The Arizona Republic
Protesters in Phoenix demand police reform
Group wants funding for nonviolent interventions
More than 75 people gathered in downtown Phoenix on Thursday evening to protest recent police killings across the country and call for police reform.
Organizer Jacob Raiford spoke to the gathering, invited attendees to speak and led a small march around the Phoenix City Council chambers. No law enforcement officers were present, although a drone sometimes hovered overhead.
“We’re here to talk about the next step in terms of addressing disproportionate treatment against the Black and brown community and the police culture,” Raiford told The Arizona Republic before the event began. “It’s getting people in a specific place, having that dialogue, creating that energy, and channeling that momentum toward ... change.”
Attendee Khadijo Mohamed said the police killing of Daunte Wright in Minneapolis on Sunday was heartbreaking because it could have been her brother, cousin or boyfriend.
“We’re tired. We’re exhausted,” she said. “When is that change going to happen?”
Raiford is with Neighborhood-Organized Crisis Assistance Program, or NOCAP, a group that emerged recently with some leadership formerly in
volved in the W.E. Rising Project, which organized dozens of protests against police violence in Phoenix last year.
Organizer Cynthia Garcia said the goal of NOCAP coalition is to divert funding from police to hiring trained personnel like medics and counselors to respond to nonviolent calls, like welfare checks and traffic stops.
Raiford mentioned 17-year-old Anthony Cano, who was shot twice by a Chandler officer in January after being stopped for a light out on his bicycle.
Cano ran from Officer Chase BebakMiller, dropped a gun while running and reached down to pick it up. After being shot he told the officer he was trying to throw the gun away.
“There shouldn’t have been an officer pointing a gun at a kid who had a bicycle light out,” Garcia said. “So those are the type of calls that we would want someone else to respond to, somebody who’s not armed, who’s not going to pose a threat.”
Megan Sleeper, an attendee carrying a sign that said “Defund the police, defend Black lives,” and “Queer people for Black liberation,” said NOCAP is “the first step toward showing the community that we can do something besides policing.”
Man whose charges were dropped from July protest remains positive
The NOCAP coalition also advocated for attendees to register to speak in two virtual city of Phoenix budgetary meetings happening 10 a.m. Saturday and 5:30 p.m. April 20. The goal is to ask for surplus budget money to go toward hiring people like counselors instead of toward police.
There is also a letter to sign with 18
demands from the NOCAP coalition, including no police communication with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
For Lee Percy Christian, who was arrested several times last year in Black Lives Matter protests in Phoenix, NOCAP is a step toward the transformative justice he wants to see.
Attending the event was nerve-racking only a day after felony charges against him in relation to a July protest were dropped, but he felt it was necessary.
“I want to move toward accountability, transparency and rebuilding our communities, our marginalized communities with resources,” Christian said.
If people continue protesting in Arizona, they may soon face stricter rules. A bill is making its way through the Legislature that would create a new crime called “violent or disorderly assembly” and upgrade several misdemeanors into felonies including obstructing a road, pointing a laser at an officer, and criminal damage between $250 and $1,000 when committed during such an assembly.
House Bill 2309 has passed the House and has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate Rules Committee still needs to review and approve the bill before it can receive a floor vote in the Senate.
“I feel like we shouldn’t have to be here at the end of the day. We shouldn’t have to have these marches over the past year,” Raiford said. But, he said, after turning the state blue in the November elections with the help of protesting, he believes people can do something historic again.
also denounced House