Kelly Thomas Supporters Hold Candlelight Vigil, March on City Hall
Photo by Charles Lam A supporter writes a message in front of the vigil
Over 100 supporters flocked to Kelly's Corner, the make-shift memorial at the Fullerton Train Station where Thomas was brutally attacked two and a half years ago, yesterday following the reading of the "not guilty" verdict.
Jason, also known as "Shortdog," stood on the same slab of pavement from where, he said, he watched a group of Fullerton police officers brutally beat a man on the night of July 5, 2011.
"I don't believe it, dog," he said. "I didn't believe it then, and I don't believe it now."
Photo by Charles Lam Supporters prepare to march towards Fullerton City Hall
Shock, tempered by equal parts sadness and anger, was the prevailing sentiment at Kelly's Corner. At least until sundown, when the mood noticeably shifted to basic anger.
"Fucking unbelievable," said one longtime Fullerton resident who did not want her name used. "I guess any of us could be beaten at any time for anything. But people here have a mindset. They feel that because they're of means, or whatever, that nothing will ever happen to them, or to someone to love. Tell that to (Thomas' family)."
Shortly after 4 p.m., the memorial site was bare, but in the minutes that followed, more people began arriving, many of them intimately involved in the grassroots to effort to bring the case to trial. By 7 p.m., when Ron Thomas, Kelly Thomas' father appeared, some 100 people had converged.
"This jury is guilty of one thing, and that is following instructions," said Stephan Baxter, a Fullerton resident who has tried in public forums and art exhibitions to keep his fight for justice for Thomas alive. "As long as police officers can operate under a different code of conduct than everybody else....that's the real problem here.
"I had real hope that the city could move on after this and realize that many of us stood up for one of our least."
At 8 p.m., the crowd observed a moment of silence for Kelly Thomas. Fifteen minutes afterwards, a large group began marching towards Fullerton City Hall and Fullerton Police Department Headquarters, finding strength and support in the horns of passing drivers. They arrived at the locked building at roughly 8:30 p.m, rallying there for approximately 20 minutes. Marchers included friends and supporters as well as other victims of police brutality.
"I think this case would've opened the door," said Donna Acevedo, whose son Joel was killed by Anaheim PD in 2012. "I think people aren't aware of how rampant this is. They just think 'it's just a homeless man', and they tend to gloss over these things."
Photo by Charles Lam Marchers gather around city hall
By 8:50 p.m., marchers had returned to Kelly's Corner to collect themselves and to organize future actions.
"I hope people don't give up," said Stephanie Bustamante, a student from Riverside who has family members who have schizophrenia. "I'm a mom myself, and something like this could've happened to my children."
One thing's for sure, Thomas' supporters will be back. Saturday, 10 a.m.
Additional reporting by Joel Beers and Thao Ta.