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Dozens of #BlackLivesMatter activists protested the proposed contract between the City of San Antonio and the San Antonio Police Officers Association (SAPOA) in City Council chambers on Wednesday. Protestors said the contract allows for a lack of accountability for cops who kill citizens.
About 30 people came to show solidarity with the families of black men killed by San Antonio Police Department officers. Several spoke during the public hearing, urging Council members to vote “no” on the contract when it comes before them for approval on Thursday, Sept. 1.
After more than two years of on-again, off-again contract negotiations between the City and SAPOA – which focused mainly on health care packages and wages – the police union voted in favor of the new contract last Thursday. A number of citizens take issue with the fact that the draft contains no changes to Article 28, which addresses disciplinary actions for officers. Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) has said he will vote against the contract for this reason.
(Read More: City Awaits Police Union Vote on New Contract)
If Council approves the contract, it would be “rewarding this officer who murdered my son,” said Cheryl Jones, mother of Marquise Jones, who was shot and killed by SAPD officer Robert Encina in February 2014. Jones rarely speaks at public #BlackLivesMatter protests or gatherings.
“My son didn’t do anything wrong,” Jones said. “I wouldn’t get rewarded if I had done a criminal act. I would be punished.”
More than one speaker Wednesday said that Section 19 of Article 28, which essentially limits the the amount of years the police chief can go back to obtain evidence of an officer’s prior disciplinary actions, puts police above the law. Section 19E, for example, states that “suspensions of three (3) days or less that were not appealed by the Officer shall be automatically reduced to a written reprimand two (2) years after the date the suspension was served on the Officer if the Officer did not have a sustained complaint for the same rule within two (2) years from the date the suspension was served on the officer.”
Click here to download the proposed contract.
“If the (police) chief cannot use an officer’s entire record in the disciplinary process, we are allowing our police force to be weakened. If officers know that risky behavior can be hidden and their records can be sealed from use against them, what force is there to promote good decision making?” said Matthew Baiza, rising Stanford University junior who interned at Saldaña’s office this summer.
Saldaña was unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting due to a prior travel commitment.
Before the meeting, local activist Johnathan-David Jones addressed the group of #BlackLivesMatter supporters outside the main chambers, reminding them that City Council can only vote “yes” or “no” to the contract, without any revisions.
“The reason (Council is) concerned about (voting against the contract) is because of the hassle that they’re going to have to go through if they don’t pass this one. (They’ll have to) do a few more months of work, which is not the big issue here. That’s so beside the point,” he said. “We’re here for the ‘no.’”
James Myart, former civil rights attorney, also spoke before the public meeting and said that the City should host and pay for a “summit” with the leaders of the local #BlackLivesMatter movement and Mayor Ivy Taylor, City Manager Sheryl Sculley, Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh, and Police Chief William McManus within six weeks in order to “work these issues out.”
“I want the City to understand that it’s time for them to stand up and stand with you,” he said.
Local activist and SATX-4 organizer Mike Lowe told the Rivard Report after the meeting that the #BlackLivesMatter group will continue to show up for the “Citizens to be Heard” portions of City Council meetings until the Sept. 1 vote. He added that he anticipates the group’s presence at each meeting to grow over the next few weeks.
“We’re at, like, zero and we plan to take this all the way to a 10. So when we say ‘Shut down City Hall’ we plan to do that,” he said. Even if it means “we have to bus people in. This is important.”
Top image: Local activists raise fists into the air as they chant “Black Lives Matter.” Photo by Scott Ball.