Protesters Call for Justice in Police Killings

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 19, 2008 - 09:40:00 AM

Monday evening, on the five-month anniversary of the death of South Berkeley resident Anita Gay, killed by Berkeley Police Officer Rashawn Cummings on Feb. 16, some 40 people demonstrated at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Ashby Avenue, calling for a thorough inquiry into Gay’s death.  

Chanting, “Justice for Anita, justice for all,” demonstrators also condemned the killings by Oakland police of Gary King, Jose Luis Buenrostro and Casper Banjo. 

“We’re here to give visibility to police violence in our community and to honor the life of Anita Gay,” Alex Fischer of Copwatch told the Planet, adding that the community should rely less on the police since they might kill the person who called for their help, as was the case with Anita Gay. 

Police Review Commissioner Jonathan Huang, who will participate in the commission’s formal inquiry into the officer-involved shooting, said in addition to uncovering exactly how Gay was killed—and what might have prevented her death—he wanted to know what kind of help the families and children received who witnessed the incident and the bloody aftermath.  

“I’m here to raise awareness of the issues,” Huang said. 

Bato Luis Talamantez with the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition (ANSWER) said he came to the demonstration to be sure those killed recently by Oakland police were not forgotten: that includes 71-year-old artist Banjo, killed March 14, Buenrostro, 15, killed March 19 and King, 20, killed Sept. 20, 2007. 

“More people need to get involved,” Talamantez said. The question that needs to be answered, he said, is “how law enforcement responds to a society in crisis.”  

It should not be with guns, he said. 

There was no visible police presence at the protest, other than an occasional police car that drove by the demonstration along Ashby Avenue or Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

Berkeley police have concluded that the officer’s actions prevented Anita Gay from stabbing her daughter and were therefore justified. The Alameda County district attorney has yet to issue its report, which will determine whether the officer is to be charged with a crime.