The trial of Francisco “Chavo” Romero has ended with the court-ordered rejection of 5 citation tickets issued by the Oxnard Police Department. The “Not Guilty” verdicts are a victory for the Todo Poder al Pueblo Collective in its long-standing fight against OPD brutality and are a further confirmation of the rights of oppressed communities to fight back against police impunity, harassment, and abuse….
See Todo Poder al Pueblo Collective for the full article on the case!
Below is a copy of the letter that was mailed to me (along with 5 citations), two weeks after we had our October 13, 2013 March Against Police Brutality. As you can see, the police state that my “ACTIONS CREATED A HAZARDOUS SITUATION.”
This is fabrication and an insult to our community, the families, the organizations and participants. For the past 20 years I have been an advocate for community organization, for resistance, for exposing police brutality – THIS IS THE REAL REASON FOR TARGETING ME AND OUR COMMUNITY.
For the past year we fought in the courts to get all of the evidence, and in their own undercover surveillance it clearly shows that I was assisting in making the march as ORGANIZED AND SAFE as possible. NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON WAS HURT at the protest march. We will post picture screenshots from the videos to show how myself and other great community members assisted in keeping the march organized.
Truth is, the Oxnard Police had dozens of undercover cops following us, most likely within the march, and had nearly 100 cops staged near our march, including a BearCat Armored Carrier, plus neighboring city and county law enforcement on stand-by. The police had a manual that indicated that if the march became unsafe, they would issue a dispersal order. They never ordered or announced the dispersal order. That day, traffic units for Oxnard Police also stopped traffic along our march route. THEY SPENT NEARLY $15,000 in overtime that night of the protest.
The letter below, is signed by Senior cop Jamie Brown of the Traffic Division. He confessed in court on the stand that he did not write the letter, it was prepared for him and he signed it. He never even seen me the date of the action. The letter was written by Oxnard PD Alex Arnett – the Surveillance team director. He later also admitted in court, that what I did (i.e. assist in asking people to march safely “had to be done.” So why mail me tickets then?
The answer is simple, it is an attempt to tie us up in the courts with fines, bench warrants, all in the hopes of CRIMINALIZING US. They are doing this in attempt to intimidate and put fear in our community for standing up for gente.
The City of Oxnard, Oxnard Police Department and the District Attorney have WASTED over $20,000 in TAX PAYER MONEY to fund this POLITICAL ATTACK. They are leveling the power of the state and its resources in an attempt to SILENCE US.
OUR COMMUNITY REFUSES TO BE SILENT… So we continue to protest, expose, and organize to challenge city and police abuse.
TRAIL DATES: The Romero vs. Oxnard Police trial is set of August 27 & 28, 8:30am. Dept. 23, Ventura Courthouse 800 S. Victoria Avenue, Ventura CA.
Francisco Romero charges the Oxnard Police Department with retaliatory intimidation as he contests five citations for his participation in a march against police brutality on October 13, 2013.
An obscure 1975 California Supreme Court case, Murgia v. Municipal Court, serves as the basis for his complaint. In this decision, the justices unanimously found that the Kern County Sheriff’s Department violated the equal protection clauses of the US and state constitutions against selective enforcement.
In its ruling, the court recognized the context of the case in which Jose Guadalupe Murguia [spelled correctly], an organizer, and his fellow United Farm Workers unionists, had been invidiously (unjustifiably) targeted by law enforcement. But when Teamsters—who agreed to sweetheart contracts with growers—and private agents of the agricultural industry violated the law, sheriff deputies chose not to take action.
As in Murgia, circumstantial evidence validates Romero’s claim.
For example, as a member of Toda Poder Al Pueblo (All Power to the People), a grass roots civil rights organization in Ventura County, Romero previously participated in demonstrations against police brutality.
About a week before this event, OPD officers killed Alfonso Limon in the barrio community of La Colonia. He was an innocent bystander who walked into a confrontation between police officers and an armed suspect.
Limon’s death horrified a constituency within Ventura County already heated by the OPD killings of Robert Ramirez in June of 2012 and Michael Mahoney that August.
These tragedies and a history of tension with the police prompted close to, if not over, 1,000 people to join the National Day of Action in Oxnard.
These protestors assembled at a park in La Colonia, and then marched to the site where police officers inflicted 21 distinct gunshots at Limon. After a stop at this scene, the demonstrators continued their march to the OPD station.
On the way, the demonstrators clogged traffic on the city’s main boulevard.
Once at OPD headquarters, half the crowd expressed its fury at the front of the building. The others jeered officers through the south-side gate of the station’s parking lot.
Subsequently, residents in dialogue with the OPD leadership commended Police Chief Jeri Williams for the control she commanded over anxious officers, many outfitted with helmets and batons, while the station was under siege.
While the OPD publicly recognized the right of people to peacefully demonstrate, it also communicated its intention to protect the safety of pedestrians and motorists.
This is the context of Romero’s case.
In an unsuccessful Murgia motion by Romero to have the citations dismissed, Commissioner Anthony Sabo ruled that the OPD did not issue the jaywalking citations with invidious discrimination as there “. . . was no showing the Defendant was targeted for prosecution for any reason other than, to the Defendant’s misfortune, officers were able to identify him and observe his actions on video.”
This is an intriguing ruling as the audio in the OPD surveillance video obtained by Romero’s attorney, James P. Segall-Gutierrez, under a Murgia discovery motion, evidences the police identifying Romero by name as well as other protesters in the October 13 march who were not cited.
Supporters of Romero feel that the OPD would have overlooked his minor offense if he had not been a prominent critic of its conduct.
Furthermore, several of those identified in this demonstration previously and regularly denounced the OPD at the televised meetings of the Oxnard City Council, often in the presence of the police chief and her staff.
Even family members who had lost loved one at the hands of OPD officers openly participated in all of the aforementioned demonstrations and city council meetings. But they were not cited.
The selective enforcement argument of Romero seems to have been enhanced recently as Elliott Gabriel, also a member of Todo Poder Al Pueblo, received two citations for impeding traffic as he rode a bicycle alongside an April 11, 2015 march of 100 people protesting an OPD officer’s killing of Meagan Hockaday, 26, during a domestic violence call on March 28, 2015.
Gabriel claims that he was only person cited in this demonstration.
Moving forward in a trial scheduled to begin in August, Romero’s attorney will argue that the OPD entrapped his client because an unlawful assembly was not declared. Segall-Gutierrez will also contend that Romero violated vehicle codes for which he was cited out of necessity and for the safety of the participants in the protest.
If the trial is not decided in Romero’s favor, he vows to appeal the case under the Murgia motion against selective enforcement to the highest court of the land if necessary.
Set for Wednesday June 17th, 8:30am Dept. 23 (most likely to be moved to Dept. 10) at the Ventura County Courthouse, 800 S. Victoria Ave, Ventura, CA.
In 2013, the City of Oxnard, the Oxnard Police Department launched a retaliation campaign against me, by mailing me five traffic citations for marching with the community against police brutality. Now the Ventura County District Attorney has vowed to make an example out of Francisco Chavo Romero, but, the community has continued to fight back, to protest and denounce police brutality.
HOW YOU CAN HELP: You can help us shame the City of Oxnard, and the Oxnard Police Department in the next few days to expose this cowardly retaliatory attack against Chavo, which really is an attack on the community. We will release an online petition drive to demand that these citations be dropped. Be on the look out for the call out.