"Even if you do something wrong, you should make it to jail alive," says Birdie Gutierrez, an organizer whose group, La Flor De La Resistencia, was represented among about 30 protesters who gathered in San Ysidro on Saturday afternoon (November 12) to march upon the border in a call for justice in what they say is a rash of unjustified killings.
"Just counting back from 2010 to here, there have been 50 murders by the Border Patrol," says Gutierrez. "To date, no one has been held accountable for any of them, despite videos and witnesses in many cases. They need to change their policies on use of force.
"Shooting a child for throwing a rock is unjustifiable. They shot Jose Antonio Elena ten times. He was only 15 years old."
Gutierrez refers to 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodriguez, who was gunned down in a high-profile case in Arizona in 2012. Elena Rodriguez was found to be unarmed and on the Mexican side of the border at the time of the shooting.
Families of several individuals who died at or near the border in San Diego were also on hand.
"Anastasio Henandez Rojas was brutally beaten by 14 agents. They beat him with batons, kicked him, tased him seven times. They fried his brain – he was in the hospital for one or two days, then he died," continues Gutierrez. "There's video of that. But last year they closed the case, and no one was held accountable."
Hernandez was caught attempting to cross the border illegally in 2010. Though previously deported, he had been living in San Diego for about 20 years and his wife and family still resided in the U.S. An autopsy ruled his death a homicide, but no charges were ever filed.
Protesters gathered at Larsen Field Park in San Ysidro before embarking on their march. They called for the use of body cameras by border agents, in addition to other reforms they say the federal government has been resistant to despite years of pleas. Their sense of urgency was elevated, they say, because of the ascension of Donald Trump as the country's president-elect.
"Because of the election, a lot of people are living in fear because of the things Donald Trump has said he's going to do around the border. We're sending the message that we will not live in fear; we will not get used to this."