Los Angeles, CA - The Guatemalan community, especially the indigenous Mayan sector, has been protesting and angry over the brutal killing of their community member Manuel Jamines. Jamines was shot in the head and body on a busy street in the late afternoon in the Pico Union, a Central American community, by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) on Sept. 5.
At least two witnesses have said that Manuel was not armed and no threat to anyone. Police and one witness claim that Manuel Jamines had a knife and wielded it at police. Police claim to have shouted to Manuel in English and Spanish to yield, but the community says that Jamines only spoke a Mayan language native to Guatemala.
Policeman Who Killed Jamines has History of Violence and Lying
The cop who fired the two shots that killed Jamines is Frank Hernandez. He has two other prior shootings of civilians and has a reputation for brutality. In 2008, Officer Hernandez shot Joseph Wolf, then 18, in the back of his left thigh. Police Hernandez then fabricated a story that Wolf had a gun and shot him in defense. No gun was found at the scene, but police charged Wolf with assault with a deadly weapon. Charges against the victim were later dropped by the district attorney as baseless. Wolf’s lawyer said that the charges against Joseph were falsely brought up to cover up the unlawful use of force by policeman Hernandez. Hernandez was allowed to continue to be on patrol. Police in Los Angeles have a long history of planting weapons on dead or shot civilians to cover up their deadly, unlawful and racist use of violence against Blacks, Chicanos and Central Americans.
Central Americans Protest
The Central American community has rebelled and led several street protests confronting the police with angry shouts of “assassins.” Protests break out every day and solidarity is being shown by Chicano activists. The LAPD has responded with mass patrols, riot police and a large number of arrests. The LAPD Rampart Division in Pico Union area has a history of brutality and corruption. Recently the community has expressed anger at the mistreatment, lack of respect and harassment of street vendors by the LAPD.
Police and mayor try to whitewash killing.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck defended the shooting, saying the police were in “immediate defense of life.” He showed a photo of the alleged knife - maybe six inches in total, with the blade maybe three inches - but he had it photographed and blown up on a large poster to push the false perception of a large knife. Compare that to the weapons carried by police: 9 millimeter pistols.
The local politicians and Chief Beck held a community meeting on Sept. 8 to justify the killing. But the large angry audience shouted and demanded answers of the chief and the Police Commission.
Carlos Montes, from the Community Service Organization and a long time Chicano activist, challenged Chief Beck, saying that the LAPD has a long history of killing and brutalizing Chicanos, Blacks and Latinos due to racism. The community did not accept the whitewash justification given by the police. Protests continue daily, including one organized by the Day Laborers Network.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a former activist, supported the claim by police of a justified shooting and killing. A full investigation has not been completed and the mayor and chief are defending the killing and stating that the police will be cleared of any wrongdoing.
Guatemalans Forced to Flee Homeland, Face Harsh Conditions in U.S.
Los Angeles, especially the Pico Union community just west of the downtown center, is home to a large Central American immigrant community, including many indigenous Mayans. Also there is a large Guatemalan community that had to flee their homeland due to military and police terror, killings and massacres because of U.S. government support and funding of the former military repressive Guatemalan regime. Many have also fled due to the extreme poverty caused by U.S. domination and exploitation of their nation’s resources. Forced to flee their homeland, they are further mistreated and exploited by businesses paying low wages. Rents are high. Living conditions are bad. They are also and harassed and arrested by Immigration Customs Enforcement and local police.
Chicano activists have expressed outrage at this police killing and point out that the Chicano, Mexican and Central American people are victims of fierce oppression, including police brutality and police repression (for example, the May 1, 2007 LAPD attack of a peaceful May Day pro-immigration rights rally). They also point to the history of police repression, like the brutal attack by police o the Chicano Moratorium Against War of Aug. 29, 1970, where Ruben Salazar was assassinated and Angel Diaz killed by police and Lyn Ward died in a fire during the Chicano rebellion.
Said Carlos Montes, “We demand that this killer cop is fired and prosecuted. We want justice for Manuel Jamines. We insist on equality for Guatemalans and Central Americans.”