Angry over a Facebook argument with a California activist on Christmas Eve, a Stockton police officer retaliated by issuing Sanchez a ticket for being parked at his own home the following day.
“My Christmas present was a $300 fine for exercising free speech,” said community activist Motecuzoma Sanchez said in an interview with Photography is Not a Crime.
But now the cop, Aaron Adams, is on paid administrative leave.
He was trying to keep the argument on an academic level, but the officers resorted to name-calling and eventually retaliated against him by ticketing him at 1 a.m. on December 26 to the tune of a $300 fine for expired registration.
The car was parked facing the street, which means officers would have had to go onto Sanchez’s property in order to see the tags. Or they would have had to go to his house, and run his plates on his parked car for no reason.
The code under which he was cited states that cars with expired registration can be ticketed on highways and public parking areas, but not in private driveways.
“I think they targeted me,” said Sanchez.
“They looked up my address, they came to my house just to send me a message in the middle of the night. We can find you any time. No way they just stumbled across my car. I look at the process of if they targeted me, which possibilities could or couldn’t be true. Based on the facts, I was left only with the conclusion that I was targeted. They weren’t ticketing other cars on my street.”
Sanchez has frequently criticized not only the police, but also many other areas of local government. “39 percent of Stockton is Latino. Of that, about 36 percent is Mexican. But you don’t see that reflected in our police department. %70 of the Stockton Police Department are white males,” he said.
“In my Facebook post, I was criticizing city leadership about the violent crime rate that’s been rising and some other things. There’s a reason why I’m criticizing. I’m not trying to provoke; I’m trying to spark action and thought. Let’s talk about the factors. Let me support my thesis.”
Another issue Sanchez cited on Facebook in his discussion with officers was a bank robbery shootout where Stockton police killed a hostage.
“They shot 600 rounds into a vehicle with a known hostage inside the vehicle and killed the hostage. That’s basically a quarter of the police department, 32 officers, shooting at this one vehicle. You can’t pin it on one cop, because they all did it.”
Sanchez, who has a masters degree in public administration from the University of Southern California, a degree dealing with governance and how it affects the public, did his own assessment of the shooting and took some criticism from local police supporters. He told us that he heard it on his police scanner while the situation was ongoing.
“I do my research based on what I know from college. I don’t just throw it out there and hope it sticks,” he said.
After the National Police Review Board did their review of the bank robbery hostage shooting, Sanchez said that it mirrored his assessment almost word-for-word. The review found that officers actions were “excessive” and “unnecessary”.
“They tried to rush the issue. Police are trained not to confront any bank robber inside of the building. That’s police and bank protocol,” he said.
When Sanchez brought up the hostage shooting, the officers began trolling him. That’s when he discovered at least three of them were cops because they were on his page sporting thin blue-line profile pictures. The other thing that clued him in that they were cops is that once he brought up the bank robbery, hostage shooting, they resorted to name calling. “I started thinking these guys were cops,” he said.
When the cops complained about his attitude towards them in light of the general sentiment towards police from the public nowadays his response was, “When you clock out, I gotta be here 24/7. What are you complaining about?”
Sanchez told us that like many other cities, Stockton was once legally segregated. “In the past, we had restrictive laws saying you couldn’t live in certain areas. Since it operated that way for generations, that’s how the city is still operating. The reality we see right now, doesn’t mean it changes overnight. Stockton is still very divided along class and ethnic lines.”
Sanchez also observes that laws on the books aren’t really effective in accomplishing positive change in his community, “laws are arbitrary. What’s legal today, doesn’t mean it will be legal tomorrow. Laws don’t support moral superiority. We have to start asking, what are they solving?”
Sanchez has a long history of activism. He’s been an activist since high school, participating in student groups. He was also an outspoken opponent of prop. 187, which was a state-wide initiative that would make it a felony to knowingly harbor illegal immigrants. The initiative called for schools, teachers, doctors, nurses and other figures to report illegal immigrants or someone harboring illegal immigrants to the authorities.
Sanchez called that initiative an “attack on identity, the collective, La Familia.”
“If you look at Mexican citizens vs. undocumented citizens, it’s not a great percentage. So there was a major push back by the Mexican community. You have a lot of Mexicans in California. So chances are if you are Mexican, you have a cousin that’s undocumented.”
He also began an organization called SEMILLAS, an organization fighting to re-open Fair Oaks Library in East Stockton where Sanchez says there is the most need. “It’s probably the area of town that needs it the most. It’s highly black, highly Mexican.–maybe 15 percent poor whites.” SEMILLAS is an acronym for Scholastic Educational Movement in Language Literacy and Scholarship.
Sanchez believes, “you have to plant the seed early. We are trying to cultivate our people into one that is successful. Our philosophy is to start early literacy.”
Another thing Sanchez mentioned about his activism is what he calls “cheesy government programs”, such as Cease Fire, that are used to give the illusions of solving problems rather than getting to the heart of the underlying issues. “They’re not using due diligence to get the best product they could. We have to get away from ‘circle jerk’ politics . . . his buddy benefiting his buddy and on and on. It’s no wonder there’s no change. ”
We asked him about the most important issues and aspects of his 21 years of community activism. He said,
“Basically, I try to tackle many issues of societal importance. Monetizing Mexicans in jail is a big one. I’d say I also call myself a police accountability advocate. Just owning the words and the narrative, just that alone is revolutionary. What we’re doing is trying to make society better. We’re at a grassroots level trying to provide feedback to a system that is resistant to change. Society sees someone that has gotten involved with law enforcement as having cooties. What are we really looking at here, though? It really comes down to the government unnecessarily criminalizing all kinds of behavior. But if you don’t make a problem, there won’t be a problem.”
When asked about what his favorite accomplishment was in his 21 years of activism he said, “Getting that library back open. That was a huge victory.”
Below is a video of Sanchez addressing city council about being appointed to Stockton’s Charter Review Advisory Committee. He was eventually denied the appointment by the CRAC committee.
His expired registration ticket has since been dismissed.