On April 23, more than 100 people in Davis, Calif., gathered to mourn the continued lives lost to police violence. The vigil, organized by the La Raza Pre-Law Student Association, was a moving event that reflected on the victims of police and the families they leave behind.
Participating organizations included Yolo People Power, Phoenix Coalition, Yolo Grassroots Collective, Party for Socialism and Liberation, and more. Speakers read poetry and invoked the names of Daunte Wright, Alex Toledo, and Ma’khia Bryant, each of whom was shot to death by police in the days surrounding Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict for the murder of George Floyd.
The event was held in Davis at the Central Park Solidarity Space. Tributes for victims of police murder had been displayed there since the 2020 mass uprisings against racism following the murder of George Floyd. Notably, within hours of Chauvin’s verdict being read, an unknown party tore down and removed all artwork from the Solidarity Space. But just as quickly as the items were stolen, the undeterred community replaced them with new paintings, messages and banners.
Need for sustained action
Throughout the night at the vigil, the need for sustained action against state-sanctioned police killings was a recurring theme. Alexandra Olvera, La Raza co-president, expressed anguish at the non-stop mistreatment of people of color in America. She urged attendants to make their current outcry “more than a trend” that only came when “live lynching’s are broadcasted online.”
“We must listen, obey, comply. These words have been used to oppress my people … as a Brown woman in America. This issue is systemic. … I encourage you to think about that when speaking about all this with your friends and family,” she said.
La Raza’s political chair Brandon Blanco followed by denouncing the “school-to-prison pipeline, where Black and Brown students are more likely to end up in jail.” Blanco rightly pointed out that “this system is not broken, it was meant to be this way” and reminded listeners: “Actions speak louder than words. Keep that in mind these coming days.”
After a powerful five-minutes of silence, Pastor Eunbee Ham of the Davis Community Church railed against the framework of white supremacy and contributed their own experiences facing discrimination as an Asian-American immigrant.
“Our gathering tonight refuses to ignore the recurring massacre of Black and Brown lives. We refuse to stay silent about the continual lynching of our Black and Brown siblings,” Ham said.
Pastor Ham acknowledged that while different people of color experience unique forms of violence and discrimination in the United States: “We must remember that they all come from the same source of white supremacy. … To stay silent would be to ignore the strategies used by white supremacy. … It has become very clear who [police are] paid to protect and serve.”
The chair of the Davis Police Accountability Commission Dillan Horton led a chant that declared Black, Latinx, Native, and Asian lives mattered before introducing himself as a descendant of Texas slaves who spent their lives picking cotton on other people’s land. “I want to talk about a system that was built to never really work … structured around racist and classist principles that protect property over human beings.”
Roots of policing in the United States
Horton went on to explain how the roots of policing in the United States originate from antebellum slave patrols, industrial revolution union busters, and militias that hunted Native Americans, noting how “these principles of policing never really left” modern U.S. police forces.
Tahnee Stair Sweeney of the Party for Socialism and Liberation addressed the crowd about how the U.S. military and police cooperate to protect white supremacy and imperialism at home and abroad. Sweeney stated the conviction of Chauvin was a people’s victory won through a united rebellion against racism that included demonstrations in rural areas and towns large and small across the United States and around the world. They went on to raise the demand of the people that all killer cops be jailed.
As night fell and the vigil’s attendees readied to leave, the desperate need for fundamental change had been made apparent. Of course, such necessary and lasting change will be blocked under a capitalist system that depends upon violent oppression to protect their ruling-class interests. It is clear that nothing short of a fully dismantled capitalist state will allow for lasting justice for communities being targeted by racism and police terror.