An outrage in Santa Rosa


santa-rosa-plazaThe latest outrage taking place in Sonoma County in the wake of the shooting of Andy Lopez by Deputy Gelhaus involves threats and humiliating treatment by Santa Rosa Plaza security officers who forced patrons, including women, to remove their shirts in public.  According to a letter by Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez (JCAL) attorney Jonathan Melrod to mall management:

This is to inform you in your capacity as owners and operators of the Santa Rosa Plaza of an incident that occurred on February 17, 2014 (Presidents’ Day).  On this Monday, uniformed security guards at Simon’s Santa Rosa Plaza perpetrated multiple acts on the Mall property in the upstairs Food Court that directly contravened your patrons’ First Amendment Rights to free and unfettered speech, as well as racially targeted and harassed Latino patrons. Such flagrant disregard for lawful rights and the treatment of Latino patrons as second-class citizens will not be tolerated by the Santa Rosa community.
Earlier in the afternoon on Presidents’ Day, many Santa Rosa youth, known locally as Andys Youth, and others peacefully marched under the banner of Justice for Andy Lopez. For your edification, Andy Lopez was a 13-year-old Latino boy shot and killed by a Sonoma County Sheriffs Deputy on October 22, 2013. The march proceeded peacefully and without incident through downtown Santa Rosa and concluded with a rally in front of the Santa Rosa Police Department where many of the young people poignantly spoke about the heart-wrenching loss of their friend and peer Andy.
Following the march, a number of the participants, including Andy’s parents Sujey and Rodrigo, visited the food court at the Santa Rosa Plaza to eat. At approximately 5:30pm, a contingent of Mall security guards approached the table at which Sujey, Rodrigo, their children and accompanying friends were eating. The security guards, who refused to provide their names, but who are on video in our possession, rudely and aggressively “instructed” the Lopez family and their friends to remove their t-shirts, which bore slogans such as “RIP Andy” and “Justice for Andy Lopez”. If they refused to remove their shirts, they were told that they had to leave the Mall.
The security guards specifically targeted only Latino patrons wearing Andy t-shirts. In fact, just one half hour earlier a white activist had walked in the front door of the Mall directly in front of the very same security guards without so much as a second-glance. Under any interpretation, the demand that Latino patrons, as a target group, remove their shirts was discriminatory and effectively treated a particular ethnic group as second-class citizens with limited free speech rights. Further, the actions by the security guards were a direct affront to the publics’ constitutionally protected First Amendment Rights – particularly the sacrosanct right of free speech – ironic as this occurred on Presidents’ Day. 
Mark A. Payne, Senior Associate General Counsel for the Plaza responded saying in part that, “Like you, Santa Rosa Plaza was shocked to learn that individual officers employed by the Plaza’s third party Security subcontractor elected to approach members of the group and ask them to remove the ‘RIP Andy’ or Justice for ‘Andy Lopez’ t-shirts that they were wearing.”  This is my response to him:

February 20, 2014

    Mark A. Payne, Senior Associate                       General Counsel

By email:

Dear Mr. Payne:

I have seen your response to Attorney Jonathan Melrod regarding the actions of security officers at the Santa Rosa Plaza. As a former seven-term chair of the board of the California Association of Licensed Investigators, I appreciate the difficulty of selecting competent security contractors and the further difficulty of keeping them in line with a client’s expectations.

Security officers guarding malls and other retail establishments should be trained to have at least a common sense understanding of their obligations under the Unruh Civil Rights Act as interpreted by the California Supreme Court in In Re Cox (1970) 3 C 3rd 205 and the implications of the subsequently passed Ralph and Bane civil rights acts in connection with that decision. As your letter to Mr. Melrod indicates that the actions in question were done by employees of a security contractor, I am requesting that you identify for me the name of the contracting firm and provide me with the company’s Private Patrol Operator (PPO) license.

It is my intention to report these serious violations by that company to the appropriate authorities at the California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services.

Thanking you for your prompt attention, I remain,

Respectfully yours,

Jan B. Tucker

State Director, California League of Latin American Citizens 

Andy LopezThe Bane, Ralph and Unruh Civil Rights Acts all provide for minimum civil penalties to the victims of such violations.  The Bane and Ralph civil penalties are potentially $25,000 each for each violation against each defendant, so the victims are looking at not less than $50,000 each not counting damages or punitive damages that the law provides should a jury find the security guards guilty.

About Jan Tucker

The Detectives Diary is an innovative tool combining Private Investigation and Journalism. In 1984, Steve Harvey's Los Angeles Times "Around the Southland" Column entitled Jan Tucker's program of providing low-cost "Opposition Research" services to indigent and working class candidates for public office, "Take Cover: Hired Mudslinger Rides into Town." A 1996 Los Angeles Times article by Henry Chu carried a sub-headline identifying Tucker as a "P.R. Guru." In November 2012, Tucker became Criminal Justice Columnist for Counter Punch Magazine and a commentator for Black Talk Radio. As a private investigator since 1979 and a former First Vice President of Newspaper Guild Local 69, Tucker takes these skills to a new level in the pages of the Detectives Diary with insightful and unique exposures and analysis of history and current events. State Director--California League of Latinos And Chicanos, Former seven term Chairman of the Board of the California Association of Licensed Investigators, Co-President San Fernando Valley/Northeast Los Angeles Chapter-National Organization for Women, former National Commissioner for Civil Rights-League of United Latin American Citizens, former Second Vice President-Inglewood-South Bay Branch-National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, former founding Vice President-Armenian American Action Committee, former First Vice President, Newspaper Guild Local 69 (AFL-CIO, CLC, CWA), Board member, Alameda Corridor Jobs Coalition, Community Advisory Board member--USC-Keck School of Medicine Alzheimer's Disease Research Project
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