BY DAN FURMAN
JERSEY CITY, New Jersey - Some 500 people marched through the driving rain here May 17 to protest police brutality and demand justice for Julio Tarquino. Tarquino, 22, was visiting New Jersey from Palm Springs, Florida, with his fiancee when he was arrested, handcuffed, and brutally beaten by off-duty police officers May 8. He died five days later from his injuries.
The march drew participants and gestures of solidarity from nearby apartment dwellers as it wound its way from the gas station where Tarquino was attacked to a rally in front of the county administration building in downtown Jersey City. Tarquino was a Bolivian native, and many participants carried Bolivian flags, as well as flags from Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and other countries in Latin America. A soccer team joined the march in uniform. Speakers at the rally included a broad array of Latino community leaders, victims of police brutality, and other activists.
Tarquino had stopped with Jenny Fiallos, his fiancee, and a friend at a gas station on the way home from a nightclub. After a confrontation with two men outside, off-duty cop John Chiusolo ran up and began hitting Tarquino. According to witnesses, Tarquino was handcuffed, struck with a blackjack and then repeatedly kicked in the head by Chiusolo while on the ground.
All three were arrested and taken to a hospital after the scuffle. There they were examined for head injuries and then released back into police custody. Five hours later, Tarquino was discovered slumped over in his cell. He died from bleeding on the brain caused by multiple skull fractures.
The incident provoked particular outrage because Chiusolo has a history of brutality. In 1991, he shot and killed Maximino Cintrón Ortiz, a 22-year old from Puerto Rico who was tinting the car windows of a friend in Jersey City. Despite organized protests, Chiusolo was cleared by a grand jury three months later. After Tarquino's arrest, a Puerto Rican man came forward to complain about being beaten by Chiusolo after he was stopped on the highway. On May 9, nearly 150 protesters stormed into the Jersey City Council meeting to demand justice for Tarquino.
Under increasing pressure, Jersey City authorities charged Chiusolo with murder. Chiusolo turned himself in and was released on $100,000 bail, provoking further outrage. "This is not enough to pay for Julio's life," said his brother Milton Tarquino, who flew up from Bolivia. The Bolivian government has asked for an investigation into the death of Julio Tarquino.
Speakers addressed the May 17 rally for two hours, mostly in Spanish, with speeches frequently punctuated by cries of "Justice for Julio!"
"I was brutalized myself," said Isabel Espinoza, a local activist against police brutality. "It is not just abuse - it takes away our dignity, our self-esteem. We have to fight back. And it is not just Latinos who understand this. We are a mixed community - whites, Blacks and Latinos must fight this together."
Others raised that the problem lay within the police department. "The police are charged with upholding the law," said Maynard Banks, president of the Jersey City chapter of the NAACP. "We need to have an independent civilian review board appointed so that we can ensure that they do their job right."
De Lacy Davis, an East Orange policeman and founder of "Black Cops Against Police Brutality" stated, "We, as Black and Latino police officers, must stand up and not allow this kind of thing to happen." "We need officers that look like us, understand us, and that come from the same background as us," chimed in a Jersey City detective who joined him on- stage. Jersey City police organizations have come out in support of Chiusolo.
Many in the crowd expressed the view that the arrest of Chiusolo was just the beginning of the struggle. "We want him tried on homicide charges," said Tony Morales. "We don't want him to get a slap on the wrist - we want him in jail."
"This is a fight for all working people," said Robert
Miller, Socialist Workers candidate for Congress in New
Jersey's 29th District, who spoke at the rally. "As an auto
worker, I can tell you that this is being discussed in every
language among workers across the state. A victory is
possible in this case - we can win the conviction of
Chiusolo - but only if we keep organizing and reaching out
to draw more people into the struggle against police
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