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Protesters, students demand justice for 14-year-old shot by Tempe police

Thursday's protest came one day after police released complete body cam footage of Antonio Arce being shot

Organizer of Tempe Against Police Violence, Darien Barrett, speaks to protesters gathering outside of Tempe City Hall for justice for Antonio Arce, in Tempe, Arizona, on January 31, 2019.

Nearly 100 protesters packed into a Tempe City Hall meeting on Thursday night to demand justice for Antonio Arce, a 14-year-old boy fatally shot by a Tempe police officer on Jan. 15. 

Among the demonstrators present at the meeting were Arce's family and friends, who asked for Tempe Chief of Police Sylvia Moir and Officer Joseph Jaen – the officer who shot Arce – to be fired. Moir was present at the meeting.

On Wednesday, Tempe police released body camera footage in its entirety to only the media and Arce's family. The footage revealed that the teenager was shot at twice by Jaen, who allegedly mistook the airsoft gun Arce was holding for a real gun. One of the bullets hit Arce between the shoulder blades, killing him.

The demonstration on Thursday began with a protest outside the city hall an hour before the meeting. The hall filled up quickly with members from several groups including Young Democratic Socialists of America at ASU, the Party of Socialism and Liberation Phoenix and Tempe Against Police Violence

Amy Liu, a fourth-year ASU student majoring in environmental design and a member of the Party of Socialism and Liberation Phoenix, said she attended the meeting to support Arce's family. 

“It is political because we want to see how this can stop and see the numbers of police killings reverse, but more than anything we want to make sure the family is okay and listen to their demands and wants,” Liu said. 

The meeting started around 6 p.m., but after about 20 minutes a woman interrupted the council members, condemning them for not including a discussion of Arce's death on the agenda. This led to an uproar of chants calling for justice, creating chaos in the meeting room and causing the meeting to come to a halt. 

The following hours were filled with tension and anger as demonstrators approached the podium to express concerns about how the city of Tempe handled the shooting. 

“All eyes are on you, Tempe," Patti Serrano, one of the speakers there in solidarity with Arce's family, said. "You want to make national news, this is how you do it. By killing kids."

Another speaker read a statement released by 2020 presidential candidate Julián Castro, who condemned Arce's shooting and promised to “target unconscious racial biases in policing” if elected president. 

“Sadly, Antonio (Arce)’s story isn’t an isolated incident,” Castro's statement said. “It joins a deeply disturbing pattern of similar tragedies in this country of Black and Latino youth who have been fatally shot by police officers despite posing no imminent risk to those officers.”

Each speaker was allowed three minutes to give a statement, but many exceeded the limit amid chants of "the meeting is now ours." 

The demonstrators said they would not leave the meeting until the council members drafted a resolution to fire Moir and Jaen. Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell made sure to reiterate that state law does not permit them to discuss topics that were not on the agenda. 

Before Mitchell could adjourn the meeting at 9 p.m., the crowd rushed the floor and protested right in front of the council members and chief of police, who were escorted out by security. 

At the end of the event, the demonstrators announced another protest to mark the one month anniversary of the shooting on Feb. 15 in front of Tempe City Hall.

Fallon Leyba, a senior studying English and philosophy, said that ASU students who feel safe on campus should show solidarity with their fellow students.

“For the brown students on campus, it could happen to any one of us,” Leyba said. "And because of that, we need to show up."

Leyba said she believes that the police should be held accountable, just like everyone else. 

“At the very least, we need to be able to put people in prison when they commit a crime,” she said. “If someone commits a murder, just because they wear a badge they shouldn't be above the law."

Jaen is currently on leave while the police department conducts administrative and criminal investigations into the incident. 

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