Cesar Rodriguez’s family marches to Wardlow station, site of in-custody death three years ago

Cesar Rodriguez’s sister, Evelia Granados, is momentarily overwhelmed by emotions when speaking about her brother’s death and the profound effect it has had on her entire family during a protest in front of the LBPD headquarters. Since Rodriguez’s death, family celebrations and holidays have not been the same.

Protesters and other families who have lost their loved ones to police violence gathered in solidarity with the family of Cesar Antonio Rodriguez on the third anniversary of his fatal altercation with Long Beach Police Department Officer Martin Ron.

“I can’t even explain what I feel just seeing his f*cking face,” Evelia Granados told the crowd gathered outside the LBPD headquarters Aug. 29 as her mother held up a photo of LBPD sergeant Martin Ron. Above and underneath the photo, the poster read “Martin Ron Wanted – Murdered Cesar Rodriguez.”

Cesar Antonio Rodriguez, Granados’ brother, died at a hospital on Aug. 29, 2017, where he was transported after a train struck him during a struggle with Ron that started over an unpaid Metro fare of $1.75.

On January of this year, LBPD announced that Ron had been promoted from officer to sergeant.

The Justice System Integrity Division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office cleared Ron of any wrongdoing in the death in an Aug. 11 memorandum, stating that reasonable force was used. The memorandum was published online by the Long Beach Post on Aug. 28.

A protester carries a sign holding a photo of LBPD sergeant Martin Ron. Protesters claim that Ron is at fault for the 2017 death of Cesar Rodriguez who died from injuries sustained after being struck by a train at the Wardlow station during a struggle with Ron that started over an unpaid fare of $1.75. (Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune)

Rodriguez was traveling on the Metro Blue Line when a Metro Transit Security Officer reported to Ron that Rodriguez did not have identification or a properly paid TAP card, according to the district attorney’s review.

Ron then made Rodriguez exit at the Wardlow Station and asked him for his personal information, including name and birth date. The memorandum claims that Rodriguez told Ron that his name was “Anthony Rodriguez.”

After being told by police dispatch that there was no record of anyone with the name and birthdate given, Ron decided to arrest Rodriguez.

The memorandum also claims that a pat-down search was then conducted on Rodriguez, where Ron found him in possession of methamphetamine. Los Angeles Deputy Medical Examiner Timothy Dutra conducted a post-mortem examination. A blood toxicology report found methamphetamine and cocaine in Rodriguez’s system.

The memorandum also claims that Rodriguez pulled away from Ron during the search, pulling the officer forward with him.

There are two different perspectives on what should have happened during the struggle that followed. Rodriguez’s family and many activists believe that Ron should have stopped trying to subdue Rodriguez when he realized the train was approaching, especially considering how close the two were to the edge of the platform when it began.

The memorandum states that Ron saw the northbound train approaching and continued to struggle with and put his arm around Rodriguez. It also claims Ron’s goal was to keep Rodriguez away from the tracks.

With Ron’s left arm still around Rodriguez, the two fell onto the platform, with Rodriguez’s lower body dangling over the edge. The officer’s arm was still around Rodriguez’s body as he was struck by the oncoming train.

The significance of any alleged attempt by Ron to pull Rodriguez from the tracks while still forcibly detaining him is up for debate. Many community groups believe that the collision could have been avoided altogether.

They believe things may have panned out differently if Ron hadn’t insisted on subduing and grabbing onto Rodriguez during the hazardous moments when the train was passing.

Speakers, including members of the Brown Berets and Black Lives Matter, repeatedly criticized LBPD and Metro during the Aug. 29 protest for escalating a small infraction that started over $1.75.

The Brown Berets were present at the Aug. 29 protest for Cesar Rodriguez, and spoke in support of all victims of police brutality. The Brown Berets are a Chicano rights organization that first formed in the late 1960s to defend, liberate and advocate for their community. (Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune)

Granados believes public transport should be free and that those who cannot afford the fare should not be further punished with fines.

“If they can’t pay $1.75, what makes them think that they’re going to be able to pay a ticket?” Granados said. “They don’t know what those people are going through.”

Criticism was also repeatedly launched at Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey for repeatedly declining to bring charges against police officers who kill civilians.

Among those speaking out against the practices of Lacey and her office in Downtown Long Beach on Aug 29. was Black Lives Matter Los Angeles co-founder Melina Abdullah.

Abdullah was recently threatened at gunpoint by Lacey’s husband, David Lacey, after showing up at the district attorney’s home for a protest, as reported by numerous media outlets. He is now facing three misdemeanor charges for assault with a firearm.

Jackie Lacey is the first Black woman to serve as LA County’s DA, but has drawn massive criticism from the Black Lives Matter movement for her failure to prosecute the vast majority of officer-involved shooting cases brought before her.

After a series of speakers finished, the crowd marched and drove in a caravan from LBPD headquarters to Wardlow Station, a walk of almost four miles. A truck carrying a sign with the names of dozens of victims of police killings led the way for marchers, surrounded by traditional Indigenous dancers.

Indigenous dances were performed near the front of the protest caravan as protesters marched and drove for over an hour from the LBPD station at 400 W Broadway in downtown Long Beach to the Wardlow station where Cesar Rodriguez was killed during an altercation with LBPD officer Martin Ron. (Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune)

“I want this station, I want Long Beach, to never forget Cesar’s name,” Granados said once the crowd reached the station. “Never forget Cesar’s story.”

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