SAN JOSE (BCN, KRON) — Community members from various walks of faith gathered in San Jose Thursday calling on city and county leaders to make informed decisions by drawing on Pope Francis’ message championing justice during his visit to the nation’s capitol.
They highlighted the importance of carrying the pope’s message in addressing local issues including immigration, jail conditions, racial equity and affordable housing during a noon ceremony outside the County Government
San Jose police Chief Larry Esquivel and Assistant Chief Eddie Garcia also attended Thursday’s ceremony organized by People Acting in Community Together, an interfaith and multicultural grassroots organization.
During the pope’s address to Congress he called on national leaders to bring their faith and values to their work and to listen to people “affected by structures of injustice and inequality,” said Deacon Ruben Solorio with the Diocese of San Jose.
The pope’s message called for all people to not only address the needs faced by the marginalized but to do so within institutions, Solorio said.
The group called for local leaders to take actions that “create a more equitable and inclusive valley,” Solorio said.
The Rev. Jeff Moore, president of the NAACP’s San Jose chapter, called on leaders to stop racial profiling and to train officers to address the “implicit biases that exist in all of us.”
Esquivel said working “collectively and collaboratively” are important factors in partnering with community leaders towards bettering the quality of life.
The department is addressing biases in policing by having police training staff take a fair and impartial policing class scheduled to take place in the spring, Esquivel said.
The police training staff will then pass the lessons on to the rest of the rank and file, Esquivel said.
There are also plans to incorporate the curriculum into the police academy, Esquivel said.
“As Pope Francis says, a change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone,” said Pastor Jennifer Goto of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.
People should move toward a “culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world,” Goto said.
Isabel Villavicencio, a leader with PACT, is an undocumented immigrant who came to the United States 26 years ago and has lived in constant fear of deportation.
She said she barely went out in public after her driver’s license expired and was unable to renew it.
She finally had “peace of mind” when Santa Clara County passed a detainer policy stopping local law enforcement from complying with U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to detain illegal immigrants.
Goto called on the county board of supervisors to continue keeping ICE out of the community and to “resist the false solution of deporting people.”
Peggy Bryan, a pastor at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, shared a statement from a mother whose son is in custody in county jail.
The mother spoke to her son after the death of inmate Michael Tyree, allegedly at the hands of three correctional deputies late last month, Bryan said.
The son told his mother that many inmates are beaten up and “a lot of guards are like hammers looking for nails.”
The mother thinks the county has harsh sentences and doesn’t provide enough support for those in custody, Bryan said.
Donna Furuta, a PACT leader, said her sons are struggling with housing. One of her sons is living with her and it has been difficult to accommodate space for him, Furuta said.
Rabbi Melanie Aron said the group is calling on the San Jose City Council to adopt stronger protections for renters, limiting rent increases, ending unjust evictions and preventing discrimination in housing.
High schools watched the Pope too. Presentation High School filled their gym Thursday morning to watch a live feed of the pontiff.
The all-girls school watched as Pope Francis addressed Congress in Washington, D.C. Students said they wanted to hear him speak on a number of topics, including immigration and climate change.
Teachers felt hearing the Pope speak on American soil helps students identify as Catholics in the U.S.