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A new coalition for police accountability

launches spoken word and open mic event in the Las Vegas community

Cover photo: Tenisha Martin speaks at the open mic on October 22, commemorating the lives lost at the hands of the police. Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Eduardo Rossal-Cabrera

Photos: Eduardo Rossal-Cabrera and Nissa Tzun

Reporting: Nissa Tzun

Las Vegas, NV - On October 22nd, cities across America participated in the National Day to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. In its 24th year, the October 22nd Coalition is the longest running, decentralized, anti-police brutality coalition in the nation, and organizers and impacted communities utilize this day to bring awareness of the police oppression they face daily.

DJ Seven, 14-year old prodigy spins throughout the night at the first Voices Over Violence spoken word/open mic event at Recycled Propaganda on October 22, the National Day to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Nissa Tzun

In Las Vegas, like in many other places, protesting police violence has been a challenge: recently in an interview with Ed Opperman, Opperman remarked on the Erik Scott case and the police intimidation the family and supporters faced when they demanded justice for Scott, including being pulled over and harassed by LVMPD.

However, a public forum organized by Families United 4 Justice - Las Vegas, Forced Trajectory Project and other community organizations in August yielded a powerful outcome: around 14 people testified in front of a packed church a wide array of police misconduct incidents including harassment, wrongful arrest and incarceration, sexual assault and homicide suggesting that police misconduct in Las Vegas is not so much due to a few "bad apples," but a systemic issue that requires systemic transformation.

Poet Dawn Douglass opens the event with powerful pieces about police violence and the Black experience of systemic oppression and abuse. October 22, 2019, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Eduardo Rossal-Cabrera

As as result of the event, the community recently formed a police accountability coalition, and Voices Over Violence, a spoken word, open mic and vigil held on October 22, to commemorate Stolen Lives (those killed by law enforcement) is one of the coalition's first efforts to engage the Las Vegas community on this prevalent human rights issue. Recently, police homicide has been deemed a leading cause of death for young American men, especially Black men.

Jameelah Lewis participates in the open mic at Voices Over Violence, a police brutality-themed event created to engage the Las Vegas community. October 22, 2019, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Eduardo Rossal-Cabrera

Headliner spoken word poet Marquis Ealy gives an impassioned performance. October 22, 2019, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Eduardo Rossal-Cabrera

Recycled Propaganda, an artist gallery in downtown Las Vegas hosted the evening event for around 40 attendees. Performances were a mixture of spoken word poetry, song, hip hop and music featuring DJ Seven. Families impacted by police homicide and police brutality survivors shared their stories in between acts and Forced Trajectory Project screened "Don't Shoot Me," an episode from their docuseries Residuum, about the police homicide of Junior Lopez, who was killed during a traffic stop in April of 2018.

Police shooting victim Terry Rogaczewski speaks out about his incident that left him in the hospital for days, and then incarcerated for 5 years. Terry is currently seeking a pardon from Governor Sisolak so that he can return to his career as an EMT/paramedic. October 22, 2019, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Eduardo Rossal-Cabrera

The space proved functional for the event. The Lit Grille, a food truck specializing in Mexi-Cali cuisine parked outside and provided meals, and attendees could break from the event by stepping into the gallery space and experience works by Recycled Propaganda.

Alma Chavez, mother of Rafael Olivas, who was shot and killed by LVMPD officers after Chavez called 911 to request crisis intervention to help Olivas calm down from emotional distress, shares her story with the audience. October 22, 2019, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Nissa Tzun

Alma Chavez holds a photo of her son, Rafael Olivas, who was killed by LVMPD officers during a crisis intervention call on July 14, 2011. October 22, 2019, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Nissa Tzun

During the event's intermission, attendees mingle outside Recycle Propaganda's storefront on S. Main Street, downtown Las Vegas. October 22, 2019, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Eduardo Rossal-Cabrera

The event raised funds for the Byron Williams family who needs support with funeral costs for Williams (who has still not been buried) and shared a petition demanding Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson to indict all officers involved in Williams' homicide on September 5. Williams was pulled over for allegedly not having a light on his bicycle (a misdemeanor offense that can lead to $1000 in fines and up to 6 months in prison).

Marcie Wells shares her sentiment about the current climate in Las Vegas and nationwide, encouraging the audience to get involved in organizing. She is the lead organizer for the National Day of Outrage for Atatiana Jefferson, the young woman killed in her own home by Fort Worth Police during a welfare call earlier this month. October 22, 2019, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Eduardo Rossal-Cabrera

The event was also open to speakers to share their thoughts and upcoming events. Organizer Marcie Wells announced the National Day of Outrage for Atatiana Jefferson, a young Black woman who was recently killed by Fort Worth Police during a welfare call, and all Women of Color who have died at the hands of the police. The Las Vegas event will take place Monday, October 28, at 200 Lewis Avenue, at 4PM, and the Byron Williams' family and other families impacted by police homicide and police brutality survivors will be present.

Violinist and busker Brandon Summers gives a beautiful ending performance leaving the audience content despite the emotionally charged subject matter of previous performances and speakers. October 22, 2019, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Eduardo Rossal-Cabrera

With such a positive response, the police accountability coalition is considering turning Voices Over Violence into a quarterly event.

To get involved with the police accountability coalition or help organize Voices Over Violence please email: FU4Justice@gmail.com

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