As the U.S. marks the 229th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights on Tuesday, activists in Pasadena are continuing their fight to see a “Community Bill of Rights” enacted at the local level.
The NAACP Pasadena Branch and the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON) put forward the document over the summer. It calls for 12 reforms that primarily revolve around changes to law enforcement.
“The purpose was really to be a call of action to address inequities here in Pasadena,” NAACP Pasadena Branch President Allen Edson said. “This all launched after the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.”
Since then, “It’s got a lot of traction,” he said.
“Over 700 people signed the petition in support of the Bill of Rights in Pasadena,” Edson said. “Our first demand was the creation of civilian oversight of the Pasadena Police Department, and that’s happened.”
Another demand in the Community Bill of Rights is to expand the hiring of police officers from the local community. Police Chief John Perez announced in October that the department would be prioritizing local candidates in its efforts to fill two-dozen upcoming vacancies.
But there is much work to be done, as the final shape of the new Civilian Oversight Commission has yet to take form.
“The next steps are: What’s the composition of the Civilian Oversight Commission going to look like and how those people are going to be selected, particularly from the side of the community?” Edson said.
The NAACP plans to continue pushing for other aspects of the Community Bill of Rights.
“We’re still in it,” he said. “There are other demands. We had 12, and so we’re still working… We haven’t gone away, and now, with a lot of the gun violence that’s happening in Pasadena, we’re stepping up to see if we can come up with some solutions,” Edson said.
NDLON Co-Executive Director Pablo Alvarado agreed that while progress has been made “on paper,” there remains much to be done.
“The purpose was to bring unity to the progressive forces, to have a document, a platform to rally behind. And that’s what we use to mobilize thousands and thousands of Pasadenans to demand police reform in our city,” he said.
“We’re going to see now what kind of people, the political class, is going to pack that commission with; if they’re going to have abolitionists or reformers, or if they’re going to have protectors of the police officers,” said Alvarado.
“We need people who really believe that police can actually be reformed and that we can make it better for people of color in particular in our city. We’ll see how far our city goes to make sure that the civil rights violations don’t take place in our city,” he said.
Alvarado said as the fight for social change continues, he is also worried about a recent increase in gun violence in the city.
“Violence takes away the best of our communities, so I think it’s important that we call attention. And it’s not just when the police kill somebody,” he said. “It’s when we have a situation like this, too. We’ve got to care.”
The full text of the Community Bill of Rights can be found online at actionnetwork.org/letters/support-the-pasadena-community-bill-of-rights.