By Poor Magazine
Community members are outraged with the arrest and incarceration of Joey Villarreal after he attempted to protect a friend from being assaulted at a San Jose Flea Market on Sunday, August 2nd. Family, friends, and community organizations plan to rally in front of the County Clerk’s Office Monday at 12pm unless Joey is released.
“Joey is an excellent writer and author. He has established his own publishing press. Joey is active in his community working with youth and nourishes his spirit by dancing in a Native American Danzante group. He is a man on a quest to better the quality of his life; he is not a man looking to be in prison,” said Lupe Lujan, a programmer at The Latin Collective, KKUP 91.5FM.
Jeffery Rosen’s District Attorney’s Office is charging Joey with assault with a deadly weapon—a bookbag—leaving him ineligible for bail. Poor Magazine and Homefulness co-founder, Tiny Gray-Garcia, noted these trumped-up charges are common for people of color who have previously been incarcerated, even during the COVID outbreak at Santa Clara County Jail. “Joey isn’t being provided any PPE and he is a grandfather. As COVID spreads like wildfire at jails and prisons, arresting people for allegedly brandishing a bag full of books is unfathomable, especially a community member who has given back so much.”
DA Rosen, who was elected on a criminal justice and prison reform platform, could not be reached after numerous calls Thursday and Friday. “Joey is a powerful advocate for Chican@s, a community that is being ravaged by COVID and economic hardship during the pandemic. His advocacy for the rights of current and formerly incarcerated community members has touched the lives of so many through his books and radio show. I hope DA Rosen understands that, for Joey, criminal justice reform isn’t just a buzz word to get elected, it’s something he lives every day and we aren’t letting him go without a fight,” said Rebecca Ruiz of Idriss Stelley Foundation.
The DA’s office seemed to be redirecting calls about Joey to the Public Defender or to an unworking number even after callers specifically asked to leave messages for Rosen.
A growing viral campaign to #FreeJoeyVillarreal is spouting up on Facebook and Instagram demanding DA Rosen release Joey and consider the implications of imprisoning people where it is impossible to practice social distancing and not provide them with even basic PPE.
Julie Villarreal, Joey’s mother, a local housing rights advocate, was inconsolable: “Joey is a beloved and needed son, father, brother, and grandfather. We need him home now.”
Gera Gonzales, youth advocate with Aztlan for Youth Foundation and radio producer with Free Aztlan PNN-KEXU 96.1FM, remarked, “The absence of this brother has made an impact on so many lives because he wants better for the people, the children, and our future.”
Brown Beret Al Osorio joined the campaign stating, “Joey Villareal has been a solid role model and an example to the local youth as someone who has overcome adversity and is now giving back to the community he loves.”
POOR Magazine is collecting donations for legal fees and, in the event that Joey is granted bail, bail funds through their VENMO account “poor-magazine,” asking donations be earmarked in the comments “JV Legal Fund.”