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Santa Monica-Malibu School Board members Kneel to Protest Police Shooting
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jorge Casuso

September 23, 2016 -- Two Santa Monica-Malibu School Board members knelt during the pledge of allegiance at the board's meeting Thursday night to protest the police shooting this week of a black man in Charlotte, North Carolina.

School Board members Oscar de la Torre and Craig Foster are likely the first government officials in the LA area to join the symbolic protest started by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick, de la Torre said.

A number of NFL players have joined Kapernick in his refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem.

"As an education leader, I want to take the debate from the football field to the district office," de la Torre told the Lookout. "It's the first time in Santa Monica and likely the first time in LA" that a government official joins the protest.

De la Torre, who is running for City Council, said the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old African American man, by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Tuesday, "was the tipping point" for him.

"We have a crisis in the country where there are African American men and Latino men being deprived of their life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which is in violation of the constitution," de la Torre said.

"The constitution protects our right to express ourselves," he said. "We want to stand in solidarity with those who want to protest the unjust murder of our fellow Americans."

De la Torre said it was appropriate to stage the protest on the night the School Board discussed a plan to close the achievement gap between the district's white, mostly well-off student majority and Latino and black students ("Santa Monica-Malibu Schools Get Failing Grades in Closing Achievement Gap," April 20, 2016).

"I, for one, understand that all these issues are related," de la Torrre said. "Racism, poverty, oppression, its all connected."

The fact that Officer Brentley Vinson, who shot Scott, is black, as well as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney, did not affect the need to protest.

"I've always stood against violence, whether it's police-related or not," said de la Torrre, who noted that as head of the Pico Youth and Family Center, he has held numerous peace marches in the wake of fatal shootings in Santa Monica.

"If I don't do something about it, it would make me sick, so I just had to respond."

De la Torre said that he and Foster, the lone Malibu resident on the Board, let their colleagues know before the meeting that they planned to kneel in protest.

"We didn't want to surprise them, and we wanted to give them the opportunity to join in," he said.

Asked if he and Foster planned to continue to protest at future meetings, de la Torre responded, "It sounds like we'll be doing this for a very long time. Until things change."


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