It’s not over
July 4 rally and march protest fatal police shooting
While families ate hotdogs and waved flags to celebrate America’s 229th birthday in the bright sunshine of Bidwell Park’s One-Mile area, a couple dozen people gathered across town in Children’s Park to commemorate the death of a 24-year-old black man, Lavell Proctor, who was shot to death one month ago by a Chico Police Officer Carlos Juaregui in a quiet southeast Chico neighborhood.
The rally began with emotional statements, some eloquent, some not, followed by a mock funeral procession complete with a black coffin carried by three young men in dress shirts and skinny ties and a woman dressed like a grieving Jackie Kennedy. The procession took a circuitous route to One Mile and back to Downtown Plaza Park.
Self-proclaimed activist Brooke Haley, a fiery young white woman, said she helped organize the event with the help of long-time rights activist Willie Hyman, who did not attend. Included in the gathering was the dead man’s aunt, Shawn Vaughan, who said she’d raised Proctor from when he was 3 years old, after his mother had died and his father had disappeared.
Proctor, who was on Butte County’s Most Wanted list, was killed June 3 when Chico police tried to apprehend him for a parole violation as he emerged from a friend’s house.
Proctor, police said, had been evading the cops for a few weeks, taunting them by purposely driving through residential neighborhoods when spotted, forcing the police to terminate any pursuit. On June 3 he tried to escape again and was shot dead.
On July 4, Proctor’s friends and family who gathered in Children’s Park recalled Proctor as a “comedian who loved to make people laugh.”
“He was always smiling,” said Vaughan.
She was supported by Joanne Flot, who said she was also Proctor’s aunt. Flot said she lives in Marysville after moving from East Los Angeles 10 years ago.
This was her first visit to Chico, and she said she knew nothing of the town other than the fact Proctor was killed here. She condemned the shooting and, leaning on Bible scripture, said justice would be found in the end.
“You’ve got to serve somebody someday,” she said. “You need to start thinking this is all going to reviewed.”
She said she was able to retain her patience in the face of what she perceives as never-ending discrimination and racism through her belief in “the spirit of the holy ghost.”
Vaughan said she’s filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in the case, though she didn’t say whom it names as a defendant.
“I’m under a gag order from an attorney,” she said. “There is only so much I can say.”
But 10 minutes later, Vaughan was raising her voice in anger and accusing Jauregui of being too “zealous” in his effort to apprehend Proctor.
“You have killed my son,” she yelled, her voice trembling. “My son you have murdered. God is going to take vengeance.” A man put his arm around Vaughan to comfort her and help her compose herself.
“This is not an anti-cop rally,” rally organizer Haley explained before the procession began. “This rally is not against individual cops. This is a police state we are living in right now. On June 3, 2005, Lavell Proctor was executed. That is not OK.”
She said the march was for those who had fought and died in the civil-rights movement, people like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
“Racism,” she said, “is a white person’s problem. Not enough people are standing up and saying, ‘Fuck that.'”
Then she announced there should be no shouting. “We want this to be a funeral for somebody’s life.”
With that, the rest of the group grabbed their signs and the pallbearers picked up the black coffin. The procession headed south on Broadway, turned left on Second Street and marched until it crossed the bridge at One-Mile to the curious stares of the families gathered for the patriotic holiday.
At the bridge, 57-year-old Lala Coronado, who said she was born in Texas and had lived in Chico for the last five years, sympathized with the cause.
“This racism has gone on so long,” she said. “I’ve seen racism against Mexicans and even against people from Oklahoma. It’s been going on so long….”
The procession continued through the park and then back via Fourth Street to the downtown park. A man in Has Beans coffee shop, across the street from the park, leaped to his feet when he saw the procession marching into the park.
“Look,” he said, pointing out the window, “anarchists.”
Under the merciless noonday sun, Vaughan, Flot and Haley again addressed the crowd from what remains of the park’s stage.
“Stop playing church, stop playing house,” Vaughan urged, asking people to take these things seriously. She then called for witnesses in the shooting to come forward (she later said they had) and cried, “Too much racism is here.”
She said Proctor’s life will go down in history.
“June 3, 2005, will be remembered as a day of murder. Racism is alive in the 21st century; I mourn my son right now.”
She said those involved in the procession had made a statement.
“Let the truth come forth,” she said. “Let the nation come forth. It’s not over, it’s not over, it’s not over. It’s not over.”
Flot followed, quoting Bible passages and speaking of the nation’s corruption.
“For your hands are defiled with the blood,” she said, “your lips with inequities.”
A man snoozed on a park bench with a backpack for a pillow, oblivious to what was going on just 50 feet away.
“It’s not just Butte County,” Flot said, “it’s a national epidemic. It’s been here too long, and we are not standing for it any longer.”
She spoke of walking through One-Mile and being greeted with respect
Addressing the white power structure that continues to run things in this country, Flot asked, “What are you afraid of? That’s what I want to know. You have all the weapons, you have all the transportation, the planes and boats and cars. What are you afraid of?”
She then thanked Haley for organizing the procession.
“It was a beautiful walk,” she said. “It was serene, and it took us to places where families were. Did you see the faces? There was no jeering; there was respect.”