Rosa Corona hugs Maria Zambrano after the event ends, and thanked her for organizing. Zambrano is also has reached out with Idaho Female Veterans Network as a way to sustain involvement and connect to this issue locally. (Kezia Setyawan/The Enterprise)

ONTARIO - About 40 cars lined the Westpark Plaza parking lot in Ontario Sunday night for the Cruise For Justice #vanessaguillen event.

The gathering was in support of Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old U.S. Army soldier who was murdered in April, her family and victims of sexual assault and violence in the military.

Guillen’s remains were not discovered by investigators until July.

Pressure from Guillen’s family on the U.S. Army regarding the length of time between her death and the discovery of her remains produced a national outcry.

For three Ontario women of color, Sunday’s effort was about raising awareness and recognizing Guillen’s death.

“So why aren't we doing anything? And who's going to do it. And there really wasn't anybody that was going to, so I was like, well, if I want something done, we got to do it ourselves,” said event organizer Maria Zambrano.

At first, the group was planning to have a traditional walking protest, however, with the recent rise in Covid cases in Ontario, Zambrano reorganized with her team to do a cruise to reduce contact between different parties and allow people to participate safely from their cars.

“I wasn't going to do anything that was going to put anybody in danger, really. I work at a hospital, I just couldn't in good faith, you know, sleep with that on my conscience that I put anybody at risk or encouraged any of that,” she said.

A large piece of butcher paper emblazoned with the words “Justice 4 Vanessa” donned the left side of Teresa Figueroa’s car during the cruise. On the other side of her vehicle as a Mexican flag

On Teresa Figueroa’s car, giant piece of butcher paper lining on the left side of the car along with the words “Justice 4 Vanessa” with the Mexican flag on the other next to it along with a painted portrait of Vanessa by one of her daughters on the trunk.

Figueroa’s children, Adriana, Claudia and Humberto said that it was really nice that they could all come out as a family to support the event. Figueroa, who works for the Ontario school district also said it was important and nice to see kids from school support the event.

Emily Moreno, who was born and raised in Ontario, said that she came out because she feels for Vanessa, her family, and their story. She said that it was important to stand up against violence and Black and brown people face.

Zambrano agreed.

 “I think that's the thing that people feel, that draws them to this issue is that; that could've been my kid or that could have been me,” said Zambrano.

Andrea Turner, 15, said the event was important because it gave her the opportunity to bring awareness to injustice and allow the voices of undocumented people who often do not feel safe to be heard.

“I see Vanessa and I just imagine my kids serving this country and seeing their lives not matter. There’s so much injustice happening to people of color, and we have to support each other. There is no going back to “normal” or the past, this is the new normal where everyone is accepted by all,” said Turner’s mother, Rosa Corona.

Zambrano said she also connected with the Idaho Female Veterans Network, and has listened to their stories. She said she hopes that there will be more opportunities to give them a space to share their experiences.

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