliance spokespersons was held to detail a number of occurrences in San Jose that they felt exhibited excessive police force and to detail the results of the meeting of previous evening with Cobarruviaz and White.
Scot Wagers, a San Jose State student and the founder and President of the Student/Homeless Alliance, pointed out that the nation will continue to have unrest unless some fundamental changes are made and injustice is no longer encouraged by government policy. He pointed to the inequities of the tax system, the lack of investment or services to communities of color and the poor – the disparity of incomes and the growing numbers of impoverished people in the United States.
Tiyadi Day, an African American San Jose State Student leader, said “we must and will ﬁght this system with knowledge.” He exhorted the young to stay in school and added “we get that education so that we can change the system.”
Before the march began Thursday evening and alter all of the speeches were made, the people who joined the protest march were each given a handkerchief as a symbol, “to wipe the tears of sorrow for all the subsequent jury decision meant and to decry the system that allows this happen.”
For many in San Jose, this brutal beating and the cavalier rational for the jury’s decision put into sharp focus the reality of injustice and inequality that exists in these United States – a nation that has set itself up as a model for democracy and human rights.
As stated in a free form poem and statement by San Josean Brenna Bolder, was read at the gathering on Thursday night.
“Until our leaders treat all Americans the same way without prejudice. We will not rest. Until our leaders undo the wrongs perpetrated on all the Rodney Kings throughout America we will wear our handkerchiefs – in mourning, in sorrow and in anger.
“Until the U.S. Department of Justice takes the necessary and overdue legal action against the four Los Angeles police officers for the violation of Rodney King’s civil rights we will wear our white handkerchiefs as a sign of grief and demand for action.”
For more information on the Direct Action Coalition contact Tiyadi Day at 294-2943 or Miesha Harris at 971-1781, Juan Haro at 929-7042 and Scott Wagers at 335-7039. © La Oferta Newspaper.