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Ryan Gainer Statement and Disability Justice Demonstration and Vigil

Ryan Gainer, a Black teenage boy, with flowers on a black background. Justice for Ryan Gainer. Disability Justice demonstration and vigil. Sunday, March 24. 4PM. Lake Merritt Amphitheater. CIL logo. DJCC logo. Disability Justice League Bay Area logo.

Press Release

Ryan Gainer, a Black teenage boy, with flowers on a black background. Justice for Ryan Gainer. Disability Justice demonstration and vigil. Sunday, March 24. 4PM. Lake Merritt Amphitheater. CIL logo. DJCC logo. Disability Justice League Bay Area logo.

Ryan Gainer Statement and Disability Justice Demonstration and Vigil

It is with immense grief and righteous rage that the Center for Independent Living condemns the horrific killing of Ryan Gainer at the hands of the San Bernardino Police Department on March 9th, 2024.

Ryan Gainer was a Black, Autistic teenager, a cross-country runner, a beloved son, and member of our diverse cross-disability community. He should still be with us today. The CIL mourns with Ryan Gainer’s family and supports them in their calls for justice. 

Ryan’s murder shows that there are violent connections between anti-Black racism, ableism, and state violence. According to the Urban Institute, police shootings kill Black people at twice the rate of white people; 30%-50% of police use-of-force incidents involve a person with a disability, and 50% of people killed by police have a disability. 

Police do not keep our disabled Black and Indigenous and communities of color safe. The San Bernardino Police Department was called to Ryan Gainer’s home in response to a mental health crisis, and instead of offering support, the police interpreted Ryan’s Blackness and neurodivergence as a threat.

Across the country, more and more laws that harm people with developmental disabilities are being written and passed. These laws give police more power to do harm against disabled people, including taking them out of their communities and putting them in institutions.

Abolitionist community lawyer, educator, and organizer Talila A. (TL) Lewis writes on the inseparability of ableism and anti-Black racism:

“The root of racism is ableism; and the root of ableism is anti-Blackness. Ableism [and] racism have always been inextricably linked. Each of these oppressions informs the other and depends on the other to survive and thrive. Therefore, it is impossible to end racism without ending ableism, and impossible to end ableism without ending racism. Ableism is also at the root of every other oppression,” TL states in TL’s Longmore Lecture from March, 2019.

According to a governmental study, people with developmental disabilities like autism are seven times more likely to have encounters with the police. We live in an ableist society that violently reinforces ideas and expectations of normalcy, productivity, and safety across lines of race, class, and gender. 

Police continue to hurt Autistic Black and Indigenous People of Color. This is awful. It is not surprising, given the harmful ideas and expectations above.

We as CIL staff do not want this harm to continue.

In March of 2021, a Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy shot and paralyzed Isaias Cervantes, a 25-year-old man with ASD who is also hard of hearing. The news reported that Cervantes’ sister called 911 to request help getting her brother to the hospital.

There are hundreds of independent living centers, like CIL, across the country and around the world. It is critical for independent living centers to take action in their own communities, and to see combating anti-Blackness, ableism, and state violence as necessary to our work as independent living centers.

While hosting rallies, protests, and vigils cannot bring loved ones back, we can fight to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. 

Disability Justice Demonstration and Vigil

Please join the Anti-Police Terror Project, Disability Justice League-Bay Area, Disability Justice Culture Club, the Center for Independent Living as our communities gather on Sunday, March 24th at 4:00 p.m. at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater.

We will hold a vigil for Ryan Gainer, and we will gather and demonstrate in the spirit of Disability Justice. We will have a brief program of speakers who will uplift the relatedness of our struggles. There will be space for young people and healers. We will close with a short de-escalation training and seed planting. 

Accessibility Information:

  • The Lake Merritt Amphitheater is a large outdoor space.
  • The space is accessible by a large, mostly flat cement path.
  • That path leads to a flat cement area around the stage for people to be around.
  • There is a grassy area that angles upward with cement block-like seating areas.
  • We will have ASL available.
  • We will have CART captioning via a Streamtext link.
  • We will be livestreaming the event.
  • Bathrooms are at the public library across the street which will be open until 5:30pm. 
  • We are asking attendees to wear a well-fitting mask if you are able. We recommend specifically KN95, N95, N99 or similar quality respirators. We will provide free KN95 masks.
  • Please refrain from wearing fragrances and scented products.

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