East Palo Alto city officials lead protest demonstration
By Nozipo Wobogo
East Palo Alto Today
Posted on September 3, 2009
Shouts of “Got to go! Got to Go! Sexual predators got to go!” could be heard from several blocks away as a crowd of demonstrators gave voice to their anger about the decision by Santa Clara County Judge Alfonso Fernandez to release Ronald Robinson to East Palo Alto. A group of about 60 to 70 people gathered in front of the house at 903 Beech Street that is occupied by Ronald Robinson who is described as a sexually violent predator. The protestors continually chanted. They also discussed how they felt about Robinson living in the neighborhood and living in their city.
When demonstrators were asked about their motivation for attending the protest, they gave varied responses. Matilda Sanchez said, “I’m out here because my children go to a school close by.”
Maisha Mouton said, “It’s important for women in the community to be able to safely walk the streets. There are some hard-working church-going folks out here and I’ve come to support them.”
“There are so many other places they could put him. This is an area where there are many children and they walk all over this area. Why here? Our community has enough problems already,” Lupe Buenrostro said.
Jeanne Cuffey-Tatum had still another reason why she felt compelled to attend the demonstration. “There are many other types of sex offenses such as prostitution and crimes committed with the use of the internet. What makes this different is the fact that Robinson is a violent predator. He could kill a woman. He’s different because of the violence,” she said.
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East Palo Alto Mayor Ruben Abrica led the community protest and expressed his own displeasure as well as the city’s displeasure with Judge Fernandez’ decision regarding Robinson. The level of displeasure he expressed during the protest seemed to match the displeasure that was also publicly expressed by Abrica’s colleagues on the city council, by other city and county officials as well as by many of the residents at the protest.
“I believe the judge made a grave error in releasing Mr. Robinson to East Palo Alto. This residence is within walking distance of several daycare centers, two churches, an elementary school and a high school. This neighborhood is a target-rich environment for a sexually violent predator such as Mr. Robinson,” he said.
Earlier in the afternoon, Abrica held a press conference, which was supported by the city’s Vice-Mayor David Woods. Woods was also present at the protest.
Dennis Scherzer and Carla Hernandez led vigorous chants encouraging the protesters to join in. Scherzer said, “Jack Manes (the doggie door rapist) who, although he committed his crimes and was arrested in another county, was paroled to a halfway house in East Palo Alto. Our loud protests forced him out quickly. So this works. Permits in our city for these halfway houses for dangerous criminals should be denied or because of the extra hazard they represent. A tenant, the landlord or the county should be required to purchase several million dollars in liability insurance.”
Linda Sutherland said, “We don’t want dangerous criminals here because we don’t have enough protection. By the time the police would get this guy, it might not be soon enough to save us.”
Abrica and Woods gave closing remarks and thanked the group for a peaceful demonstration. Woods said, “We have to be considerate of our neighbors with our protests. They are already burdened by Robinson’s presence in their neighborhood. We don’t want to be an additional burden”
Abrica added, “The judge will be watching the news. So send letters to him. Also, look out for one another.”