Op-Ed: San Jose Leaders Ignore Calls for Justice From Families Impacted by Police Violence

Over the past two decades San Jose has consistently boasted about itself as the “Capital of Silicon Valley.” Yet, when it comes to addressing the needs of the people who make up the diversity this city touts, leaders respond with empty gestures and ineffective policies.

For example, recently Mayor Sam Liccardo took a knee with protestors and listed the names of victims killed by police in the U.S. Conveniently, he neglected to mention the victims who were killed by the police in his own city, which he has turned a blind eye to for years. Anthony Nuñez, Jennifer Vasquez, Phillip Watkins, Antonio Guzman Lopez and Jacob Dominguez are just a few of the names he chose to omit.

As a mother whose partner was murdered by local police, his performance was disrespectful to me and to other families.

SJPD’s bloodshed in our streets is on the hands of every city leader who continues to condone, praise and reward this violent pattern of behavior.

My young son is deeply traumatized by his father’s murder. He recently wrote a letter, saying, “When I was little I needed my father … It’s hard to live without a dad.”

As organizers and San Jose residents, we are writing this reflection alongside Laurie, her son, Josiah, the other impacted families, and in the memory of their loved ones. In recent weeks, thousands of us have taken to our streets and surrounded City Hall in mourning, and in anger, of the violence police have inflicted upon these families, and thousands of other Black and Brown communities across this country.

Collectively, we have boldly and beautifully awakened our city.

We’ve sung, chanted, and declared that Black Lives Matter, while demanding justice from our city leaders by calling for an immediate divestment from the SJPD and reinvestment in Black and Brown communities.

Yet, our city has responded to these peaceful calls for justice by letting loose barrages of rubber bullets onto its own people, and launching flash-bang grenades that have shattered our eardrums, along with our trust in this city’s leadership.

Liccardo has disparaged this call for divestment, dismissing it as merely “a means to express protest.” Here he is dismissing generations of Black and Brown activism, including the decades-long battles that families impacted by police violence in San Jose have fought. We have been, and are continuously working towards, a reimagined world in which marginalized communities are fully resourced and prisons, police, and other racist institutions do not need to exist.

Instead of listening to the grieving families and citywide protests that have sustained over the past few weeks and years, Mayor Liccardo has chosen to tokenize sparse conversations with one Spanish-speaking community group to proudly assert that he listens to communities of color. This level of ignorance is baffling, even shameful for someone that proclaims himself a progressive leader in our community.

This is a necessary reminder that any effective efforts for change must have those impacted at the forefront of the decision making process, not politicians that value their public image over Black and Brown lives.

On Thursday, our letter that gathered over 2,600 individual and 30 organizational signatories in under 24 hours, was sent to city leaders. It centers on the perspectives of families affected by police violence, and calls for funds to be divested from a bloated SJPD budget, and invested directly into the communities that have been traumatized by police violence. It is a call to invest in black- and brown-led community organizations, support families traumatized by police brutality, expand the budgets of libraries, community centers, affordable housing, and mental-health services.

A summary can be found here

We aim to create long-term social change and usher in structural transformation, not the “quick fixes” that Liccardo suggests. We actively reject the reforms that Liccardo touts, including the #8CantWait steps that Liccardo proclaimed the SJPD has implemented six of (eight, by late last week). The fact that SJPD continues to murder and brutalize its own residents with these changes in place only proves that these “quick fixes” are ineffective.

History is watching. We, the marginalized that breathe life and meaning into our city of San Jose, expect change—now.

Laurie Valdez is the partner of Antonio Guzman Lopez, who was murdered by San Jose State police in 2014. She is the founder of Justice for Josiah (named after Antonio and Laurie’s son Josiah). Leila Ullmann was born and raised in San Jose, and is a university student. Oscar Sandoval is an educator, artist, and San Jose resident. 

Opinions are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches and letters to [email protected].

16 Comments

  1. It is not only the city of San José leaders but the leaders of Santa Clara County too who have all played this corruption and scam for the last two decades. For example, not only Liccardo, but also Carrasco, Chavez, Cortese, and Ash Kalra have been so outspoken about these injustices. They all have been supported by the San Jose Police union in their political campaigns. They become good friends with police chief and local organizations and unions. The police in San José has systematically discriminated and abused the community members. Local organizations CEOs are routinely displaced as leaders of the community. Employees at these organizations have routinely discriminated their employees too even when against the law. Ash Kalra is always behind grupos such us DeBug and Young Democrats and so on. Yet, it is the companies with Indian CEOs and executives that have routinely been on the news for discriminatory practices. Shouldn’t Ash Kalra and the DeBug people call out their own people? It is not a secret the anti-Blackness is highly rooted in the East Asian and South Asian communities. These two groups have all given themselves the “we are all Asians in this county” for political and financial purposes. East and south Asians are different races and cultures though. For East Asians being thin and White is the definition of beauty, Chinese culture. For Indian the Caste system guides them to crave political positions and power. This way, they are on top of all those we call the working class. They only care about the working class’s votes. In their Caste system the working class, homeless, and all those we call disadvantaged have no meaningful worth. To obtain the votes of all those they do not consider equal, they will tell you what you want to hear. However, their words and behavior are never congruent. It is time we also call out the racism and discriminatory practices of those from minority communities. I have lived enough to know racism and discrimination exists everywhere. I am glad for once the larger community is noticing the hypocrisy and corruption of our local systems and politicians and other public officials. DA JEFF Rosen is the top player of corruption. He routinely gives passes to law enforcement who engage in criminal behavior.

    • when is your book done, ill buy it

      you layout a lot of accusations, cant wait to see the evidence

      • Thank you for your interest Paul. It is a work in progress. It will include my own personal story. Just my story includes the same elements reported by other community members such as police engaging in criminal behaviors such as ignoring the crimes of their officers related to Domestic Violence, physical assault, child porn watch, and more. The county supervisors, Zoe Lofgren, and other ignoring complaints, local judges protecting criminal officers, influential people is also part of it. My book will not reveal new information since I have personally reported these crime to the people above, the Gov., CA senators, SF FBI and others. I have personally filed suit against some people in this county. My book will definitely be rated R. I was exposed to some of those images of child porn I have reported. In addition to being a professional mental health provider and a faith leader, I am also a business woman. My business and personal life are priority this year. This due to pandemics. I have to focus on my over health and maintaining my resources. Some people depend on me. I have also reported what I know publicly and in person to supervisorS and others. The book purpose will be to leave a tangible piece of history of what has happened in this county, the corruption of police and our public officials, and the stories of all those that were victims of such corruption. I am sure you can tell that by my roles in the community, I learn about the secrets of many people. Some of those secrets I cannot break by law, ethics, and personal moral standards. Others are already known. I just have the details and the names of the making characters.

      • Paul, if you would have more gray matter, instead of thinking that I am making lies, you would think why I have not been suit for libel! My written communication if lies would be libel. The information I report thought is even in court cases. I just have the details the DA, police departments, and others do not want people to know. I have treated those who their parents were killed by police, those children that have been sexually exploited, I have treated those who were raped and police did nothing, I have worked with those that were sexually abused by family members and ithose who sexually used their children. I have worked with those who were wrongly stooped and beaten by police. I have worked with victims and perpetrators of Domestic violence. This is how I know privileged men are given passes from Jeff Rosen while non-privileged perpetrators are mandate to attend DV classes for a year and to live with the DV record. These while some criminal law enforcement will be able to pass for a person with no criminal history and be able to keep their jobs and their rights to own guns. THIS IS WHAT SYSTEMIC CORRUPTION LOOKS LIKE!

        • I dont have much grey matter, but I dont think youre lying. I would be very interested to see many of these politicians get their due if they have committed crimes, but evidence will be needed.

          • Wow, I am truly impressed by your honesty. The evidence is already there in the form of court, police reports, and other types of written récords. My book will be a form of “honors” to those people corruption. Jeff Rosen’ corruption is well known and documented.

    • > I have lived enough to know racism and discrimination exists everywhere.

      Well, maybe we’re been approaching this the wrong way.

      We’ve been trying to boil the ocean.

      Why not try a new approach.

      Just list the names of the people that you certify as NOT racist and NOT corrupt.

      You wouldn’t have to make such long postings.

      • There is no point on giving names of people I consider not racists or corrupt Bubble, they are not politicians or public officials. I will give you two names of people I know are corrupted: Trump and DA Rosen. The top racists is Trump! DA JEFF Rosen loves those with power and with the ability to increase his salary.

  2. This whole police reform movement is shooting itself in the foot, alienating would be supporters with it’s insistence that racism is at the root of the problem.
    Racism MAY be one of the causes of unwarranted police violence but it’s in at least 5th place behind incompetence, poor training, unaccountability, and unaccountable leadership.
    I’ll happily support effective, non silly measures to reform SJPD. But if you’re gonna throw my tax dollars at “black and brown led community organizations”, more freakin’ affordable housing, more freakin’ homeless programs etc. then I’m not on board since these methods ARE silly and selfish and they’re doomed to fail.

    • John, I am in favor of eliminating criminal policing practices which it has been a long term culture. I believe is practical to focus on behavior and eliminating criminal elements. The fact that Black and Latino males are more likely to be killed by police does show a racial profiling police culture that is more likely than not based on racial prejudices and biases. Some racists are unaware of their condition. Other are good at hiding this. And others are honest and proud of being racists. People from minority groups can also be racists. It is not people racists feelings and thoughts that hurt people particularly in the workplace, education, and victims of crimes; it is the actions! Discriminatory laws also apply to behavior not feeling and thoughts.

      • > Some racists are unaware of their condition. Other are good at hiding this. And others are honest and proud of being racists. People from minority groups can also be racists.

        I still don’t think I know of anyone who you would NOT consider to be a racist.

        Is Jesse Jackson a racist?

        Is Al Sharpton a racist?

        Is Louis Farrakhan a racist?

        Are Jews racist?

        Are Jews God’s chosen people?

        If you think that God likes you more than other people, are you a supremacist?

        Are Jews white? A lot of them look pretty white. Some Jews are white enough to play Aryan Nazi’s on Hogan’s Heroes.

        If Jews are white and God likes them more than blacks, are Jews white supremacists?

        If everyone is a racist, what difference does it make?

        • Pay attention to people’s behavior and you would have the answer. Farrakhan is for sure a Mega racist who hates White people, Americans, and any one not embracing his views. He hates Jews because of his extremist Muslims views. I am not familiar with the other two. Jews are God’s chosen people based on the gospel knowledge. Some of them rejected Jesus and other became the First Christians. They are the descendants of Abraham’ Isac, and Jacob. The stories of Jacob’s son Joseph and the story of Moises teach us how Jews moved to Egypt because of lack of food , how they became slaves in Egypt, then they left Egypt, and went back to the promised land, Israel. Israel was named after Jacob. The 12 tribes of Israel were named after Jacob’s 12 son’s. Some Jews rejected Jesus and other became the new Christians. The Jews did not kill Jesus. The death of Jesus was God’s plan to cleanse the gentiles’ sins. He was the ultimate sacrifice. This sacrifice granted the gentiles grace to have access to heaven. These are the basis of Christianity. This is why Jews became God’s people not because of race superiority. There are Jews who are racist and those who are not. If you have knowledge about Christianity you know these are not my words but the gospel. ARE YOU RACIST BUBBLE? From the beginning of time they were faithful people and those who used religion for personal gains and social status. Mmm….I just thought about Trump taking great measures to have a picture of him with a bible! Talk about those who use religion!

          • Obama took great pains to talk about and have his photo taken with the “Holy Quran”, and quote from it. But you liberals had no problem with that. Obama even bowed and scraped to foreign leaders. You had no problem with that. Trump stands up for American and the Bible, and you liberals have a big problem with that.

  3. “We have been, and are continuously working towards, a reimagined world in which marginalized communities are fully resourced and prisons, police, and other racist institutions do not need to exist.”

    “Reimagined” is the key word in that sentence. We must not imagine what change will look like, we have to work within the realm of reality.

    The reality is, the government could give a community all the resources in existence, and it still won’t fix anything until a culture of empowerment and accountability is brought to the forefront in favor of victimhood and excuses. Similarly, just because one is given a hammer and supplies does not guarantee they’ll end up with a home.

    Let’s be real for a minute here – Antonio Lopez-Guzman had Meth in his system. Jacob Dominguez had Meth and PCP in his system. Jennifer Vasquez had Meth in her system. Anthony Nuñez (18) had THC in his system and had unsuccessfully attempted suicide that day, prior to his confrontation. Diana Showman had an extensive history of mental health difficulties. Phillip Watkins’ friends and family said he was suicidal leading up to his confrontation with police.

    Why no discussion, uproar and outrage about substance abuse and mental health? Unequivocally, none of these people deserved a death sentence because they had substance abuse and/or mental health problems, but had their issues been successfully addressed by family, friends and social services prior to their confrontations with the police, their outcomes likely would have been different. We cannot simply blame the police for these individual’s drug addictions, health problems and life choices that ultimately contributed to their deaths. Are their deaths any less heartbreaking and unfortunate to those who loved them? No. Will eliminating prisons and police fix the root issues that led to their deaths? No.

  4. Building on the analysis and demands of the families impacted by police violence (https://docs. google.com/document/d/18qYeFnH1RE_exyoLMl1XYP4scDhJfgja-OHtKR2GWRg/edit), I suggest the most humane and prudent remedy to historic racism, discrimination and segregation is to first mitigate the health, social and economic damage (see https://www.ama-assn.org/about/leadership/police-brutality-must-stop). This could be done by extending publicly-financed health care (e.g. expanded Medicare); publicly-financed education (e.g. pre-school through university); publicly-financed basic incomes (e.g. expanded Social Security) and a publicly-financed jobs program (akin to the standing armed forces) to all decedents of African slaves.

    This would partly, but meaningfully, address four centuries of enslavement and legalized exclusion and segregation. Such partial reparations would be paid for through one or more wealth taxes on the elites who have been the main beneficiaries of slave labor, coerced labor, forced labor and badly paid labor in general. The taxable wealth base–itself the centuries-long accumulation of monetized human labor power–is considerable whether it is measured on the national or state level (see https://sanjosespotlight.com/state-proposal-would-drain-145m-from-santa-clara-countys-general-fund/?unapproved=15914&moderation-hash=208dc39cdcacca81914e745e85283547#comment-15914).

    Let’s treat the historically destructive effects on Black people’s everyday lives first, as if their lives really matter. Without permanent and significant material and economic relief, any remedy is void of meaning. Then we can have a real conversation about fighting and eliminating systemic racism, racial discrimination and redefining what policing should be.

    Even better, the same remedies could be extended universally, to everyone in the U.S. This would ameliorate health, educational, income and living conditions of broad segments of our society. Let’s not be deluded by the weak incrementalist pseudo-solutions politicians like Liccardo have been opportunistically pushing for decades.

    • dude your troll skills are LEGENDARY

      Great stuff, scary and ominous tone. Im a huge fan. Can you critique mine?

      “And as we usher in the End of History, we shall hang these capitalists with the rope they sold us. Let them tremble at the rising specter. The world shall worship the Religion we make; cats and dogs will live together, lion shall lay with the lamb, and the oppressor will be slave to the oppressed… and there. shall. be. Justice!

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