EDINBURG — Under a tree, outside the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s office on a sunny Saturday afternoon, Katia Gonzalez sighed deeply as she attempted to speak about her brother’s suffering.
“Si se puede,” voices shouted in Spanish from the crowd. She wasn’t alone. “Yes, you can,” they told her.
In solidarity, Katia was joined by her family members, La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), Divest Invest RGV and protestors, who held signs that read, “Law student against police brutality,” and “A badge is not a license to kill” to name a few.
“My brother was very cheerful. He smiled … he was very nice, social,” Katia said in Spanish. “After everything that happened to him, seriously, I’m telling you clearly, he didn’t smile anymore from all they’ve done to him.”
Various people, including Katia, were wearing shirts that had a photo of her brother, Jorge Gonzalez Zuniga, smiling as he was working.
More than six months ago, Gonzalez Zuniga was arrested by deputies with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office. His booking photo from the arrest in April showed someone holding Gonzalez Zuniga’s head up.
Additionally, Katia, addressing the crowd, asked why police officers operated with impunity.
“How is it that a police officer can kill, be able to cause this type of harm, and nothing happens to them,” Katia said in Spanish at the protest. “Why? Because they are all the same here.
“It’s unjust, we want justice for our brother, because that’s what he asked of me — to get justice. And I’m going to do it and I won’t rest until I get it.”
Saturday’s protest was in response to a grand jury declining to bring charges against the deputies involved in Gonzalez Zuniga’s arrest.
According to the document, the grand jury “inquired carefully” into the Texas Rangers’ investigation “for the offense of manslaughter” and voted on a no bill on Aug. 20.
However, it’s worth noting that the Texas Department of Public Safety continued to say the investigation was ongoing as of Sept. 12 — more than three weeks after the no bill was filed.
Attempts to gain clarification from DPS were unsuccessful as of press time.
The case was presented to the grand jury by the Texas Rangers and the DA’s office.
“There was an independent investigation that was done by the Texas Rangers, and once the investigation was done, then that case was presented to our office for purposes of us reviewing the case and preparing it to present to the grand jury,” Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez said. “When the case was presented to the grand jury, the case was presented with the Texas Rangers presenting the case to the grand jury along with us.”
As a result, the protest “Justice for Jorge” was organized, demanding the sheriff’s office release all the videos and records pertaining to Gonzalez Zuniga’s time in custody, firing the deputies involved in the arrest and revealing the names of the unidentified officers.
In the lawsuit, deputies Steven Farias and Marco Guerrero are listed as defendants with two other, unidentified deputies referred to as John Doe 1 and 2.
Gonzalez Zuniga’s family, however, are also demanding that the officers who took Jorge’s booking photo and held his head up for the photo be named as well.
“Jorge Gonzalez’s life was cut short due to police brutality by Hidalgo County deputy Steven Farris and two unknown officers,” Danielle Gonzalez, Jorge’s aunt, stated at the protest. “Police brutality has ended [the] lives of many and families are left without answers.”
Prior to the march, various organizers with LUPE, and Divest Invest RGV also spoke to the crowd, which revealed Gonzalez Zuniga was a member of LUPE.
In addition to reminding the demonstrators of social distancing and leading chants, Yasmine Gonzalez extended the conversation further by speaking of police brutality in the Valley.
“We’re here today because police brutality and killer cops cannot be a thing any longer,” Yasmine said. “We’re here today because we want to defund the police, we want to divest from killer cops and reinvest into our communities.”
“This is not the first time that this happened,” Yasmine said. “This is happening all around our country and the RGV is not immune to this.”
After speakers shared their words, the demonstrators continued to march around the Hidalgo County Courthouse twice.
Their chants, “Say his name,” and “No justice, no peace, defund the police,” to name a few, echoed around the courthouse, with some vehicles honking their horns in response. One man in particular, rolled down his window and clapped, chanting, ‘Yes,’ at the protestors marching with their signs and fists in the air.
“[The deputies involved] need to be jailed in the same way they jail other people,” Katia, in Spanish, stated during her speech. “Because we’re all the same and no one makes them superior over us.
“The [police] badge doesn’t make them superior.”
Soon after Katia finished her speech, another voice shouted in Spanish: “What is it that we want?”
“Justicia,” Katia answered into the microphone, with protestors joining shortly after.
“When do we want it?”
“Ahora,” everyone shouted, that time unified.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a comment from Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez.