The Santa Monica community, with regional support, commemorated the first anniversary of the murder of Eddie Lopez on Wednesday, February 28, with a rally at Santa Monica High School (Samohi), a march up Lincoln Boulevard and a mass at St. Monica’s Church. Lopez, a 15-year-old honor student at Samohi with no gang connections, was shot and killed on Pico Boulevard in an incident for which police this February arrested eight persons associated with a West Los Angeles gang.
An afternoon press conference outside Samohi last Wednesday featured local voices and faces familiar to, but still passionate about, the fight against youth violence, including Oscar de la Torre of the Pico Youth and Family Center, Stan Muhammad of Venice 2000, Kevin McKeown of the Santa Monica City Council, Fr. Mike Gutierrez of St. Anne’s Church and Shrine and Rev. Janet McKeithen of the Church in Ocean Park.
They were joined by people from the broader region, including Jared Rivera of LA Voice, which has helped bring the Santa Monica and regional communities together in youth violence forums, and Anna Del Rio of Justice for Murdered Children, a group that posts “Stop the Killing” billboards throughout the Los Angeles area.
And there were painful personal testimonies, including Arminda Lopez, Eddie Lopez’s mother; Lucio Martin, father of Miguel Martin, 20, shot and killed December 27, 2006 in Santa Monica; Ms. Del Rio, whose 20-year-old daughter Teresa was murdered in 1999 by gangs; Anita Purnell, whose 15-year-old grandson was murdered; and Marcela Leach, whose daughter was killed while sleeping in her bedroom in Malibu.
De la Torre and Muhammad presented a five-point plan – “Operation Save Our Youth” – which called for funding “prevention and intervention programs at the same rate we fund enforcement” and devoting to youth violence “the same vision and attention as we give to homelessness,” among other things. Councilmember McKeown, noting that he was “tired of going to funerals,” called for providing youth with “real opportunity, economically and socially, to keep them away from the gang life” and Fr. Mike later told the Mirror that the violence “does happen here – happens everywhere – hits all of us.”
The podium speeches broke up about the time Samohi students got out of school, and a march of about 300 students and adults proceeded from Samohi up Lincoln Boulevard to St. Monica’s Catholic Church on California Avenue for the annual Healing of the Heart Mass celebrated by Monsignor Lloyd A. Torgerson.
There was a hiatus between the marchers arriving at St. Monica’s and the scheduled time for the mass, and the crowd gathered in Christine Reed Park (aka Lincoln Park) across California Avenue from the church. Oscar de la Torre later reported that the young people in the crowd had a “speak out” in which they said that they “want to see a better world,” and proclaimed, “We’re no longer victims – we now can shape our future.”