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Weeks After El Cajon Police Shooting, Community Is Still Gathering

Community organizer Wilnisha Sutton sings at a rally at the El Cajon Civic Center, Oct. 23, 2016.
Elma Gonzalez Lima Brandao
Community organizer Wilnisha Sutton sings at a rally at the El Cajon Civic Center, Oct. 23, 2016.

Weeks After El Cajon Police Shooting, Community Is Still Gathering
Organizers in El Cajon say Alfred Olango's death almost a month ago set off sparks that are igniting change. A memorial and rallies immediately after the shooting have given way to daily barbecues and community hangouts.

People in El Cajon have been gathering every day since Alfred Olango, an unarmed black man, was shot by a police officer. Organizers say his death has rallied the community.

They set up a memorial, held protests and marched through the city's streets immediately following the shooting death almost a month ago. Then they began having regular barbecues and community hangouts in the strip mall at 800 Broadway where Olango was shot.

"It’s brought a lot of us closer and we have a community now and a new family to where we know we have each other’s backs," said Wilnisha Sutton, a community organizer from the Skyline neighborhood of San Diego. She’s been at the rallies and gatherings since the start and said they’ve brought purpose to Olango’s death.

"A lot of people have come together and so his death, it wasn’t in vain," she said. "It created this community and this love and this fight."

A memorial is built near the spot where Alfred Olango was killed by police in El Cajon, Sept. 30, 2016.
Erik Anderson
A memorial is built near the spot where Alfred Olango was killed by police in El Cajon, Sept. 30, 2016.

Last week, El Cajon police made the group stop gathering in the spot where Olango was killed and take down the memorial, Sutton said. It was replaced with a police tower.

Businesses in the strip mall asked that the memorial and gatherings be moved, a spokesman for the El Cajon Police Department wrote in a press release.

Now the community meets at a nearby park, and on Sunday it rallied peacefully at the El Cajon Civic Center.

People there talked about the sparks that have been set off from Olango’s death, and said those sparks are igniting change.

"Great things have come," said a man who would only be identified by his nickname, Kuvo. "Some of the people you see here, there’s a lot of people emerging and stepping up to the plate."

He encouraged the crowd of about 50 to register to vote and get involved in local politics. The group plans to speak during public comment Tuesday at an El Cajon City Council meeting.

"Instead of standing outside and waiting for them to come to us and harass us, we’re going to start going to your courtrooms, going to your council meetings, and we’re going to study just like you study," said Rumbie Mubaiwa.

But Mubaiwa said they will continue to protest and ask for justice from the shooting. They want El Cajon Police Officer Richard Gonsalves, who shot Olango, to be fired and charged with murder.

Related: City Heights Groups Take Different Approaches To Driving Social Change

Sutton said they also want elected leaders to work with them for change.

"I’m doing what the society wants us to do, what the government tells us to do: Get people to vote, tell them our problems," she said. "We’re doing that, yet you’re still killing our people."

Community organizers and clergymembers speak at a rally in El Cajon Civic Center, Oct. 23, 2016.
Claire Trageser
Community organizers and clergymembers speak at a rally in El Cajon Civic Center, Oct. 23, 2016.

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