Woman who face pig's blood vandalism charges organize George Floyd vigil in Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa held a George Floyd remembrance Tuesday, organized and led by three women who face local vandalism charges in connection with the Derek Chauvin trial.

"To gather here a year later is powerful because we are still here," said Amber Lucas, flanked by Kristen Aumoithe and Rowan Dalbey, each addressing the audience at Old Courthouse Square.

"We are still showing up, speaking out and standing firm against police brutality," declared Lucas.

About 100 people spread out on the grass in the downtown plaza.

The three activists have denied involvement in the April 17 vandalism of the former home of a defense witness who testified for Chauvin.

Animal blood and a pig's head were strewn on the porch and garage of the Santa Rosa home.

The current residents have no connection to the George Floyd case.

On the same night, a large sculpture of a hand outside the Santa Rosa Plaza Mall was also covered in blood, with a sign reading "oink, oink".

Like many communities, Santa Rosa has been roiled by a racial reckoning and is moving toward police reforms.

Plans are pending to send counselors - not cops- on mental health calls. 

The anniversary was a moment to take stock of what has and has not changed in one year.  

"Where are all the Black people if this is a Black Lives Matter event?" said Jimauri Moore, indignant about the relatively small turnout. "Profiling still exists, harassment exists and so does intimidation!"

Added friend Onjelle Washington: "A lot of people use this for a spotlight, to get their name out there and it should be more than that, our people are becoming hashtags."

Song, poetry and an open mic made for a low-key remembrance.

"Hard to believe it's been a year, and all the things that have happened and keep happening, and aren't going away," said Megan Bulger who listened alongside husband Neil, with their infant in tow.

Sonoma County had a racial reckoning in 2013, when a Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy fatally shot Andy Lopez, 13, unleashing widespread community outrage.

The deputy, at a distance, fired without taking time to ascertain that the replica weapon Lopez was carrying was not real.

Although the deputy was cleared of wrongdoing, structural reforms followed.

In 2019, another Sonoma Sheriff's deputy was fired and criminally charged in the death of David Ward of Sebastopol.

Ward's head was bashed against his car and he was choked out while in the driver's seat of the vehicle,  which had previously been reported stolen.

The carotid technique used was subsequently banned by the department. 

Multi-million dollar settlements were paid to both the Ward and Lopez families.   

"It is disappointing that there are no civic leaders here at this event," said Evan Phillips, who leads an organization called Love and Light, formed after Floyd's killing.

"You can instill whatever policies you want but unless the culture shifts, you can expect more abuses of power to come," said Phillips.

For many young people Floyd's murder was a personal touchstone.

"For me, I feel like it opened the doors to all these struggles," said Arella La Rose, 18.

"I actually was going to throw away my posters but then more people died, more protests happened and it seemed like the problem just growing and growing."

At one point in the rally, the crowd raised their hands, when asked if they could remember where they were when they heard about George Floyd and saw the wrenching cell phone video.

"We know what led us here, we know about the moments in between and I can't believe it's been a year," exclaimed Lucas, raising a fist to lead a chant.

"Black Lives Matter," responded the crowd in unison.

Lucas, Dalbey and Aumoithe are due in court in August.

Civil rights attorneys who are defending them have said they were falsely accused.

The women did not address the case publicly and declined to talk about it when asked.

"We'll have other times to make statements, but today we're listening and focusing on George Floyd and remembering his life," said Lucas.