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Marchers in Riverside rally for rights of crime victims

By SONJA BJELLAND
The Press-Enterprise
April 17, 2008

Politicians, activists and family members called for more power for crime victims Thursday as part of a national event.

The National Crime Victims' Rights Week march through downtown Riverside served to give families and friends of victims a voice, said Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco.

For those families, the event provided the comfort of knowing they are not alone but discomfort in knowing how many share their pain.

"It just didn't happen to us," said Rose Cerda, whose son, Stevie Cerda, was murdered in Moreno Valley three years ago Monday. "It's happening to thousands of people."

Rose Cerda held her husband Enrique's hand as they marched with hundreds of others down 10th Street.

Enrique Cerda held a poster with a photo of their son, one of more than 400 such posters representing men, women and children who have died at the hands of another in Riverside County.

The line of marchers stretched for several blocks as they walked from the Riverside County Administration Building to the Historic Courthouse.

In front of the courthouse, hundreds of posters told the stories of those who died. Poems, drawings and photos shared the loved one.

"Buried alive, a battered wife covered in dirt," one read. "Never a chance to disappear from the hurt."

Local police chiefs and elected officials rallied the crowd with talk about jail overcrowding, prisoner release and several pieces of proposed legislation.

Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, asked participants to sign petitions to put Marsy's Law on the November ballot.

The bill, called the Crime Victims' Bill of Rights, includes items such as allowing the victims' family to refuse being interviewed by the defense and having fewer parole hearings for prisoners.

"We said, 'Start treating victims the way we should, with respect and dignity,' " Spitzer said. " 'Quit dragging us through the mud every time we have a parole hearing.' "

Another bill aims to train officers to better deal with victims who have a disability.

For her efforts on this front, the U.S. Department of Justice bestowed the National Crime Victims Service Award on Nora Baladerian, who works with Arc Riverside on grant projects.

Baladerian said people with disabilities are seven times more likely to be victims of crime.
 


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