4 Reasons Why San Jose/Santa Clara County Is a National Leader in Social Justice

Heading into Fall, ACJP/De-Bug wants to acknowledge the nationally significant policy wins in criminal justice reform, police accountability, and immigration that occurred this Summer — all of which were first-of-its-kind victories in their respective fields. Check out the coverage from mainstream media, as well as videos, articles, and photos we produced chronicling how Summer 2013 has put our region on the map for social justice in this “storify.”

De-Bug Family Members Win $1 Million Civil Suit in Taser Death Case

For six years, Noreen Salinas has fought for justice for her father Steve Salinas, who was tased to death by a San Jose police officer in 2007. Noreen walked into De-Bug the week of her father’s death asking for support, and she has been De-Bug family ever since, attending regular ACJP meetings. Throughout the years, she has become our moral leader in the effort to shelve Tasers, a lethal weapon that continues to take lives. We marched, rallied, held press conferences, all under the call, “Justice for Steve Salinas.” As of last Friday, after a jury unanimously delivered a verdict in favor of the Salinas family — we have made some of the promise of that chant a reality. As you will read in the Mercury News article, this is the first win of its kind in San Jose. And that a federal jury has found that the Taser was a contributing cause of death also is a major blow against Tasers nationally. Here is Noreen in front of the mural we made of her in the basement of De-Bug, holding the Mercury News article. The title though is misleading. When a city holds officers accountable for excessive force, and a mourning family is given some peace — that city doesn’t loose, it wins. Click the image to go to Mercury News article.

Back Home With a Harley — One ACJP Member’s Vision of Justice Comes True

This photo was just sent to us from a small town in Georgia by a longtime De-Bug/ACJP member Benny Love. It’s an image of victory — evidence of a dream made real, that he wanted the rest of us in San Jose to see. It’s his Harley resting in the backdrop of the town he was raised in. He was able to pay for the trip home, and the Harley, with the settlement win he received against the San Jose Police Department a while back. A few years ago, Benny was the recipient of an unjustified tasing, and was wrongfully arrested. Rather then just take the deal, and the abuse, Benny refused to plead guilty to something he didn’t do and filed a complaint against the officer. Benny, an African-American man in his 50’s, was homeless living in San Jose at the time. All criminal charges were eventually dismissed. He came to De-Bug after someone referred him. Benny at the time was standing out on the corner with a homemade sign that read “Need a Lawyer.” De-Bug hooked up with a great attorney Michael Reiser who fought hard for him. The city eventually settled to avoid civil trial. Through the whole experience, Benny would tell us all he wants is to go back home to his family. Through his perseverance, he returned home, and did so with style — cruising in his new Harley. Miss ya Benny!

Ray Samuels: A Police Chief and Leader Who Championed Rights For All

Editor’s Note: Ray Samuels, former Newark Police Chief, passed away recently at the age of 58. Aram James, a civil rights organizer and former public defender, found a friend and trusted ally in Samuels through their common campaign against the Tasers, and shares his memories of the man he calls both a friend and inspiration.

First and foremost Ray Samuels was my dear friend—his sudden and unexpected passing has saddened me to the core (Ray died on February 17, 2012.) I think what stands-out most for me about Ray Samuels are his humble qualities – his decency as a human being, his lust for life and learning and his insatiable curiosity about other human beings. Ray always had a desire to be a problem solver, and he had no arrogance or pretense. His routine instinct was always to look out for the other guy first. Continue reading