This afternoon, July 5, marked the third anniversary of the senseless beating of Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic drifter whose life was needlessly taken from him by officers of the Fullerton Police Department. The people gathered in the parking lot near the bus station to mark the sad occasion include his family, strangers who became family demanding justice for him, news vans; about a hundred people of good conscience who refuse to allow the killing to fade into inconsequence.
The lamppost near the scene of Kelly’s death is decorated with red, white and blue ribbon for Independence Day, with pictures of Kelly tucked into the folds. Flowers surround its base. Messages of solidarity and remembrance are chalked onto the ground and walls. Paintings of Kelly are everywhere.
Thoughtful friends bring water and packaged toiletries for people who don’t take these necessities for granted. Others bring food for them.
Some would say that those living on the edge have nothing to lose, but they know that they, like Kelly, have everything to lose. For many it would be much easier to make themselves scarce during a gathering like this one. But they show up because they know that being together makes them safer, and because they can’t look the other way.
The familiar faces of working people, professionals, and those just getting by somehow, are reassuring. What they share is a deep conviction that someone should be held responsible for what happened here, and the character to confront the schizophrenic experience of knowing that no one has been yet. They’ll be there next year too, and the year after.
It’s the third anniversary of a night when a man lost his life and a city was changed. Changed enough? That’s for the survivors to decide.