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Andy Lopez protest confrontations on Highway 101, Santa Rosa streets end peacefully (w/video)

  • Santa Rosa police officers in riot gear block a group of protesters on the downtown offramp of Highway 101. (Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat)

A demonstration over the shooting death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez turned into a tense standoff with riot-gear-clad police Saturday afternoon after a group of angry protesters blocked traffic on Highway 101 near the Third Street off-ramp.

The decision by about 20people to march up onto the busy freeway shortly after 4 p.m. escalated what had been a passionate but peaceful protest into a potentially volatile confrontation with police from three law enforcement agencies.

No arrests were made and the show of force by officers ultimately coerced protesters — many of whom were from outside Sonoma County — off the freeway.

Andy Lopez Protest in Santa Rosa

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But the face-off that followed at the base of the offramp between about 30 Santa Rosa police officers and a group of boisterous protesters who tried in vain to provoke them underscored just how potent and enduring the movement protesting Lopez's death remains.

“What we did today was phenomenal!” Ras Ceylon, an activist from Oakland, told marchers after they marched back to Old Courthouse Square. “It was a rebellious act of struggle!”

The demonstration began around 1 p.m. when 200 or more protesters gathered in Old Courthouse Square to express their dismay over Sonoma County District Attorney District Ravitch's decision to not bring criminal charges against Deputy Erick Gelhaus.

Ravitch said Gelhaus acted within the law when on Oct. 22 he shot and killed Lopez as the boy walked down the street carrying an airsoft BB gun that resembled an AK-47 rifle.

“Ravitch says justified, we say homicide!” the crowd chanted as activist Jonathan Melrod denounced her decision.

The event was in many ways similar to others held before Ravitch's decision, with people carrying signs reading “Jailhouse for Gelhaus” and “Why 7 shots?” — a reference to the seven times Lopez was shot.

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