Under a scorching sun this past Sunday, lowriders from Richmond and as far away as San Jose and Sacramento gathered for a rally and “Cruise for Peace” at Phila Burger on 23rd Street in response to recent, fatal shootings in Richmond and San Pablo.
Many at the rally had lost loved ones to violence. Gonzalo Rucobo, founder and executive director of Bay Area Peacekeepers, said he organized the rally to commemorate the lives of two youth, killed last week, who participated in his organization’s youth programs, and to promote peace in the community.
Members of Ceasefire Richmond attended, as did family and friends of the two youth, Ilayshia “Lay Lay” McCoy, 18, of San Pablo, and Otilio “Nico” Martinez, 18, of Richmond.
Martinez’s death on September 19 brought the total number of homicides in Richmond so far this year to 21, which was last year’s overall total for the city. Rucobo said that friends in the lowrider community asked what they could do to help, and together they decided to turn their usual Sunday cruise into a rally for peace.
“This was something I felt that was able to bring us together,” Rucobo said, “Not just the violence but also the love of cars.”
Rucobo said Sunday’s rally represented a historic moment, because it brought the Latino and African American lowriding communities together. About 300 people attended the event over the course of the afternoon and evening. Rucobo said he hopes the communities can continue to work together in the future.
Martinez’s aunt, Lulu Vasquez, said at the rally that she has struggled to comfort her sister.
“There’s just no words that you can say to a grieving mother,” she said. “Her heart is completely shattered. Shattered into a million pieces.”
Now, Vasquez said, the family wants answers. “It’s just all these questions we have going in our minds,” she said. “We want justice for him.”