Sandy Sanchez was moved to tears in front of San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo’s house Friday evening.
Her son, Anthony Nunez, was fatally shot by two San Jose police officers four years ago. He was 18 years old.
“I received his high school diploma a year later. He was working so hard to get it,” Sanchez said through tears. “I took it to him at the cemetery and said, ‘You did, son. You got your diploma.’”
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of Liccardo’s downtown home to protest police violence and brutality. It was organized by activist group Silicon Valley De-Bug and included families from 17 people who were killed by San Jose police officers.
The protest began at Backesto Park in north San Jose. Demonstrators brought white crosses made out of wood and labeled with names and photos of those 17 victims.
They marched to Liccardo’s nearby home and lined up the crosses outside his house. Liccardo was not home because of a special San Jose City Council meeting at City Hall.
Hundreds of protesters shouted demands to defund the police, a growing national movement that calls for reallocating funds from the police department to social services.
Liccardo recently shot down the idea, saying that San Jose is already defunded and has the most thinly-staffed police department of any big city.
Tonight, I explain why defunding the police doesn’t work in San José (read on Medium: https://t.co/6NlUDQSCGG). My budget message calls for investments in equity—standing up an Office of Racial Equity + committing to a use of force review w/ the IPA. ▶️ https://t.co/3EXfeL7ES3. pic.twitter.com/hHcraSQm7N
— Sam Liccardo (@sliccardo) June 13, 2020
“Defund doesn’t doesn’t work in San Jose,” Liccardo said in a video released on Twitter Friday. “Maybe other cities have tried it. It may work in those places. San Jose, in many ways, is already defunded.”
Liccardo showed a graph highlighting how San Jose has just 1.3 police officers for every 1,000 residents.
San Jose made national headlines after some officers were caught on video charging toward peaceful demonstrators during protests over the police killing of George Floyd. Officers also sprayed tear gas and fired rubber bullets into crowds, striking some residents in the eye and causing other serious bodily injury.
There’s now a call to fire one officer who shouted expletives and charged at protesters. Liccardo and several of his council colleagues have since called for a review of San Jose police’s use-of-force policies and a ban on using rubber bullets to disperse crowds.
But activists say Liccardo is refusing to take a stand against police violence, turning his back on the 17 families whose lives were shattered.
“We don’t accept Sam Liccardo saying he’s not willing to defund the police,” said Rosie Chavez, a Silicon Valley De-Bug organizer. “A lot of our family members have lost their loved ones, not only to the mental health crisis, but to the military-style weapons that they have, so we want those issues resolved and the money reallocated.”
Chavez’s nephew, Jacob Dominguez, was killed by an SJPD officer in 2017. She said he was 33 years old and left behind three children.
In front of Liccardo’s home, protesters showcased what they called “Know their name. Know their story.”
Speakers announced the names of all 17 victims and shared stories about how they died. After each name and story was told, people in the crowd repeated what the speakers said in unison.
“We’re letting people know (police brutality) is here in our city. It’s here in our own backyard,” Chavez said. “Our city isn’t the safest like Sam Liccardo and Police Chief Eddie Garcia say it is.”
Demonstrators also played music and passed out food and water. They wrote messages in chalk on the street in front of Liccardo’s house. Some of them read “protect your own” and “ACAB” (all cops are bastards) along with the names of the 17 victims.
Protesters then marched to San Jose City Hall, escorted by a “de-escalation team.” One of the de-escalation team members said his role was to make sure everyone was OK.
As for Sanchez, she said her family was awarded a $2.6 million settlement from the city after the death of her son. However, she said, that wasn’t enough.
“I don’t want your money. Give me my son back,” she said.
Contact Luke Johnson at [email protected] and follow @Scoop_Johnson on Twitter.