A group of animated protesters started to count up to 17 — the number of times police shot at Antonio Zambrano-Montes — as they poured into a Pasco intersection and in front of oncoming traffic.
Drivers honked their horns and some yelled out their windows. The cluster of men, women and children remained defiant.
Protesters sprawled out on the cold concrete and counted until they hit the infamous number. Then there was silence.
The “die-in” Friday night feet from where Zambrano-Montes was killed and the subsequent moment of silence marked the two-month anniversary of the police shooting.
Video of the Feb. 10 shooting has sparked national outrage, caught the attention of state and federal agencies and led to harsh criticism of the police force. The 35-year-old Pasco orchard worker was shot between five and seven times after police say he threw at least one rock at three officers.
Although it’s been two months since the shooting, tension remained high and emotions fresh among the group of protesters who took to the streets to speak out against the Pasco Police Department.
Many protesters voiced frustrations with the local investigation, which they say isn’t moving fast enough, and the perceived lack of action and communication from city officials in Pasco.
“People are wanting something to be done. We were mad and frustrated when all this happened,” said Eddie Enriquez, 39, who has been involved in protests since the day after the shooting. “Two months later the shock has turned to disbelief that nothing has happened.”
Fueling the group’s anger is the recent murder charge brought against a former South Carolina cop after he was captured on video shooting Walter Scott, 50, who ran during a traffic stop. Michael T. Slager, 33, was charged just days after the April 4 shooting and fired from the force.
Protesters watched the video of Walker’s death and immediately drew comparisons with the Pasco shooting, they said. The video led many of them to question why the three officers involved haven’t been charged or at the very least fired.
“They see that in South Carolina and they see what happened here. Its frustrating. It’s frustrating to see.,” said George Paul Trejo Jr., a Yakima attorney representing Zambrano-Montes’ widow and two children. “Why can people in South Carolina — the home of the Ku Klux Klan — act in such a swift manner and here in Franklin County, where the majority of the people are Hispanic, nothing is done months later?”
Ben Patrick, who witnessed the shooting from the Fiesta Foods parking lot and has been heavily involved in protests, says watching the video of Scott being shot brought back memories of watching Zambrano-Montes die.
He agreed that seeing how quickly Slager was charged and fired only raised frustrations in Pasco.
“It took the community there days to notice how wrong it was,” he said. “I still have that same vision of what happened in my head that night. (Watching the video) certainty flared it up for me.”
Also adding to protesters’ discontent is the way they have been treated by city officials, who haven’t put the issues surrounding the shooting on the city council agenda, said Jeremy Petersen, who has organized protests and marches.
Petersen met with Pasco City Manager Dave Zabell recently, but left the meeting feeling that not enough action has been taken and not enough was in place to prevent similar incidents from happening, he said.
“Thus far we are just getting rhetoric and stonewalled,” he said.
Protestors plan to be visible throughout the Tri-Cities this weekend and next week.
A rally and march is planned for 2 p.m. Saturday at Volunteer Park, 1125 North Fourth Ave., Pasco.
Tri-Cities Community Solutions is taking part in a nationwide day of protest against police brutality April 14. The group asks people to step out of their daily routine and “walk out,” according to a news release.
The April 14 event begins with a Unity Walk at 8 a.m. at John Dam Plaza, 1815 George Washington Way, Richland. It will move through the Tri-Cities and end at 3 p.m. with a rally, featuring speakers and musicians, at Volunteer Park in Pasco.