Mother’s Day 2018. A peaceful congregation gathered in front of the Bellagio Fountains on Las Vegas Boulevard to commemorate Tashii Brown who was murdered at the hands of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Tashii’s life was taken too soon just one year prior on Mother’s Day 2017. Metro Officer Kenneth Lopera chased, tased, beat, and finally choked the life out of poor Tashii, who had committed no crime and wasn’t even suspected of a crime.
He went to the police for help and it ended up costing him his life. For all of the details on this particular case please click the links provided throughout this article to read previous articles available on NVCopBlock.org for all of the specifics along with body cam footage of the murder. But this article isn’t about that event, this article is about another event, a peaceful event, and how the LVMPD chose to respond to this gathering of mothers, children, activists, families, locals and tourists alike all there in mourning and solidarity.
As people began arriving the feeling in the air was one of love and a strong sense of community. Then, out of nowhere, a group of at least ten Metro police officers in full-blown riot gear appeared off in the distance, ambushed three of the attendees, and dragged them off to patrol cruisers they had stationed around the corner.
In a matter of minutes, they were gone leaving tourists none the wiser that they had just kidnapped three individuals in broad daylight simply for exercising their right to free speech. This was how the Mother’s Day Vigil began.
“Upon arrival, Trinita Farmer, the mother of Tashii Brown, witnessed the abrupt arrest of three [New Black Panther Party] members…her granddaughter clutches to her in fear. Witnesses were shaken up by the shear volume of police in riot gear. The event would begin with arrests and end with more. Las Vegas, NV, May 13, 2018. Photos by Cherry Valencia”
Last Sunday’s vigil was held for the family of Tashii Brown and was put on by Nissa Tzun of Families United 4 Justice to mark the one year anniversary of his death and was done in collaboration with several other groups. Most notable among them were Black Lives Matter-UNLV, All Shades United, Unity Vegas, and Nevada Cop Block. Trinita Farmer, Tashii’s mother, was in attendance, but she was not alone. By her side were FOUR other grieving mothers all of whom have lost loved ones to police terrorism. The ceremony began with an introduction from Karintha Fenley of Families United 4 Justice.
For Trinita, who to this day still hasn’t been able to bring herself to watch the body camera footage of her son being murdered, just the fact that it was Mother’s Day, being surrounded by roses and images of her son, all of the people, the heavy police presence, police K-9s walking back and forth, and the thought of another riot police team on standby, it was all just too much. Still in agony over the loss of her son, she was unable to bring herself to speak. Instead, her best friend spoke on her behalf. Her speech brought the reality of this whole situation home for all of us in attendance. Her message was one of Love and Unity.
The mic was then passed on to Alma Chavez, the mother of Rafael Olivas, who was gunned down by Metro on July 13, 2011. In her speech she criticized the tactics used by police and their flawed modus operandi. Up next was Dominic Archibald, the mother of Nathaniel H. Pickett II, who was murdered by police in Barstow, CA. She said in the case she filed for the loss of her son she was recently awarded the largest settlement ever in a civil suit (Trinita Farmer is also suing Metro over the loss of her relationship with her son and for violating her son’s civil rights).
She hasn’t seen a dollar of what she considers a “down payment on justice” yet and doesn’t know if, or when, she ever will, but she brought up a great point. Until these officers are forced to pay these settlements out of their own pockets, then it is the people who will continue to suffer. It’s the taxpayers who are really punished by paying out these settlements, not the killer cops. If these bad cops are left with the tab, as they rightfully should be, you better believe that you will see these unnecessary police shootings happen far less frequently.
Following Ms. Archibald was Amber Bustillos, the fiancee of the late Junior Lopez who was killed by two rookie LVMPD cops just last month. Somehow she managed to gather the strength to show up and speak briefly about how hard it’s been coping with her recent loss. She demanded justice and thanked everyone in attendance for their love and support during these tough times.
The last mother to speak was Petra Wilson, mother of nine and widow of Rex Wilson. She was there with two of her kids, Aaron and Halina Wilson. Their late father, Rex Wilson, a US Marine veteran, was shot 36 times by multiple Las Vegas Metropolitan police officers back in October of 2016. For all of these women, their lives are forever changed in ways beyond what most of us can possibly comprehend and, most of all, for these mothers, Mother’s Day will never be the same again.
Other speakers included Tom Zebra who spoke about some of his recent encounters with the LVMPD. Definitely check out his YouTube channel for some of those videos. Moments before his speech, Tom Zebra captured several members of Metro’s riot police on video unfairly singling out and targeting three members of the New Black Panther Party.
Ramsey Denison, Director of the award-winning documentary What Happened in Vegas, was also in attendance documenting the event for his upcoming documentary. He had some choice words for the LVMPD as well. Like a pastor at the pulpit, he preached with a passion for change. He criticized Metro for their rampant corruption labeling them “the worst police department in America, the dirtiest, the deadliest, and the least accountable.”
One of Cop Block’s co-founders, Pete Eyre, was also attending the vigil and finally caved when asked to speak. He delved deep into the flawed mentality of statists and offered some insight into the root of the problem that manifests itself as police brutality. In short, don’t call the police because they’ll just make things worse. Costumes and badges don’t grant you special privileges. Authority is a myth and shouldn’t be blindly given to order followers and politicians that don’t represent the people. Focus on community building so that we can create new, parallel systems that will eventually render these authoritarian institutions obsolete.
A tourist from New York who stopped to watch the vigil also stepped to the mic and highlighted the fact that this is a nationwide epidemic and talked a bit about how bad the police state has become back East. This was a testament to what an attention grabber this whole ceremony was that a tourist here in Vegas on vacation was drawn in and felt compelled to speak. The people are tired of it. We’re tired of the harassment, we’re tired of the injustice, and most of all we’re tired of the killings. Killings that happen all too often. Killings that destroy families. Killings that leave mothers crying on Mother’s Day.
Surrounded by local mainstream media cameras, reporters, a documentarian, journalists, street medics, and independent media, the mothers held a banner with the words “We are the mothers impacted by police violence” on it and led the people on a march from the Bellagio fountains all the way to the Venetian, where Tashii was killed. Onlookers couldn’t help but take notice. Cars drove past honking their horns in support. Tourists along the march were given flyers detailing what exactly they were witnessing and why. Some took the flyers, others just video taped in awe as the marchers passed them by.
The people marched, not shouting usual chants like “Hands up Don’t shoot” or “No justice, No peace,” but rather we marched in silence to the somber beating of a single solitary drum. Every person armed with nothing but a rose and a picture of the mothers’ family members slain at the hands of police. This was different, this was a vigil, this was peaceful, this was Powerful! And that’s what scared the police as they looked on. This is how movements are started. This is how people are awakened to the issue. This changes hearts and minds…and they can’t have that…
Upon arriving at the Venetian, everyone followed Trinita’s lead laying flowers down outside of the hotel. Unsure of where her son was actually killed she entered the Venetian and the people followed. She asked security guards, “Do you know where they killed my son?” Security played dumb like they didn’t know where he was killed and directed everyone through a parking garage, but Tashii wasn’t even killed in the parking garage.
The Grand Finale
After the march ended, everyone headed back toward the Bellagio, unaware of the grand finale that was in store for them. Local activists had arranged one last surprise…and so had Metro.
Police made sure to come out with a bang to send a message to everyone attending the vigil that they will not hesitate to deploy riot police or K-9s and arrest anyone for anything or nothing at all. They started with arrests and also felt the need to end it with more arrests and citations. First they targeted three members of the New Black Panther Party [Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5emoeuuW1pM], next they set their sights on Nevada Cop Block.
The final surprise was a fifty foot banner with the words “JUSTICE FOR TASHII BROWN” written in blood red. I heard rumors of more radical plans for this banner which were eventually scrapped for a safer, legal alternative. A number of local activists stood on the Harmon pedestrian bridge overlooking Las Vegas Boulevard holding the banner up to the glass wall on the north side of the walkway so that banner was visible for all to see. In yesterday’s episode of ACAB Radio, Megan Mansyn talked about what she witnessed on the bridge and the measures she took beforehand to ensure that everything was done legally.
Despite their efforts to do this the right way, Metro still ordered them to take it down and after it was rolled up they still arrested two people and cited others. One of our members, who was wearing a Nevada Cop Block t-shirt, was helping with the banner. King Ron was unfairly singled out and arrested. I don’t know what pissed them off more, the banner itself, the fact that they were being filmed, or the questions asked by Nevada Cop Block members. All I do know is that two of my friends were arrested, another was cited, and in the process a box of donuts was stolen, then presumably eaten later by the cops.
The whole point of us being out there doing what we were doing was to stand in solidarity with these families and to declare that enough is enough. Something’s got to give. Our hope is that everyone involved in Kenneth Lopera’s case will turn on the news and see that the community is behind Trinita and her family. If we can show them that we aren’t just going to move on and let them get away with murder then maybe, just maybe, these charges will stick.
Unfortunately the local mainstream media outlets failed us again. The Las Vegas Review Journal, Fox 5 News, ABC, NBC, CBS the whole alphabet soup was out there filming and you know what we got?! A one minute clip from ABC’s Channel 13 Action News, a one minute clip from Fox 5 News, 47 seconds from NBC’s News 3, and a few words from the LVRJ. CBS was the only one that did a halfway decent piece on the vigil.
After watching all of their coverage I couldn’t help but notice that something was missing from all their reporting. Something was conveniently left out of each and every newscast. NOT A SINGLE OUTLET reported on the police response. None of them mentioned anything about riot police and K-9s being deployed on the Strip, all of the plain clothes officers looking on trying to intimidate everyone, nobody talked about the dozens of officers on the bridge (or the dozen missing donuts), and nobody reported on the five people who were taken into custody that day.
The media in this city is and always has been an arm of the establishment. They parrot narratives for the police, silence stories for the casinos, and never give police violence and corruption the attention it needs and that the community deserves. One thing was made perfectly clear to me that day, when officers are put in a position to choose between the oath they swore to uphold the Constitution or tourism, they’ll choose tourism EVERY time. That’s what their corporate overlords want and that’s who they work for, not you and certainly not me. Their sole purpose is to enforce laws good, bad, or indifferent. Their job is to maintain the status quo and shut down anyone who dares to rock the boat or demand change.
(Photos courtesy of Techno, Sara B. and photographers from the Forced Trajectory Project; including Nissa Tzun and Cherry Valencia, video courtesy of Tom Zebra and ACDMediaChannel (shot by FTP Staff). Additional pictures and video were pulled from Facebook users like Kelly W. Patterson, Paige G., Cornell M., and myself)