Tierrasanta Tipping Point?

by on June 9, 2020 · 0 comments

in Civil Rights, San Diego

Tierrasanta Tipping Point?

By Nat Krieger

“People feel like they don’t have anything to lose. We might die anyway from the virus, so we may as well go all out for justice now.”

Trey is one of about 30 neighborhood folks who have gathered on a traffic island in Tierrasanta in the twilight hours of June 4 to show their support for Black Lives Matter and police reform. An African American about to graduate from Serra High, Trey’s articulation of the ancient wisdom recognizing that confrontations with death can lead to clarity about what counts in life is testament to the reality young people of color are facing as they come of age in this nation.

Trey’s three friends on the island, Mariana, Ezekiel, and Junior all graduated from Serra (just half a block away) last year.

The times have made these young San Diegans grow up fast.

“We need to see all the guilty police officers convicted, and to shine a light on racism” Junior replied when asked about their short term goals. And long term? Everyone on the island emphasized the importance of voting, especially for young adults. And the friends are still young enough to have dreams of an entirely different world, “where future generations” in the words of Junior, “will live without fear–and I mean everyone.”

Barbara, a 75 year old San Diego native who has lived in Tierrasanta for three years, has been working for change since the 1960s. Grief drove her out onto Tierrasanta Boulevard.

“I’m just heartbroken … if George Floyd had lived we wouldn’t be out here.”

But there have been plenty of other killings. Why this one, why now?

“I think it was just a perfect storm. Covid19, so many have lost their job, and people are at home online or watching T.V., and then to see that slow motion murder…now this is a movement. My friend in University City, my daughter in Rancho San Diego, they are marching there as well.”

Barbara has seen the effects of racism her entire life.

“When I was a student at Morse High in 1965 the black football players were never invited to the after game parties … and I remember when the first black family moved into Paradise Hills neighborhood people driving by to throw garbage on their lawn.”

The spouse of a military officer who served in the Middle East, Barbara traces the militarization of police forces across the country to the well, militarization of police forces. Various federal and state laws and programs give preferential law enforcement hiring for veterans, and today one out of every five police officers have come out of the Armed Forces. Some of these veterans bring an Us vs. Them mentality–complete with the military need to “dominate the battle space”–learned in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And over $ 2 billion worth military equipment, ranging from heavily armored mine resistant vehicles to grenade launchers and predator drones, have followed them.  Not surprisingly, a 2017 study found that increased militarization of police forces leads to higher rates of police killings: when you’re given lots of shiny new hammers, every problem looks like a nail.

Barbara’s concerns were echoed in a 2009 booklet put together by the International Association of Police Chiefs and the Justice Department titled Employing Returning Combat Veterans as Law Enforcement Officers:

“Sustained operations under combat circumstances may cause returning officers to mistakenly blur the lines between military combat situations and civilian crime situations, resulting in inappropriate decisions and actions—particularly in the use of less lethal or lethal force.”

The stressful situations endemic to police work can also reignite unresolved traumas. Although 20% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD only half ever get treatment.

Standing just on the other side of Esplendente Blvd. Amber also felt that she had to come out to show, in her words, that “black lives do matter.” Amber’s husband, son and daughter, were all with her. As a Latina Amber has experienced discrimination herself but says she “can’t even imagine what African Americans go through on a daily basis.”

The demonstrators on the corners of Tierrasanta Blvd. and Esplendente are not only a microcosm of the multicultural makeup of the resistance, they reflect the increasingly diverse demographics of the neighborhood itself.

Tierrasanta was an artillery range before the first civilian housing was built in the 1970s, and of the 30,000 souls who live here today, 10,000 are members of military families. The ranks of the Armed Forces are increasingly filled with women and men of color and they’ve gone a long way to making the neighborhood a more diverse, and frankly, more interesting place.

The times they are a changing…This reporter has lived in Tierrasanta for 22 years and Thursday night was the first public demonstration for change of any kind that I’ve seen. Friday night the group of citizens on the corners of Tierrasanta Blvd. and Esplendente had only grown bigger. And while neighborhood support is far from unanimous, judging from the many honking cars, it is growing.

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