Murder in California by Riverside County Sheriffs Sparks Protests

Chris Aquino

Summary: Protests outside Los Angeles after deputies working under rightwing Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco murder an Indigenous/Brown man who was having a mental health episode — Editors

Riverside County, which is located east of Los Angeles, continues to experience protests over the December 15 murder of an Indigenous and Brown man named Ernie Serrano by Sheriff’s Deputies. Several 24-hour vigils on the site of the murder scene have occurred with the assistance of the Brown Berets and Chicaaa, a local community organization. Calls to boycott Stater Bros, the grocery store chain whose employees worsened the mental state of Ernie Serrano and called the police on him, continue to grow louder.

Like so many human beings who have the misfortune of experiencing this in life, Ernie had undergone a mental health episode. He wandered into a Rubidoux, California supermarket called Stater Bros out of touch with reality. He walked around for a fair amount of time and, after complaints from staff, they proceeded to call the police on him.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, a body of armed men in defense of capital not known for their compassionate policing, proceeded to strongarm Ernie. At one point, a camera caught footage of a deputy beating Ernie. Several deputies eventually pinned Ernie down onto a checkout counter and obstructed his breathing.

Despite Ernie saying, again and again, that he was in pain and he could not breathe, the police continued to abuse him. Ernie died at their hands. They killed him. This is the inevitable effect of living in a white supremacist and capitalist society where racial capitalism empowers its bodyguards to treat human beings as objects and break them.

This issue extends to the leadership of the Deputies who murdered Ernie. Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco claimed in a press conference following the killing that Ernie died for drug related reasons. He claimed that his deputies always seek to protect the health of the community they supposedly protect and serve. This from a man who was proud to say that he would not enforce the paltry restrictions California Governor Gavin Newsom helped launch to protect against COVID-19. This is the same Sheriff Chad Bianco who publicly expresses anti-vaxxer sentiments and who not only refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine, but also said he has never taken the flu vaccine his entire life.

It is thus no surprise that the deputies who murdered Ernie did not wear masks. Even in the midst of a pandemic that has killed over 500,000 Americans and so many more people around the world, this small act of compassion was refused. It was refused much like the cries that came out of Ernie Serrano. It was denied the same way George Floyd’s breath was taken away. All of this even occurred on numerous body cameras.

As anticapitalists and believers in a humanist society we must remove the material conditions that lead to racial capitalism and its murderous consequences. This means ending the dictatorship of the state and defunding, disarming, and abolishing the police. In their place we demand a just society where the police are replaced with social workers, counselors, and groups of people from the same communities as today’s “criminals”. As Ernie Serrano’s family stated, the white people who use drugs just like Brown and Indigenous people are treated much better than Ernie ever was. We have a duty to change this. We will do it by abolishing capitalism and the police.

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