DOWNEY ‚àí After months of protesting the shooting death of South Gate resident Michael Nida, friends and family of the 31-year-old father of four are taking their message to the streets this weekend, marching from Paramount Boulevard and Imperial Highway to City Hall where the group will call for the end of racial profiling and police brutality.Ever since Nida was struck down by Downey Police on Oct. 22, friends and family have attended nearly every City Council meeting, joining forces with local civil rights organizations to both protest his death and petition city officials to reform public safety policies. Homicide detectives at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department are still investigating the fatal shooting, which left Nida dead after he struggled with Downey officers who suspected he may have been involved in a nearby ATM robbery. After eluding police twice, Nida fled but was shot four times after turning towards officers "in an aggressive manner." Police later acknowledged, however, that Nida was not involved in the robbery and was unarmed. Doug Kaufman of the Answer Coalition, which seeks to end war and any vestiges of racism, hopes this weekend's march will help highlight an injustice that he believes has since gone unnoticed and unchecked. "We've been working with the family for months now," said Kaufman. "No matter how people try to spin it, Michael Nida was innocent, unarmed ‚àí he committed no crime. He was stopped because of the way he looked and the color of his skin. "Police claim he turned towards them in an aggressive manner, but no matter how he moves, they have non-lethal methods," said Kaufman who likened Nida's death to the officer-involved killings of Oscar Grant in Oakland and Kelly Thomas in Fullerton. "Just because someone runs doesn't mean they're guilty…this was pre-meditated murder." Damien Ramirez, Nida's best friend since childhood, also wonders why Downey Police couldn't use other methods to detain Nida. "This is an epidemic not limited to Downey but shocking how many shootings take place in Downey," said Ramirez, 35. "It doesn't make sense that there wasn't any alternatives ‚àí they don't have to kill you." Ramirez said the Nida's family understands the city can't respond to the officer-involved shooting directly while the investigation is underway, but they're hopeful the city will acknowledge the incident by embracing some reforms. "The police chief said they killed the wrong man. The City Council needs to stand up and say this can't happen in our community," said Ramirez. "We're asking the city to protect the community, make it safer for us to live and do business in." In order to do that, Kaufman believes the officer responsible for killing Nida should be arrested and charged. "Justice is making sure there are not anymore Mike Nida's," said Kaufman. "It's making sure racial profiling and police brutality is addressed. But justice won't be given to us, justice comes only to those who fight for it." Kaufman supports the creation of a community-elected oversight board endowed with the authority to examine cases of police brutality and exterminate officers who abuse their power. "The only people who police the police are the police and under any criticisms they always stand together," Kaufman said. "Downey police have murdered 12 people in the last 10 years, this is an epidemic. Everyone needs to get out there...because at some point it could happen to their son, it could happen to their daughter or it could happen to them." Ramirez said the City Council should stand up and support its residents in south Downey by questioning police activity in the area. "We're not opposed to good cops doing their jobs, but cops aren't friends down here. It's a whole different tune down here," said Ramirez who grew up in nearby Hollydale and attended St. Raymond's School. "Mikie ran because he was traumatized, he was harassed by the police before because of the way he looked - bald, big t-shirts, Dickies." Ramirez, however, promises the city's inaction won't be met with inaction. "If we wait for it to get cold, it'll get forgotten," he said. "No one's going to care, nothing's going to change. You have to struggle for justice in the context of its time. You stand up when the time is right - the time is now." Ramirez said the march, which starts at 12 p.m. at the intersection of Paramount Boulevard and Imperial Highway where Nida was killed, will be peaceful and positive, done in the spirit of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and philosopher Henry David Thoreau. "We are his best friends and family, we're a tight community. We're really feeling his lost," said Ramirez of himself as well as Michael Nida's wife, Naily and their four children. "They're struggling, this is a nightmare that I can't comprehend. We're trying to be strong for them, but it's hard to go through this without anyone caring." Ramirez said the family will nonetheless continue to attend council meetings calling on council members to initiate dialogue concerning Nida's death and how future officer-involved shootings may be prevented. "The City Council needs to clean up its own house," Ramirez said.
********** Published: January 26, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 41