Marches have been rare throughout Benicia’s history. Mayor Elizabeth Patterson claimed the last one was held in the World War II era. However, that changed when 800 to 1,500 people filled the streets of downtown Benicia for the March for our Lives.
Like the thousands of other Marches for Our Lives events held throughout the world in response to the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. people from all over Solano County gathered in Benicia to call for tighter gun control laws and protest gun violence.
The march began around 10 a.m. at the bottom of the First Street. Students of all ages lead the march downtown. Those on the sidewalks could hear such chants at “No more silence, end gun violence,” “Spread love, not hate. We just want to graduate” and “Never again” filling the air. The march ended at the gazebo in City Park where the speech portion of the rally was to begin.
Vice Mayor Steve Young Young began by reading the names of the victims of the Parkland shooting and asking for a moment of silence. He then turned the microphone over to Benicia High School senior Shawna Williams.
“It terrifies me that I can go and buy any gun I want,” Williams said. ” What 18-year-old needs a gun, let alone a weapon of war. We’ve seen what semi-automatic weapons can do, so why are they still being sold? Is it because the NRA needs money? I wish the answer was no, but the NRA has been clear that their right to bear arms outweighs our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Continue reading Benicia Herald: March for Our Lives draws hundreds in Benicia→
Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald [Editor: Alan Zada reported that the Benicia Police Department estimated the crowd at 1500. I’ve added a few of my own photos here. For more great photos, go to Larnie Fox’s Facebook page. – RS]
Benicia teens lead march of about 800: ‘We will vote’
By Richard Freedman, 03/24/18
Benicia is known for its numerous parades. Protest marches? Not as much. Until Saturday.
Around 800 residents braved an early morning chill led by students with a NEVER AGAIN banner, getting a jump on the national March for Our Lives with a walk up First Street and speeches at the City Park gazebo.
“Brave students have come together to say ‘enough is enough,’” said Assemblyman Tim Grayson, adding that he appeared in Benicia not as a politician, but as the father of a 16-year-old.
“A parent shouldn’t have to wonder if a child is going to be safe at school,” Grayson said.
“Today we are together, tomorrow we are together and we will still be together until we end gun violence,” proclaimed Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, calling for “a ban of weapons of war on our streets.”
Shannon Sweeney, 17, Benicia Senior Class president and one of the event coordinators, smiled at the turnout of the peaceful march.
“I’ve learned what it’s like to come together with a lot of people to make change,” she said. “It’s nice to see all these people showing up to protect our students and everyone from gun violence.” Continue reading Benicia March For Our Lives→
Vallejo youth plea for action, not more gun violence in ‘March for Our Lives’
By Richard Freedman, 03/24/18
Yes, Sgt. Brent Garrick was armed. It’s required of the job. But in providing a “police presence” at Saturday’s “March for Our Lives” in Vallejo, the officer may as well have been packing a feather duster.
“This is very inspiring. There’s been no trouble at all,” Garrick said, surveying about 400 who finished the half-mile march. “Young adults seem to be so much more intelligent than my generation was. They’re aware of community, social events and things that affect us all.”
That, obviously, includes gun violence, with most of the young speakers in front of City Hall impacted directly or indirectly by guns.
While many of the nearly 850 cities involved nationwide in “March for Our Lives” offering elected officials as speakers, this was young-people-only at the microphone. And that was fine with Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan.
“This is outstanding,” Sampayan said of the turnout. “These people are the voices of not only our future but our present. I’m nothing but impressed.”
The day’s message, added the mayor, “is that people of this country are tired of violence. We need to come together as people and human beings to show we care for each other. This violence has to stop.”
The march began as the participants gathered just inside Harbor Way, with free beverages, protein bars and T-shirts distributed before the 1:30 p.m. start.
Mike Brown, walking solo, was happy to join the masses.
“It’s a powerful movement right now that I haven’t seen for a long, long time,” said the 63-year-old Brown. “I want to see it grow and I want to see the changes come. I couldn’t be more proud of these kids who are standing up and doing it.”
Brown hoped the march generated “some serious changes in the laws. There’s no reason for assault weapons.”
Barbara Gaea, a 24-year Vallejoan, said people “are so weary” of the gun violence.
“I think the outrage level is reaching the tipping point,” Gaea said “People can’t take the insanity any more. We don’t need weapons of mass destruction.”
Wisconsin-born Vallejoan Craig Gaines said he hopes action is taken soon because “kids need to be safe at school. There needs to be some control and deeper, stronger understanding of holding accountable those who we are going to issue guns to. We need to be more cautionary.”
Gaines said he hopes the national impact of the walk “wakes everyone up and lets everyone realize that our children are crying out. If you can’t go to school and be safe, where can you go other than being at home?”
While the youth takes over the reigns of the anti-gun violence movement, “we should support them,” Gaines said. “These are our leaders of the future.”
A long-time Vallejoan, Carlo Carlucci, 70, said he was compelled to march because of “anger and grief, losing our children on behalf of the egos of stupid people.”
Carlucci added that he’s grateful that “we have a new generation that is determined to lead us.”
At City Hall, the young people gave brief but passionate speeches, pleading for change.
“We need to take action and we need to save the ones we love,” said Isaiah Nickelberry, a John Finney High School student.
“We are all fighting for the same cause so our kids and our kids’ kids will have a better future,” Nickelberry said.
Bethel High Student Jenny Lee lamented “all the innocent lives lost” in Parkland and all the victims “who were the same age as me.”
“All our voices should be heard,” offered Arnaz Hall, another Bethel student, saddened that every day at school, “I have to think, ‘Am I going to make it home?’”
“Our president should stop worrying about immigrants trying to cross the border when there’s Americans killing each other,” added Hall.
An American Canyon High School student, “Natalie,” mourned the loss of her cousin, Eric Reyes, shot and killed in 2016 and namesake of the Eric Reyes Foundation.
“A life taken by teenagers who had guns who took a big part of me away,” Natalie said. “I miss him. I miss his smile. Someone took an innocent person’s life. I’ve had enough of this. We have seen enough senseless gun violence. We need action now, not later.”
“We don’t want to grow up in a world where every person can say they’ve lost someone to gun violence,” said Valentina Quintana, 17, believing “the government values money over the lives of people. Mass shooting after mass shooting. Why must we wait? I say we don’t. We must vote out those who accept money from the NRA, vote out those who blame mental health for gun violence but don’t provide any services or options for those who are mentally ill. We’re the new generation and we cannot allow this to continue.”
“None of us should be afraid of sending our children to a place they should feel safe,” said Juwanna Smith of the Sisterhood of Mothers.
Charnette Briggs, 22, added a musical break to the speeches, singing the 1965 hit, “What the World Needs Now is Love.”
“I chose it because there’s so much hate in the world,” Briggs said. “I was taught that we’re better together than apart. Love is a big factor.”
Initial looking at the crowd “was a little nerve-wracking,” said Briggs. “But it feels great. I hope the president takes this (the nationwide marches) seriously. No more lives need to be sacrificed, no more lives need to be killed.”
Remembering lives lost in Parkland, Florida … and calling for sensible national gun control
On March 24, 2018, a March for Our Lives will be held in Benicia, California. The community is invited to gather in solidarity with the families and friends of those killed in the Parkland school massacre. We will join those marching in Washington D.C. and over 850 cities around the world on Saturday, March 24, demanding that sensible gun laws be passed by Congress and signed by the President.
High School students and concerned others will gather on the First Street Green at the foot of First Street (map) at 10 A.M. and march up First Street to City Park, located at Military and First Streets (map). A group of distinguished guests will speak from the gazebo in City Park, including several Benicia High School students and teachers, Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, Benicia Poet Laureate Johanna Ely, Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown, and representatives of our state and federal governing bodies. Benicia Vice Mayor Steve Young will serve as master of ceremonies.
Join us to make signs on Wednesday, March 21, 6-8pm in advance of the March and Rally. Workshop hosted by Larnie Fox, location: Arts Benicia, 991 Tyler St., Ste 114, Benicia. Bring your ideas, your passion and your friends. Wear grubby clothes. Creativity and thinking outside the box are highly encouraged. We’ll have materials available but you can also bring your own materials to the workshop. See you there!
Organizers of the event include Benicia High School students and a Benicia March For Our Lives Citizen Committee. Benicia police are pitching in to cordon off First Street for the march. A growing list of local groups and individuals have offered support, including Progressive Democrats of Benicia, Benicia Soroptimists, Vallejo-Benicia Indivisible, Benicians For a Safe and Healthy Community, Carquinez Patriotic Resistance, and the Benicia Independent.
“Too many lives have been lost due to gun violence,” says Benicia High School student Christopher Weldon. “It is time for our voices to be heard: it is time for every person to stand up, demand sensible gun laws of our legislators, and say ‘Never Again.’”
“We can make a change,” Benicia High School senior class president Shannon Sweeney says. “We need to bring this change to the ballot box. We must demand it from our legislators. We are the future voters. We will not accept their complacency or corruption, and if it continues we will replace them.”
“This issue transcends partisanship,” says Benicia March For Our Lives Citizen Committee organizer Sheri Zada. “Our children and youth must feel and be safe in order to learn, to thrive, and to grow into our leaders for tomorrow.”