Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 | 5:12 p.m.
From the steps of the Regional Justice Center, the activists against domestic violence cried out in Spanish and English, “If I can’t use my hands, I will use my voice!”
Of the 20 participants in a rally Monday, at least 10 wore sashes with the words “survivor” draped over their chests, indicating that they had escaped domestic abuse.
The cheerful but passionate spirit they displayed embodied the legacy left by Maria Gomez, who inspired the rally.
Gomez’s grinning face was displayed on the signs her supporters lifted in their air as they chanted.
Gomez’s refused to be humiliated and never lost her joy, said Rebeca Ferreira, even after the unthinkable happened: Gomez survived a March 2012 machete attack only to be diagnosed with uterine cancer. She was 53 when she died six months later.
Jury selection started Monday for the trial of Armando Vergara-Martinez, 51, Gomez’s former boyfriend and the man accused in the grisly attack. Vergara-Martinez is charged with attempted murder with a deadly weapon, battery with a deadly weapon resulting in substantial bodily harm constituting domestic violence and mayhem.
When police found Gomez, her hands were hacked at the wrist and her head appeared to be split open as if she had been scalped, according to an arrest report.
The two-hour rally Monday was to encourage other woman to speak out against domestic violence and to carry out Gomez’s wish to share her story without shame, said Ferreira, founder and executive director of Safe Faith United, which organized event.
The rally was also to encourage the judge and District Attorney’s Office to make an example out of Vergara-Martinez.
After the rally, activists took photos and gathered their signs, content to leave the rest up to the court.
Ferreira said she didn’t want the group to be a distraction to the trial process.
“We have faith in the judge, we have faith in the justice system, we have faith in the jury,” Ferreira said.