Protesters camping at Richmond City Hall demand justice for Vanessa Guillen

Protesters camp at Richmond Civic Center to demand justice for Vanessa Guillen
Protesters have set up tents at Richmond Civic Center Plaza this week in order to demand justice for Vanessa Guillen, a soldier murdered in Fort Hood, Texas. (Photos by Mike Kinney)

By Mike Kinney

Protesters have set up tents in Richmond Civic Center Plaza, where nightly vigils are being held in memory of slain Army soldier Vanessa Guillen. As of this morning, three tents had set up in the city plaza, and protesters were encouraging others to join. They said they plan to remain there indefinitely until they see justice for Guillen.

Demonstrators hope to gain the attention of city, county and state officials and build momentum for the national call for a congressional probe into the military’s handling of abuse cases, and to force accountability and ultimately change what many view as a culture of abuse in the military, according to Gonzalo Rucobo, co-founder of Richmond-based Bay Area Peacekeepers.

On Monday, hundreds of community members attended the first vigil at Richmond’s city center for Guillen, 20, who authorities suspect was murdered by Aaron Robinson, a fellow soldier at Fort Hood military base in Texas who later committed suicide when confronted by investigators. The case gained national attention over allegations that the military mishandled this and other assault cases and doesn’t do enough to prevent incidents.

At the second Richmond Civic Center vigil on Tuesday night, young protesters set up a tent as part of an “occupation” of the city plaza. Campers include Richmond resident Jose Perez, 23, his wife Michelle, 21, his brother Carlos Perez, 19, and friend Dennis Perez, 24. This morning, Rucobo and Diego Garcia, owner of Leftside Printing and president of Richmond SOL, set up tents to join them.

“We invite all people to come and bring their tents and join us in solidarity with justice for Vanessa,” Rucobo said.

Jose Perez said what happened to Vanessa “should not have happened.”

“We are here to ensure change is made and make sure the criminals are held accountable,” Jose said. “I am here to back up these women and their stories.”