In Fullerton, a Kelly Thomas protest that's even more painful

When Tina Kinser showed up at the Fullerton police station Saturday morning, she had a flashback to the summer of 2011.

Almost everything seemed the same. The demands for justice blaring out of bullhorns. The people in Guy Fawkes masks holding signs with pictures of her brother's bloodied face. And the way the crowd of protesters swelled so big it spilled onto Commonwealth Avenue.

"It looks just like the protest I came to two years ago," said Kinser, the youngest sister of Kelly Thomas, the homeless man with schizophrenia who died after being beaten unconscious by Fullerton police officers. "It's the same faces."

But this protest was more painful, she said. This time there wasn't a clear channel toward hope.


It had dried up in a Santa Ana courtroom last Monday, she said, when a jury found former Fullerton police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli not guilty.

The case of Kelly Thomas — a 37-year-old man whose July 2011 death sparked months of protests outside the police station and the recall of three city councilmen — was the first in Orange County's history that involved an officer facing murder charges for on-duty actions. Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas argued the case himself in court.

The trial played out for nearly three weeks, but the jury deliberated just two days, handing down its verdict on Monday.

"We still have no justice," Kinser said. "I'm still here crying."

She was among about 150 protesters who gathered for a rally Saturday morning in front of the Fullerton Police Department to demand justice for Thomas.

For some, like 22-year Fullerton resident Julie McDonnell, showing up Saturday was a way to say that the jury's verdict wouldn't dampen people's cries for justice.

"We did lose this battle," she said. "But we're not going to stop fighting for change in Fullerton and across the country."

Others, like Curtis Johnston, said they came to the station Saturday because they've already seen the power of protests in Fullerton.

"In most cities where something like this happens, the officers are back on the job in a few weeks," he said. "Not in this city."

Around noon Saturday, Ron Thomas' voice boomed through speakers set up on the lawn in front of the station. As the crowd huddled around Kelly's father, he thanked them, saying that without the protests the case might not have ended up at trial at all.

"If you were here for 2011, for the protests," he said, "give yourself a hand. You are the people, you made this happen."

As the protesters headed back toward the street a few minutes later, Kelly's mother, Cathy, stood with them. She was silent, her face blank.

"It feels more painful," she said of being at a post-trial protest. "I feel like it's the beginning again."

About 3:20 p.m., after a female protester hit a reporter for CBS2 in the face, police issued a dispersal order to a crowd of between 150 and 200 people, said Fullerton police Sgt. Jeff Stuart. By 8 p.m., 10 people had been arrested — two for vandalism, one for the assault on the reporter and seven for failure to disperse, he said.