APRIL 7, 2018

Thinking About Guns, the March, and Stormy Daniels


Hawaii knows the shape of water. It’s all around you.

But if you don’t know the movie yet go see it. It may not be in as many screens as “Black Panther.”

Happy Easter to everyone. Isn’t it odd, that in one of the most religious times of the year, we have one of the most sordid stories in the news: the realization that democracy has elected a scoundrel to lead our country.

Donald Trump has met his Waterloo of sorts. As David Dennison, the double DD alias of the president, Trump was behind a $130,000 payment made to a 36DD, Stormy Daniels.

Can Trump resurrect his presidency? As moral leader of the free world? He’ll be lucky if his marriage survives.

But while the news is stormy, let’s note another awakening---that of student protest.

If you were in Washington, DC, or stayed in Hawaii to watch it on TV, then you know, the youth march was an historic landmark.

If you thought your voice doesn’t count, use the youth as your inspiration. Under age, dismissed as kids, they turned heads on march day. Nearly a million in DC with 800 satellite marches around the world? This is not just a moment. This is a movement.

And that's where the real hope lies. This isn’t about Trump wanting to arm teachers. Nor can the stone-cold NRA hope everyone forgets Parkland.        

No one is going to forget. But if the marchers want to see real change, they must realize this isn't just about fighting school shootings in Florida.

This is about leveraging that tragedy in order to give real hope to everyone who aches for a solution to senseless gun violence in America.

That means connecting the dots, the bullet holes through America that come out of the insanity of gun proliferation in this country.

It means connecting the Parkland victims to Stephon Clark, 22, an African American father of two, gunned down last week in Sacramento. It's seeing how both are connected to Stephen Guillermo, 26, my cousin, a Filipino immigrant gunned down four years ago in San Francisco when he entered the wrong apartment by mistake.

Both Stephen and Stephon were unarmed.

They didn't have to die. They shouldn't see justice die with them.

But in a gun-oriented, "shoot first, ask questions later" culture, too often the brutal logic of self-defense wins out.

Gun violence is tolerated. Innocents are killed.

 In the case of Clark, the investigation continues with the police officers involved on leave with pay.

A week ago Sunday, Sacramento police thought they had cornered a vandalism suspect.

Perhaps by now, you've seen the night-scoped helicopter aerial shots of the South Sacramento incident on television news. On the ground, body cam footage caught the police closing in on Clark, believed to be the suspect, in his grandmother's back yard.

Police yell, "Hey, show me your hands. Stop. Stop."

Another officer yells, "Gun, gun, gun."

Within seconds, two officers opened fire in the dark with 20 rounds of bullets that hit Clark immediately.


"The officers believed the suspect was pointing a firearm at them," according to a police news release. "Fearing for their safety, the officers fired their duty weapons, striking the suspect multiple times."

Enough truth for the lawyers.

But as I mentioned, Clark was unarmed and held only his iPhone.

What really happened we may never know, especially since the police muted their body cams at one point during the aftermath. And now the best witness is dead.

But consider this: If guns were not readily available, the police would have no reason to assume that any suspect would be armed. Even before they cornered Clark, all they knew is a suspect possibly had some kind of crowbar to smash windows. Not a gun.

Did I mention, Clark had just an iPhone?

I used to question whether my iPhone 6-Plus, made to look even larger with its oversized black case, appeared to be gunlike. Now I know a person of color with an oversized iPhone needs to be wary.

Stephen Guillermo's Death

I feel for the family of Clark because I know how the self-defense laws can work against an innocent person.

I saw it in my cousin's case. He too was unarmed. But his incident didn't involve police.

Stephen entered his five-story apartment building on Mission Street in San Francisco after a night of drinking. But instead of getting off the elevator on the 5th floor, he got off on the third.

All the floors and doors look alike when you're inebriated. But when Stephen, all 5 feet-4 inches of him, entered the wrong apartment, he didn't deserve a bullet to the chest.

Stephen didn't break in. If anything, he was let in. The 68-year-old resident, a retired security guard, knew the laws. But instead of saying, "Wrong apartment, get out of here," or something more civil, the man shot to kill.

Unfortunately for my cousin, the law allows it if an "intruder" is in your home. It's called the "Castle Doctrine," and it's pretty much a free shot.

The suspect was held for three days, but then the SF District Attorney refused to press charges. No manslaughter. Not even a misdemeanor. For taking a life with a gun, the killer is free.

There is no recourse against a gunman who shoots to kill by mistake. An innocent man dies? Tough luck. Besides, it's two poor people in a San Francisco tenement.

Who cares about them, right?

What gives the Clark family some hope is that their case involves the police who are supposed to be accountable to the public for their actions. Twenty bullets pumped into an unarmed man?

I don't know if authorities will prosecute in Sacramento County, but these are the kind of gun cases that fall through the cracks.

If you march for Parkland and the 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, make sure you don't forget the other innocents who die from senseless gun deaths all the time.

Time to connect the dots of our bullet ridden country.

This weekend, we recall an Asian American, Peter Wang, 15, one of the Parkland 17.

But let's include Stephen Clark, 22, and Stephen Guillermo, 26--both gunned down and unarmed.

Too young. Too innocent. Too soon.

March for Our Lives should be for their lives too.

So let’s cheer the Parkland survivors of the Stoneman Douglas high school massacre.

They were the catalysts to the awakening.

Privileged enough to be coddled, they were smart enough to know they aren’t immune from the real world. After being shot up, they knew to exercise their voices.

And now their activism has ignited a long dormant spark in American society. The youth. Spoiled? Self-centered? Apolitical? Not after target practice.

The same thing that sparked the civil rights demonstrations and the war protests of the ‘60s is now fueling a movement that doesn’t look like a passing fad.

This is usually how it works everywhere. Europe. Asia. Even the Philippines.

Student protest is nothing new. It’s just been dormant in the U.S.

But now the model is emerging for all to see. Especially if you’re a do-nothing politician beholden to the gun lobby. Notice them. Fear them. They are a diverse, articulate, and savvy group. Filled with promise and potential, they can be anything.

But most of all, they want justice now.

And if you have relatives in the Philippines, or where there during EDSA, then you know what students meant to People Power.

Here’s the truth: Your voice is more powerful and counts more than ever, right now. The Parkland students are leading the way.


EMIL GUILLERMO is an award-winning journalist and commentator who writes from Northern California. He recently won the 2015 Dr. Suzanne Ahn Award for Civil Rights and Social Justice from the Asian American Journalists Association California.

© 2008-2018 Hawaii Filipino Chronicle Inc.