On Monday, hundreds of supporters gathered at the State Capitol in Sacramento in support of AB 931, a bill that would increase the standards on law enforcement's use of deadly force in California.
Among the many faces were a collective of coalitions, supporters and families who, like myself, have been affected by police violence. Some traveled across the state to advocate for their loved ones who were killed by police and speak of the importance of this bill.
We participated in direct action which included speeches from speakers, sharing our stories, marching right inside the capitol and doing a “die in” (a demonstration in which people lie down as if dead) right outside the office of Senator Anthony Portantino. The purpose of this was to ask for compassion with this bill and to also let them know we will be back if this is not passed.
Die In Demonstration by supporters of AB 931
AB 931 is currently being attacked by law enforcement and has the potential to “die” or be severely watered-down in Senate Appropriations, chaired by Portantino.
While in the halls, we heard snickers and comments from people like “They’re going about this all wrong," which is something I’ve heard numerous times with actions I've participated in.
What exactly is the right way to go about this, and asking for something that should be common sense? People are senselessly being murdered, even while not posing a threat or being armed.
The people have pushed for changes for a long time with little to no avail, while the numbers only increasing, causing a bigger divide with law enforcement and our communities.
Under AB 931, police would only be allowed to use deadly force if there were no reasonable alternatives available and if there was an imminent threat to the officer or another person’s safety, there would be stricter consequences in holding police accountable when using deadly force, without attempting to deescalate a situation.
Police claim the bill will place their lives in danger.
However, police kill more people in California than in any other state. In 2017, officers shot and killed 162 people in California, only half of whom were armed with guns, and killed more than twenty others using other types of force.
Researchers also determined that California has five of the nation’s 15 police departments with the highest per capita rates of killings by officers: Bakersfield, Stockton, Long Beach, Santa Ana and San Bernardino.
Police in Kern County have killed more people per capita than in any other county in the United States.
The purpose of our protest was to ask for compassion with this bill and to also let them know we will be back if this is not passed. California must hold law enforcement to a higher standard to reduce the unnecessary killing of our loved ones.
While I personally don’t believe the passing of this bill will stop police killings, I believe it is way past due and can be a start to change, and slowing these senseless killings down. A huge obstacle we still face is the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights, which protects cops who violate the rights of citizens.
Fact sheet on AB 931, authored by Dr. Shirley Weber.
Youth Power Summit preparing for action on AB 931