After Cesar Rodriguez was fatally struck by a Metro train while being restrained by Long Beach Police Department officer Martin Ron at Wardlow Station in August 2017, his family began regularly making the trip from their home in Boyle Heights to Wardlow Station in Long Beach to set up a small memorial for him.
Although he eventually passed away at a hospital due to his injuries, the train station is where the deadly incident occurred and where his family chooses to honor his memory.
But Rodriguez’s family eventually became distraught when they realized the memorials they drove so far to set up in their relative’s memory were being quickly discarded by Metro staff once they left.
“Once we started seeing that they would bring down like the candles or anything that we would put up, it was just very discouraging to continue going. And you know, as a family that’s still grieving until this day still, it’s very hard to see things like that. It hurts,” Rodriguez’s sister, Evelia Granados, told the Signal Tribune during a phone interview Dec. 29.
Granados also shared her frustration over Metro taking down the memorials with a crowd gathered at Wardlow Station during a protest on the third anniversary of her brother’s death on Aug. 29, 2020.
“They have no respect, even for that. And that, I blame the Metro because Metro’s the one that cleans here and they should not take it down because my brother lost his life here. They should have some type of respect for my brother and they don’t,” Granados said to the crowd.
Granados also criticized Metro during the August protest for its use of tickets and fines to punish low income people who can’t afford the fare.
“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.”
Before his death, a Metro Transit Security Officer reported Rodriguez to the police for not having a properly loaded TAP card and being unable to produce an ID so the Metro employee could give him a ticket.
A memorandum by the LA County District Attorney’s Office claims that while Ron was conducting a pat down search, Rodriguez attempted to escape. Ron held onto him and tried to subdue him as the train came by, and Rodriguez’s lower body was hanging off the edge of the platform where he was eventually hit and pinned between the train and the platform. He was transported to a hospital where he eventually succumbed to his injuries. The memorandum was posted online by the Long Beach Post.
Although having their memorials for Cesar consistently thrown out has caused his relatives to stop visiting the train station as frequently as before, they still made the effort to come honor his memory before the holidays.
Rodriguez’s family most recently traveled to Wardlow Station to set up a Christmas themed memorial for him on Dec. 10, 2020. The holiday decor attached to a metal fence facing the station’s parking lot includes a small, store-bought sign with the words “Merry & Bright,” surrounded by small illustrations of mistletoe, with chains made of red and green paper strung underneath. A miniature Christmas tree was attached to the bottom of the fence near the concrete.
Another handmade sign, with stickers bearing Rodriguez’s face, has been taped up next to the Christmas decorations, and reads “We Miss You!” and “Metro Staff Please Don’t take it off.”
Granados uploaded a video of her family gathered in front of the memorial they made onto an Instagram page dedicated to sharing Rodriguez’s story, @justiceforcesarrodriguez.
“I was telling my sister that it sucks that we have to come and, you know, put this instead of him being here with us. And also that we have to actually tell the Metro ‘stop,’ not to take it off, because they take it off. […] They leave it for like a day or so and then they just end up taking it off,” Granados can be heard saying in the video as Rodriguez’s nieces and nephews are seen sitting in front of the memorial.
“We’re trying to figure it out, who we can kind of talk to from the Metro staff or the Metro Union, to kind of go talk to someone and see if we’re able to get to someone so they can be able to leave my brother’s stuff here,” Granados says later in the video.
However, as of Granados’ phone interview with the Signal Tribune on Dec. 29 she had not yet had the opportunity to contact Metro, due to being overwhelmed by an outbreak of COVID-19 in her family that occurred in late December.
The Signal Tribune reached out to Metro to ask if there was any way the memorials made by Rodriguez’s family could be left alone for a few days longer. Metro communicated that it will not make an exception for memorials in its cleaning routine, and provided the following statement:
“Metro understands and sympathizes with the family’s desire to honor their son with a memorial on Metro property. Metro’s number one priority, however, must always be to ensure public safety for everyone accessing our stations. A memorial observed on station property could potentially result in access constraints for patrons coming in and out of the station. Moreover, items left at the memorial may create safety hazards and possible liability for the agency. Finally, the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates railroad safety statewide, will not endorse such an activity adjacent to an active railroad right-of-way. For these reasons, Metro does not permit permanent or temporary memorials to be placed on its property.”
When the Signal Tribune observed the latest memorial for Cesar Rodriguez on the afternoon of Dec. 10 and again on Jan. 1 it did not appear to block the sidewalk or impede anyone from walking.
Despite Metro’s statement saying it would continue to clean away the memorials, it was still in place on New Year’s, 23 days after being set up. This is surprisingly long compared to how much time it’s usually taken to remove the memorials in the past.
“Two days is a lot for them,” Granados told the Signal Tribune when asked how long it usually takes for her brother’s memorials to be removed by Metro staff.
“It’s like they’re trying to wash off that something happened at that station, that an officer threw someone out to a train. They’re just trying to wash that under the rug and I don’t think that’s okay,” Granados said.