Counter-protestors meet group at police rally

Peaceful protest in front of Gilroy Police Department draws 50

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A group of counter-protestors mix with members of Gilroy Community Action on Policing during a rally in front of the Gilroy Police Department July 24. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

A group pushing for police reform was met with counter-protestors during a rally in front of the Gilroy Police Department July 24.

Although there was some noisy banter, the protest was peaceful. A small team of Gilroy Police officers watched over the rally that drew about 50 people, split nearly even between the two groups.

The “die-in” rally was organized by a group of local residents known as Gilroy Community Action on Policing. Attendees brought signs supporting Black Lives Matter and denouncing recent incidents of police violence in other communities, particularly the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, which has sparked nationwide unrest.

The protestors read the names of the people who have been victims of police violence nationwide. They then laid in front of the police department for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time a Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck.

“We’re hoping to continue building off the national movement and push for reform,” said GCAP organizer Jacob Yoder-Schrock. “We are going to keep pushing and ask the city to consider reform and consider policy changes.”

The group has proposed a list of 19 reforms for the Gilroy Police Department, which include banning the use of the carotid control hold and disallowing the purchase of surplus military equipment by the police department.

Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee has said the department suspended the use of the carotid hold in late June due to recent guidance from Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

Meanwhile, another group stood on the stairs of the police department, holding signs that read “Blue Lives Matter,” among other things, and chanting the names of police officers who died in the line of duty.

Eric Howard of Gilroy said he heard of GCAP’s protest on social media, and reached out to some friends to show support for police.

“One year ago it was the police that stood between us and a psychotic shooter,” Howard said, referring to the three Gilroy Police officers who wounded a gunman at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in 2019 and prevented further chaos. “They were the heroes of the town. Now all of a sudden people are protesting against them.”

Calling police the difference between chaos and order, Howard said the proposals by GCAP would put “unrealistic rules and standards” on the department.

“Gilroy has always supported the police,” Howard said.

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