Gelhaus Gets a Promotion After Getting Away With the Murder of Andy Lopez

On October 22nd, 2013, in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, Sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus shot and killed unarmed, thirteen-year-old Andy Lopez without cause. Gelhaus, a trained weapons instructor and firearms expert, fired eight shots at Andy, hitting him seven times. This murder by cop occurred on a beautiful sunny afternoon in the Moorland neighborhood of Santa Rosa - a neighborhood of mostly Latino people, people with a long history of having to deal with the presence of the occupying force of these Sheriff's deputies.

Andy Lopez had committed no crime and no one had called the police about him, yet Gelhaus and his partner acted as if they were in a combat zone on a "search and destroy' mission.

After much legal wrangling and excuse-making, Gelhaus was cleared of any wrong-doing by Sonoma County DA Jill Ravitch and was not charged.

Andy was buried and his family, friends, supporters and community were left to their pain and grief, as Gelhaus was returned to active patrol duty. So much for justice for Andy.

So here we are, almost three years later and now the news that Deputy Gelhaus has been promoted to sergeant with a pay increase from $49.19 to $55 an hour. He is now responsible for overseeing and instructing eight to ten deputies per shift. This is outrageous and Sheriff Freitas, who is responsible for this promotion, is of course, justifying this heinous decision, loudly and clearly.

A 23-year veteran LE officer and US army vet, who claims that he feared for his life when he instantly shot and assassinated a 13-year-old child, is not fit to be a law enforcement officer, much less a trainer and supervisor of other deputies. His promotion is another disgusting demonstration of how those "in charge" of the so-called justice system in this county have no regard for human life and absolutely no connection to or regard for the residents of this community - just one other outrageous act which reminds us constantly that there is no justice here at all.

Reflections of My Life Experiences: Today's Conditions

My thoughts are the reflections of my life experiences. As to whether that is a life lived well or poorly, I will leave those questions and answers up to historians, critics, the general public and you, the reader.

In that respect (my thoughts), while time permits, I will express some of my opinions. I think that seventy-eight years in the game we call "life", grants me that privilege. Current events and conditions demand this of me.

To jump right in: take "Black Lives Matter". This was originally just a statement of how the victims of America's system of racism feel, which then turned into an entire movement. Thismovement was created by the continuing mistreatment, persecution and killings of the victims, mostly young people of color, by law enforcement officers.

As usual, the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity utilize social media to try to control the thinking of the public, many of whom are confused and clueless. The public is fed garbage such as, "Black Lives Matter " means we (Black People) hate white people to the extent that no other lives matter but Black people's lives.

Just a few decades ago, while the Black Panthers and others chanted, "Black is beautiful", the corporate media spread the misinformation that this message meant that all white people should be killed. This created hysteria and led to many white Americans rushing to buy guns and ammo. What a great deal for the gun dealers and for the economy! I say that this was an opportune time for the scum of the earth politicians to crawl out from under their rocks, proclaiming that they were going to save the white race by creating new laws, and then they began building more prisons and locking up more Black and Brown men.

As prisons become increasingly overcrowded, police are given unlimited power and arms to render the Final Solution on the streets - "Shoot to Kill". There will be no questions asked or explanations required. Make no mistake - the police are not out of control; they are in control, complete control.

The taxpayers have been fooled once again by the concept of body cameras for law enforcement. Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent to equip police with body cameras yet police are never found in violation of any civil or criminal code which has occurred during a stop or arrest, regardless of the footage.

Officers are free to use and misuse this footage, to turn the cameras on and off and any number of other such acts. Who truly believes that a police officer would turn in evidence against him or herself? Wake up everyone - the courts of our injustice system don't expect that or demand it.


Some Thoughts on the Political Process in America

Will the November 2016 election bring about democracy or a dictatorship?  In the recent campaigns for President, democracy is definitely not being practiced by either of the major political parties. Both are heavily "owned" or influenced by the wealthy corporate 1 percent and their lobbies, such as the NRA and the large pharmaceutical companies. The other 99 percent of us have almost no power or voice, which means that a small minority of wealthy individualshave both political and social control of America.

Just watching those conventions demonstrates the overwhelming need for immediate reform to this absurd institution we have for choosing the candidates who run for President. The American people have in reality, little or no control of who actually becomes President. Voting is little more than a ritual in many ways. The person who gets elected (male or female) and who has power over this nation's citizenry and huge accumulations of wealth and arsenals, who makes vital decisions in matters of war and peace, life and death and our social and medical programs, ultimately has power and control, which affects the world. It is stunning the amount of power which is placed in the hands of the President of the United States and a small band of cohorts and advisers.

I re-iterate here: what this boils down to is economic, decision-making power which is not in the hands of the American people, but in the hands of the large and wealthy corporations.  Corporations are solely interested in what produces a profit and by any means necessary. The corporate media controls the advertising industry and persuades the public to purchase what is produced by the corporations, of course.

Due to an almost complete lack of standards and regulations, dangerous commodities are produced and sold, which destroy cities, beaches, forests, parks and other natural habitats, wildlife, the food we consume and the air we breathe. I am saying that democracy in the United States appears to me, to be a complete failure.

Equality Before the Law

In my opinion, equality before the law here in the United States has little or no meaning. In reality, if a Black child steals a ten-cent piece of candy and runs from the scene, he or she may be shot and killed by a police officer. However, a wealthy man, particularly a wealthy white man, can pull off a million-dollar swindle, run to another country, but when captured, does not have to fear any kind of abuse at the hands of law enforcement. American courts, the system in place and District Attorneys protect law enforcement officers, no matter what crimes against human beings have been committed. The Andy Lopez shooting at the hands of Law Enforcement here in Sonoma County, is a good example. Communities and attorneys have few means to combat these violations against humanity without large amounts of money. Even then, these cases against an officer are usually lost or settled with no change in the officer's position or income. Members of the communities who protest loudly must remember they are always in danger of being arrested.

In closing, I feel that we, the people, in order to begin to address the huge catastrophes we face,  must unite - the need for this is appallingly urgent. In order to accomplish change, we must be dedicated to the ideas of freedom and justice for all, to the end of brutality and murder of people of color, an end to the militarization of police and to insist on the institution of nation-wide, true community control of police. Although we must remember that any movement for self-empowerment is regarded as a threat by the ruling class, we have to recognize that we have to overcome our fears which prevent our actions and create disunity.

We must join each other with heart-felt determination, focus, commitment, dedication and a feel for the urgent need for change and take a giant, evolutionary leap into consciousness. We must recognize the need to commit to each other as human beings, for the need to fight against racism and injustice is urgent, as is the need for freedom and justice for all. Our children and our children's children lives depend on this and we owe this to them and to ourselves.


My Take on "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution"

By Elbert "Big Man" Howard (March 1, 2016)

The film by producer Stanley Nelson, entitled "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution" is a well-produced documentary with a specific focus. Nelson makes good use of footage of actual events and music from the era to serve as both a background and accompaniment for the main ingredient of this film - comments from a number of former Black Panther Party members, featuring mainly some of the so-called "rank and file" members. This is, in and of itself, a unique achievement, as most other films have never done this, but solely relied on interviews with the leaders.

This particular film concentrates on giving the viewer a closer look at The Black Panther Party, from a particular perspective. It, by no means, even begins to tell the "whole story" of The Black Panther Party. No one film can do that - the Black Panther Party was the most revolutionary and progressive group of freedom fighters of modern times. I think that Stanley Nelson produced the best film he could with the information, materials, time and money that he had to work with. He also did a good job of getting the film out there to allow as much of the public as possible the opportunity to see it.

To critics and detractors of Nelson and the film, I say this: There is indeed much more of this story to tell, including more of the vital and innovative community programs and the many accomplishments ofThe Black Panther Party. There are still so many of our comrades locked up in dungeons for more than three and four decades. There are still many more former Black Panther Party members who have important stories to tell and I would encourage future film-makers to seek information from them while they are still around.

Some of what we did: The Black Panther Party engaged and worked to solve the problems of poor and oppressed people in America and around the world. We did this through very hard work, commitment, dedication and solidarity.

We started with feeding the hungry through our free food programs, then came our free clothes and shoe programs.

These programs led to more - free plumbing services, free ambulance services and free medical clinics. 

We organized rent strikes to force landlords to remove lead-based paints from tenant housing.

We escorted the elderly to cash their checks and to the store, etc.

We gave rides to people who needed transportation to see their loved ones in the hell-holes this government calls "prisons".

We lent support and joined the farm workers in their struggle for fair wages and working and living conditions.

With the Black Panther Party Newspaper as an informative tool, many in the world were educated to the evils of wars created by capitalistic and corporate greed and racist aggression against countries of people of color . We exposed the profiteers of these wars and awakened people to the fact that poor and disadvantaged youths, predominantly those of color, were the ones fighting and dying in these wars.

We fully supported the student/anti-war movement against the Vietnam War and supported other movements which molded themselves after the Black Panther Party - The Brown Berets, AIM, The Young Patriots and others.

With the need for improved education, the Black Panther Party joined with students across America in demanding that Black, Asian, Latino and Native-American history courses be taught in colleges and universities and that degrees be awarded in these studies. So many programs now had their beginnings stem from what we in the Black Panther Party fought for.

 Taking this a step further though, to combat the sub-standard education being given to poor children in public grade schools in our communities, some Black Panther Party Chapters started their own community schools. These were called Liberation Schools and they were free.

On the international level, the Black Panther Party was followed by and interested, thousands world-wide  and speakers from the BPP were sought after. Our newspaper made this possible and our Minister of Culture, Emory Douglas, was an integral part of all of that. His art reflected the conditions of poor and disenfranchised peoples of color here and everywhere. It spoke to people in Asia, Africa and Latin America. To this present day, Emory is in demand and travels extensively, lecturing on his art and how it reflects the world we live in.

Today's crises of police killings of Black and other disenfranchised people is nothing new. This was our struggle - the Black Panther Party formed to put a stop to this some fifty years ago.  The fight was not just about guns and confrontations but it was about making efforts to change laws and the system that breeds brutality by so-called law enforcement, along with the militarization of police. We wanted mandatory Community Control of Police - the Black Panther Party worked very hard and got Community Control of Police put on the ballot in Berkeley, CA. It did not pass but it educated the community and showed that there is strength in unity.

So these are some examples of what other films on the Black Panther Party could use as material to educate people and disperse more knowledge around the world. For me, the community programs and the overwhelming desire to serve the people, the struggle of the masses world-wide, how important it is to identify with their struggles and the absolute belief that power lies in the hands of the people, that's what it is all about. Let's have some films which aren't about personalities and super-stars but about what dedicated people working together can achieve for humanity.