New Phoenix mural honors victims of police violence




Anna Hernandez speaks during an event revealing a mural honoring her brother Alejandro Hernandez and other victims and families of police violence. The mural was painted by La Morena in collaboration with Poder in Action and is located outside of the Just Blaze smoke shop in central Phoenix. | Photo courtesy of Poder in Action

A community group that advocates for police reforms and for families of people who died after encounters with the Phoenix Police Department unveiled a new mural in central Phoenix over the weekend. 

The mural, located on Camelback Road and 10th Street, shows a Black boy wearing a black shirt raising his right fist with a hummingbird and monarch butterflies surrounding him. His image is atop a Phoenix Police Department patrol car, where two other people stand beside him. One of them holds a sign that reads “BLM” for Black Lives Matter. Another sign is sprouting from a purple rose. It reads, “Sí se puede.” That phrase, meaning “Yes, we can,” was coined during the social justice movement for farmworkers rights in the Southwest. 

The mural was painted by local artist La Morena, in collaboration with Poder in Action, a community group that pushes for police reform and accountability locally, and often advocates for families of victims of police violence.  

“This boy is not a specific person but is of representation of our power and our liberation,” the artist wrote in an Instagram post. “This project provided the families a healing space something to be proud of. I am a mother of 2 boys that I couldn’t even imagine life without them let alone taken by a system that is supposed to serve and protect us. Not kill us.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by “La Morena” Art (@lamorena_art)

In a press release, Poder in Action said the mural is “dedicated to victims of Phoenix police violence, their families, and those who keep fighting for a different world.”

The group held a mural reveal event on Nov. 21. The families of Muhammad Muhaymin, Francisco Valdez, Jacob Harris, Alejandro Hernandez, Hector Lopez, Ryan Whitaker, and James Garcia attended the event, according to Poder. 

Muhaymin was killed in 2017 after four Phoenix police officers held him down, some putting their knees on his neck and head, according to The Arizona Republic. He’s seen on police body camera saying, “I can’t breathe” several times.

Valdez was killed in 2017 when police shot him inside his home. His mom had called police because Valdez was acting aggressive, ABC15 reported

Harris was killed in 2019 after two Phoenix police officers gunned him down, according to the Phoenix New Times. He took shots to his liver, lung and heart during a police chase.

Hernandez died in 2019 after an officer shot and killed him. Police said he held a replica rifle and refused commands, according to AZFamily.

Lopez was killed by Phoenix police in 2019 after a struggle, but his family disputes the police account, 12News reported.

Police shot Whitaker in the back three seconds after he answered his door last May, and killed him, the Republic reported

Garcia was shot and killed by Phoenix police inside his car, minutes after they found him sleeping in his car in the driveway of a home. Police were looking for a suspect in the area who didn’t match Garcia’s profile, the Republic reported

During the event inaugurating the mural, an altar was set up with red roses, candles and framed pictures of men who died at the hands of Phoenix police. The words, “Another world is possible,” were written on a white sheet.

“This is more than a mural, it is a reminder of the lives taken by police and a commitment to continue the fight for a world without police,” said Viridiana Hernandez, executive director of Poder,  in a press release. “We believe another world is possible, and it starts by telling the truth of our loved ones, celebrating their lives and exposing the violence of this department as we push for accountability, the divestment from police, and investment in our communities,”.  

In the summer, another mural honoring a Black man killed at the hands of law enforcement went up in central Phoenix. The street-facing wall of Green Restaurant on 7th Street shows the bust of Dion Johnson with a halo above his head and a blue and red rose on his side. Johnson was killed by an Arizona Department of Public Safety Trooper on Memorial Day. He was 28. After large marches and public calls for accountability around his case, Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel announced her office wasn’t pressing criminal charges against the trooper involved. 

Laura Gómez
Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for Spanish-language news and feature reporting. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.