Thursday, May 22, 2014

Salinas residents: please remain calm

Dear brothers and sisters of the Alisal:

I know you're angry. I see it in your faces, I hear it in your words. And I understand it too: it's not easy to leave your country and your family behind for the hope of a better future. And once you're here, you're smacked with the crude reality of a country that does not speak your language, that has some customs you don't relate to, that pays you very little for a job that breaks your back. On top of that, you get bombarded with messages that, no matter how much you work, no matter how much you do -- get up early to toil in the fields, come home late and have no life -- it's still not enough. You still have to learn English, and you're not going to get immigration papers because the system  still treats you like a political pawn.

So with the little money you make, you have to find housing wherever you can afford it: sharing a room with six other people, in a house with 20 other human beings, in a neighborhood that can barely park your car because every one needs one to get to work, to take the kids to school.

On top of that you get blamed for it: why do you people have so many cars? Why don't you clean your streets or educate your children properly?

There's a lot of tension in your life already. I get it. And then one day, you find out that the police has killed one of your own. A lettuce harvester like you. For no apparent reason except that he had a knife and was acting erratically, perhaps drunk or otherwise intoxicated.

Two weeks later, another harvester like you is killed also by the police. And suddenly you're scared and angry, and you feel like you're under siege, like the police feels the right to kill you as if you were nothing but a dog.

Your rage is so palpable I can feel it running through my veins right now. Your pain is so overwhelming it becomes tears flowing down my cheeks.

I understand it. But please, I beg of you, don't let your anger turn into violence. It's the last thing we need in this city.

Last night, a man was gunned down near the place where you were protesting a police shooting. Another police officer, trying to save the victim's life, was attacked by a bottle and had to be taken to the hospital. The crowd became so rowdy, police officers from as far as Santa Cruz had to be called in. We were so close to a full-time riot, it was scary.

I ask you now: how do you fix  police violence by becoming violent yourself? You don't. All you do is put law enforcement on edge and escalate an already volatile situation.

Please, don't do it.

This afternoon, Salinas Police chief Kelly McMillin will explain to the media -- and the community -- what happened Tuesday morning, when a man was killed by police officers near Sanborn and Del Monte. McMillin is hoping it will help clear up misunderstandings, but given the current state of distrust in the police department, that may not happen. It could actually add fuel to the fire.

So I ask you please, remain calm. We are not going to solve any problems by calling the police names or throwing objects at them. Last nigh, an officer and emergency service personnel were trying to help one of our own. What if they could have saved his life, but were not able to because they were hurt? What if the victim was your brother or husband? Wouldn't you have wanted him to be saved?

Alisal residents, community leaders: this is the time when cooler heads need to prevail. If people gather tonight at Sanborn, maybe we can bring candles to signify peace. People need to express their anger, but they also need to do it in a manner that's respectful and safe.

An eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind. At this moment, we need our eyes, our minds and our hearts to realize violence is not a path we should take.


  1. Seriously. Most people are good. Let's stop labeling and lumping everybody in groups on all sides. Let's instead make it a point to look for people that are not like us and say hi.

  2. Thank you, Claudia, for your compassion, wisdom, and love for the Alisal. Gracias also for providing this message in Spanish: I have provided links to both at

  3. Thank you Claudia. I hope your story can help calm a volatile situation and encourage those that can help build a more peaceful relationship between our much needed workers and the authorities whose mission is to protect and serve. Is this article in Spanish?

    Reynaldo Barrioz