More than 100 people came together at Emmanuel Bilingual Baptist Church on Wednesday night to discuss violence on the streets and a lack trust in law enforcement in East Salinas. Participants said it was just the first step to moving beyond the fear, frustration and anger following recent officer-involved shootings.
"We want our voices to be heard as residents. But we want to do it in a way that's gonna impact others and its gonna benefit the community as well, not just harm it," said resident Sylvia Ramirez.
Ramirez said protestors that marched on the streets one week ago, aren't reflective of everyone in East Salinas. Outrage poured onto the pavement following recent officer involved shootings and a peaceful protest turned into violence toward police.
Now, organizations like Motivating Individual Leadership for Public Advancement, the United Farm Workers Foundation and East Salinas Building Healthy Communities are focusing on the Hispanic community who may have witnessed the officer involved shootings during the past few weeks. It’s all to help them find better ways to cope.
"We're coming together to open up a space for the community to really have the ability to dialogue to talk about their feelings and just a lot of the trauma that has been happening as a results of the last couple of weeks in Salinas," said UFW Foundation community outreach coordinator Jesus Valenzuela.
The faith-based community said it's trying to give residents hope of a more peaceful future for Salinas. Participants broke everyone up into groups, writing names down on sheets of paper, so they could collaborate and come up with new ideas.
"Right now the whole community is really affected because they think they can’t trust police officers and that if they can’t call police officers for help because they're gonna end up doing something worse to them," said resident Yesenia Sanchez.
Community groups said Wednesday night's meeting was the first of many more to come in the next few months. City leaders were also there to hear residents’ concerns.