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by Mary Shelton
Wednesday, Jun. 06, 2001 at 12:28 PM
At the Commission meeting, activists spoke out against the police tactics used during "Retaliatory Monday" but in the end, did it matter, as the city of Riverside exonerated an officer who assigned a supervisor to investigate himself, saying that it was legal, justified and proper. Misconduct thus continues to be excused by the city, and its agencies.
On the last week of April, a half dozen activists who had watched the members of the Riverside Police Department SWAT team pluck artist Don Collins-Gallegos out of a crowd of peaceful demonstrators, testified in a matter of speaking in front of the Community Police Review Commission. One after the other, six men and women spoke eloquently, of the terror, anger and sadness they felt, and still felt at the first premeditated attack against an activist, the police had launched during a Tyisha Miller demonstration. The Commission sat back in their chairs, obviously not expecting such emotional testimony about a protest that was nearly two years old, but the feeling that it invoked, would last a life time for the activists who experienced it. Not that tear gas guns were fired, or people were struck by rubber bullets, like at other demonstrations in Seattle or Los Angeles, but the insidious act of using police power, to target all demonstrators, by choosing one in particular, chilled the protests, from that point onward. That, and the fear of prosecution for participating in the freeway demonstration took its toll on the weekly marches.
I tried to gauge the facial expressions of the nine commission members, six with extensive law enforcement backgrounds ranging from local police departments to a stint as an operative agent in the CIA. Some look interested, their faces resting on their hands, as activists spoke. Others looked more hostile, especially one individual, a former Riverside Police Department reserve officer, who was viewed as a provocateur by the activists. If a meeting passed where he did not start an argument over an innocuous agenda item, such as laminated name tags, it was a rare occasion indeed. I said my piece, exceeded the three-minute limit, and was stopped in my tracks, by Commission Chair Bill Howe, a retired African-American police chief, who once had cross words with me, when I expressed my concern about the heavy concentration of law enforcement on a police commission. He said for me to be patient, to see how fair the Commission could do its job, but the expression on his face, wasn
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