ARCHIVE: “In Memory of Frank Alvarado” – A Statement from Sin Barras

Sin Barras, ‘without (prison) bars’ in spanish, is a community-based group out of Santa Cruz, CA. that works to build coalitions to eradicate the prison industrial-complex. They have written a statement about the recent death of Frank Alvarado, Sin Barras member, shot by Salinas police on July 10th, 2014.

Frank Alvarado, a close friend and Sin Barras member, was shot and killed by Salinas police early Thursday morning. Frank was an extraordinary person with a big and loving heart. His contagious spirit, candid perspective, resilience, and compassion for those who are struggling inspired community-building and understanding around him.

We met Frank ​in April at the Walk to Stop the Silence in Watsonville, an annual event that raises awareness against childhood sexual abuse. Frank approached our table wanting more information about what ​Sin Barras does. We told him about the lobbying, prisoner rights’ advocacy, and reform work that we’ve undertaken, and he opened up about having just been released after eleven​ years inside. He ​started coming to meetings regularly, and finding a new voice for himself by speaking publicly about his own experiences with incarceration.

​ In May, Frank spoke at a press conference​ held by Sin Barras and Californians United for a Responsible Budget to denounce the governor’s plan to spend $500 million on jail construction all over the state. He talked about his own struggle to rebuild his life after being torn away from his family, his job, and his community, and about how difficult it is to access resources for housing, work, and other essentials while the stigma of a criminal record hangs over your head. He talked about the way prisons reproduce violence with violence and how he tried to resist that mentality by attending self-help meetings whenever possible. He talked about how it felt to have missed out on seeing his child grow up. Frank cared about his community and ​he was turning his struggles into something positive​. He said, “if what I said here makes a difference, then I did what I need to do today. And if I can do that every day, and change something…and if we could all do it every day, then it can work. Let us start with ourselves, let’s start with our families, so that we don’t have to see everything crumble.”

Salinas Police shot and murdered Angel Ruiz, Carlos Mejia, and Osman Hernandez earlier this year, making Frank’s death their fourth shooting in 4 months. Mejia and Hernandez were shot because officers felt threatened by gardening tools that they were carrying, and Ruiz had a pellet gun. According to the most recent news, Frank was probably carrying a cell phone. It is clear that the Salinas Police Department’s racially targeted and excessive use of police force has not been resolved and is only getting worse. Our communities are experiencing an epidemic of police violence and police shootings, and we have had enough.

As we mourn Frank’s death and send warmth to his loved ones, we are thinking about how to address histories of racism, interpersonal, and state violence in a way that will move us toward a different society, where premature death doesn’t happen. All people, and particularly people who have experienced incarceration, need and deserve support. Because of criminalization, poverty, and tough-on-crime politicians and cops, law enforcement killing people of color has become a long-standing pattern. As an organization, we believe in holding individual people accountable for their actions, and that includes the police. But we see this as a problem that must be addressed collectively and on a systemic level. The police and prisons create cycles of trauma. These cops are not bad apples; they are taught to pull the trigger. If we want to stop the murder, we need to address the fact that police brutality is systemic and ongoing.

May we continue to honor how you’ve touched our lives and continue our work in your spirit.

Video of Frank speaking at a press conference on May 14:

There will be a peaceful gathering in Salinas tomorrow evening at 6pm at the intersection of Fairview Ave. and Sanborn Rd. to honor Frank, his loved ones, and those who have been victims of police violence.

Written by members of Sin Barras, see the original article here.