Protesters camp out at Wardlow Station to guard memorial for Cesar Rodriguez

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.

Evelia Granados (far right) thanks the crowd that gathered by Long Beach City Hall in solidarity with her family on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. Her brother Cesar Rodriguez was fatally struck by a Metro train during an altercation with Long Beach police officer Martin Ron. Her family has been advocating for an end to the partnership between the Long Beach Police Department and Metro, as well as for Rodriguez’s case to be reopened by Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon.

Granados also led the crowd in chanting Cesar Rodriguez’s name.

“We gotta make noise, we want to let these city councilmembers [know] that his name, his life didn’t go in vain. We’re here, we’re shutting this [expletive] down because his life mattered more than $1.75. And the [expletive] government, this [expletive] system, needs to know that. It’s enough. Enough is enough,” Granados said.

Granados said she was not only fighting to get justice for her family, but to create lasting change so that future generations won’t live in fear of police violence. (Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune)

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.

The mother of Cesar Rodriguez, Rosa Moreno, addresses the crowd gathered by Long Beach City Hall on Friday, Feb. 26, in front of an altar made in honor of her son.

“I’m here so that Martin Ron, this cop, they take away his badge, his gun, his job, everything that he has over here. Because it’s not fair that as mothers we’re suffering because they take the lives of our sons away,” said a translator for Moreno in English.

Moreno told the crowd that Ron informed her in person that he had been promoted by LBPD.

Ron was promoted to the rank of Sergeant during a ceremony held at the Long Beach Marriott on Jan. 13, 2020, according to a press release by LBPD.

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.

The sister of Cesar Rodriguez, Evelia Granados, told protesters that she wanted them to hear how loud the train is as it approaches and explained that the officer arresting her brother would’ve been aware of the danger as he clung to her brother until he was hit.

As the train came closer, it was loud enough to drown out the sound of human voices.

Granados became emotional as the train came toward the platform where her brother was fatally struck.

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.

The memorial for Cesar Rodriguez was taken from City Hall and set up again at the Wardlow Station, and candles were placed in front.

In the past, memorials set up by Rodriguez’s family have been quickly removed by Metro staff. The organization Voices of Long Beach helped find volunteers willing to take shifts overnight to protect the memorial from being disturbed.

The memorial featured two enlarged photos of Rodriguez, and was created by Classroom of Compassion, a nonprofit organization of artists based in Los Angeles.

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.

Protesters chanted as they left the platform of the station.

“Who killed Cesar? LBPD. How do you spell racist? LBPD. How do you spell killer cop? LBPD,” protesters chanted.

As protesters were leaving the platform of the Wardlow Station an announcement came over the Metro station’s PA system telling them that Metro had notified the police of the protest.
“Attention […] please be advised that you do need a permit in order to protest on Metro property […] Long Beach PD has been dispatched to this location,” the announcement said.

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.

The father of Anthony Vargas, who was killed by the LA County Sheriff’s Department during a mental health crisis in Aug. 2018, holds up a sign asking that LBPD officer Martin Ron be held accountable for the death of Cesar Rodriguez. After Rodriguez’s death, Ron was promoted to sergeant.

Since the death of Anthony Vargas, his family has documented repeated instances of alleged harassment by the LA County Sheriff’s Department. Most recently, an officer-involved in Vargas’ death, Jonathan Rojas, showed up to arrest someone across the street from the home of Vargas’ aunt as she was giving a virtual talk about police harassment. A lawsuit by Vargas’ family alleges that Rojas is a prospective member of the deputy gang Los Banditos, a claim supported by two anonymous deputies interviewed by CBS.

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