Bodycam footage of alleged police brutality sparks protests

Ben Choucroun

On Sept. 4, in sweltering 94 degree Fahrenheit afternoon heat, dozens of community members gathered in the Canal District of San Rafael, holding signs criticizing the San Rafael Police Department (SRPD) and demanding the removal of two officers. Two days prior on Sept. 2, police officers Daisy Mazariegos and Brandon Nail had been filmed tackling and punching an unarmed citizen, who goes by the name Mateo.

Gabriel Garcia, the head coordinator of the protest, stated he organized the demonstration because he wanted to see change in the SRPD.

“[Brutality] is not the way to treat the people, especially when the officers are wearing a uniform to represent the law. We are asking that they work according to the law and representing everyone equally,” Garcia said.

Event organizers ordered all protesters to be strictly peaceful and respectful, and distributed signs to the protesters.

After gathering and making signs, the protesters began marching through the Canal to the SRPD Headquarters, located two-and-a-half miles away in downtown San Rafael. As they went, the march swelled with Canal residents who joined the protest. The demonstrators waved flags and chanted, “Justicia para Mateo,” (Justice for Mateo) and “Latinos unidos,” (Latinos united).  Once they reached the SRPD Headquarters, speakers discussed their perspectives on police brutality. 

One speaker was Emilio Pineda, a Guatemalan national who immigrated to the United States over 40 years ago and now lives in Marin.

“The reason that we are here together is because we see the lack of respect and the incredible amount of abuse from the police department toward the Hispanic community,” Pineda said. “It saddens us because we have a constitution that protects each and every one of us in this country, but the reality is that we have policemen who have no respect for other people … So here we are, together, peacefully assembling in order to stop this travesty.”

Carrying signs and chanting slogans, the demonstrators marched through the Canal District.

Pineda also pointed out the parallel of how many immigrants facing police brutality in the United States originally fled violence in their home country. 

“[Immigrants] come here and find police that are terrorists against us… When a police officer attacks a defenseless young man because he has drunk one beer, [the police officer] is a terrorist. He is terrorizing the community of Latinos and Afro-Americans. We have seen this throughout the country… and we are not going to tolerate being victimized one more time,” Pineda said.

Shortly after the police incident on Sept. 2, SRPD Chief David Spiller published an open letter about the event.

“I want to assure all members of the San Rafael community that not only is this incident being critically examined, but we will examine our behaviors, including that of our leadership and for those department members that have fallen short, they will be held accountable,” Spiller wrote.

Protesters gathered outside the SRPD Headquarters to decry police violence against the Latino community.

But to many, this incident is only the most recent development in a string of police wrongdoings. Standing in front of the SRPD headquarters, community members discussed the need for community response to disrupt the pattern. 

“What’s concerning is the fact that [abuse] keeps on happening,” one speaker said, “Our community needs to stand up. We need to speak up.”