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Latinos find common ground with ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement

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Activists say Hispanic communities no stranger to police abuse, show support for protests in George Floyd case

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Shouting “Justice for George, Justice for Erik,” demonstrators marched in front of El Paso City Hall on Monday, calling for an end to police abuse against minorities.

The protest by the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) stemmed from frustration at the murders of George Floyd in Minnesota last month and Erik Salas Sanchez here in 2015. It was also part of a growing trend of solidarity by Hispanics towards an African American community with whom they share many of the same problems, Latino leaders said.

“It’s not just black people being murdered by police. Hispanics are dying, too,” said Fernando Garcia, BNHR’s executive director. “This system criminalizes all people of color who are poor. That is why it’s important to connect.”

An El Paso police officer fatality shot Salas on April 29, 2015, alleging that the mentally-ill man was lunging at him with a gun. Salas didn’t have a gun and an autopsy showed he was shot in the back. A grand jury acquitted Officer Mando Gomez of manslaughter. Salas’ family filed a civil rights lawsuit in 2017 alleging a pattern of excessive force against mentally ill people by the El Paso Police Department.

In protests from New York to Florida, Spanish television network Univision has interviewed dozens of Hispanics who’ve joined the peaceful George Floyd protests. Latino artists like Ricky Martin, Luis Fonsi and others have taken to social media platforms to express condolences and call for unity.

Spanish singer Ricky Martin’s June 1 tweet

“I think it’s only responsible to take a stand and acknowledge the pain the Black community has suffered and continues to suffer, not only today but every day,” Martin tweeted on June 1.

Fonsi simply let a black man explain race struggles to his 9.7 million followers .

The leader of the nation’s oldest and largest Hispanic civil rights organization said the group stands “shoulder to shoulder” with the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

“The pain and sheer injustice that black communities experience day in and day out cannot be ignored any longer. It must stop now,” League of United Latin American Citizens National President Domingo Garcia said Monday in a statement.

Garcia outlined multiple instances of Hispanics being killed by white police officers under questionable circumstances, beginning with the July 1973 shooting of 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez.

The boy and his 13-year-old brother were pulled out of their Dallas home by police investigating vandalism to a vending machine. Officer Darrell Cain allegedly played Russian roulette with the brothers to force a confession, and ended up shooting Santos in the head.

“LULAC rises to join in steadfast solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of people across our country demanding fundamental reforms to our law enforcement system,” Garcia said. “We stand as one with this movement in strong agreement that we must change how law enforcement is carried out in America.”

Fernando Garcia of the El Paso rights group said he, too supports all of the peaceful nationwide rallies to protest Floyd’s death.

“I think they’re very valid because systems are not working. It’s not only one bad apple. The whole system of criminalization and violence against people of color is the pattern. Unfortunately, we’re seeing that here in El Paso,” too, he said.

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