A rainbow coalition of Richmond activists on Monday demanded that the city’s powerful police union rescind an electoral mailer they described as a racist hit piece.
Members of Richmond Community United for Peace gathered outside the Richmond Police Department on Regatta Boulevard to attack the mailer, which arrived in mailboxes just as voters are preparing to cast absentee ballots. The flyer listed the Richmond Police Officers Association as its return address.
Coalition spokesperson Andres Soto said the flyer “is blatantly racist against the Latino community,” and “designed to distract people from the issues” in the upcoming election.
Phillip Mehas, a member of the board of the regional ACLU chapter, said that in his 10 years in the area he had seen derogatory mailings before, “but nothing as racist as this.”
“Public safety held hostage,” declared the flyer. “Stop crime before it happens” and “Arrogant disrespect for public safety.”
The stark headlines were placed over photos of activist Juan Reardon, who served as campaign manager to Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, holding up a sign in Spanish warning of a police driver’s license checkpoint ahead.
Inside, headlines declared “Mexican drug dealers,” “Honduran drug dealers,” “El Salvadoran drug dealers” and “Drugs come to Richmond from across the Mexican border,” with “Richmond” and “Mexican border” underlined, and the accompanying text referring to “Mexican drug wars,” “headless bodies” and “ongoing orgies of violence!”
Latinos were the only drug dealers mentioned in the flyer.
A statement in the flyer from Richmond Police Officers Association Vice President Sgt. Andre Hill declares: “Gayle McLaughlin and Juan Reardon plan to exempt Latinos from the rule of law because many are illegal residents and do not have a driver’s license.”
The flyer also declares that Reardon is campaign manager for two McLaughlin allies running for City Council seats, cardiologist Jeff Ritterman and activist Jovanka Beckles, an allegation refuted by Charles Smith, Green Party candidate for the East Bay Municipal Utility District board and a labor activist, who said flatly, “That’s not true.”
Fred Jackson of North Richmond’s Neighborhood House, an African-American community leader, said, “I could not let this kind of dirty politics go on without speaking out,” and urged all Richmond residents to come together to live out the dream of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. rather than succumb to the politics of division.”
The politically powerful police union is backed in its complaint by one member of the city’s police commission, marketing executive and City Council candidate Chris Tallerico, who appears in the flyer, declaring that “our Mayor and Juan Reardon are taking our City on a dangerous, unequal course, replacing ‘rule of law’ with their own political agenda.”
But another commissioner, Roberto Reyes, appeared at Monday’s press conference both to call the community to join in honoring fallen officer Brad Moody, who was expected to die from injuries received in a fatal accident Saturday morning, and to criticize the police union mailer.
“It is unfortunate that the Richmond Police Officers Association has chosen to release their garbage around the time of the election,” Reyes said.
Calls to the police association’s phone number were met with a recording stating that the association’s voice mailbox was full and not accepting messages.
Monday’s press conference began outside the station, where flags were flying at half mast for Richmond Police officer Moody. Soto began the conference with a tribute to Moody followed by a moment of silence to honor the fallen officer.
The 29-year-old Moody was critically injured when his police car truck a utility pole in the center median on rain-slicked Marina Bay Parkway as he was responding to a felony assault with injuries emergency call Saturday morning. After what Police Chief Chris Magnus called “heroic effects at the accident scene” by police and PG&E employees, the stricken officer was rushed to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, “where it was determined that his injuries were not life-survivable.”
Moddy was taken off life support just before midnight Monday, so his organs could be donated to a patient in critical need in a San Francisco hospital.
A website established by the officer’s colleagues is now on-line at http://bradley-moody.last-memories.com, and donations to benefit his family may be made to “The Memorial Fund for Officer Brad Moody” at any Mechanics Bank branch.