A local activist group, Red Wing United, held a rally outside city hall yesterday afternoon. The focus of the event was to call attention to the death of George Floyd, the black man who died on May 25 as a result of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck for several minutes. Laredoans converged peacefully to ask for justice and policing reform.
Critics wondered why locals would speak out on the death of a man we didn't know, and who wasn't part of our community. One of my social media followers even said that cases of police brutality didn't exist in Laredo. To him I pointed to the case of Frank Carter, the former Laredo police officer who assaulted a person that was handcuffed. Carter was sentenced to prison in 2013 for violating the person's civil rights.
In 2014, Laredo police unloaded dozens of rounds on Jose Walter Garza at a truck stop on Santa Maria Ave. As he laid dead, officers approached Garza's body, fist-bumped and then handcuffed him. His demise was determined to be suicide by cop. The incident was recalled at the event yesterday.
Priscilla Villarreal, aka La Gordiloca, turned herself in to authorities in 2017. She was charged with misuse of official information. A court ruled that the statute used against her was vague. Villarreal claimed that police and the district attorney pursued charges against her as a form of intimidation.
An immigrant woman from Guatemala, Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, was gunned down by Border Patrol in 2018 in nearby Rio Bravo, TX. An BP officer fired at Gomez Gonzalez because officers were being attacked with "blunt objects."
Our community does not have a significant African-American population, but we should relate to instances where officials overstep their authority. Brown people have also died at the hands of police officers. Because it doesn't happen here doesn't mean we shouldn't comment on police brutality or call for justice. People of color are disproportionately mistreated by police, when compared with whites offenders. Laredo seems to be far flung from the rest of the nation, a town that most people can't find on a map. But we shouldn't go about our lives thinking that we are immune to the ills of society. Shit happens here too and we shouldn't be silent or willfully ignorant of it.