A two-day protest in support of the family of Cesar Rodriguez started at Long Beach City Hall on Friday, Feb. 26 before moving to the site where he was hit by a train while Long Beach police officer Martin Ron attempted to detain him on Aug. 29, 2017.
Ron was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Justice System Integrity Division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in an Aug. 11, 2020 memorandum, stating that reasonable force was used.
But Rodriguez’s family is asking that newly elected Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon to reopen the case.
His family and activists point to Rodriguez’s death as an example of police needlessly escalating an incident until something violent happens. They also believe the situation would have turned out differently if Ron hadn’t insisted on subduing and grabbing onto Rodriguez during the moments when the train was passing.
The memorandum states that Ron removed Rodriguez from the Metro train at Wardlow Station, before questioning and then searching him. Ron alleges that when questioned, Rodriguez gave a fake name, which prompted the search. Ron stated that during the search he found illicit drugs on Rodriguez before he tried to escape from Ron’s grip, 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.
Meanwhile the law enforcement perspective states in the memorandum that Ron used “reasonable force” in detaining Rodriguez and attempting to stop him from escaping. The memorandum explains the situation as Ron saw the northbound train approaching and continued to struggle with and put his arm around Rodriguez, with a goal of keeping Rodriguez away from the tracks.
Community organizers, such as the Alliance for Community Transit Los Angeles (ACT-LA), and Rodriguez’s family are asking for an end to the contracts between Metro and the Long Beach Police Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
ACT-LA compiled a report in response to the death of Rodriguez entitled “Off The Rails. Alternatives to Policing on Transit,” which studied successful community safety programs that don’t use police in other cities.
Due to community pressure, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board postponed a vote on whether to increase contracts with law enforcement by around $111 million.
Out of the $111 million potential increase, $6.9 million would go to LBPD for patrolling Metro property, raising the total amount of the contract between LBPD and Metro from about $30 million to about $36.9 million.
After a series of speeches at City Hall, protesters drove their vehicles in a caravan to Wardlow Station, where they spent the night in shifts.
Rodriguez’s family has constructed multiple memorials for him at the station since his death, which are usually taken down quickly by Metro.
To prevent this from happening to the newest memorial, volunteers stood guard over the vigil through the night.
Their efforts worked, and in the morning the memorial remained undisturbed.