Category Archives: Racism

Benicia Youth Against Brutality rally draws huge crowd

By Roger Straw, May 31, 2020

Hundreds of Voices of Anger, Impatience and Hopeful, Peaceful Protest

Benicia’s Youth Against Brutality rally, City Park, May 31, 2020, 11AM. Photo: Roger Straw

Unofficial estimates put the crowd at Benicia’s Youth Against Brutality rally at over 300.

One of the high school organizers welcomed everyone and began with a recording of Sam Cook’s 1964 soul anthem, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

It’s been a long time, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will
It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die
‘Cause I don’t know what’s up there, beyond the sky
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will
I go to the movie and I go downtown
Somebody keep tellin’ me don’t hang around
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will…

The crowd assembled in masks and mostly maintained social distancing of 6 feet.

This reporter wasn’t able to get names of all the young speakers, but every one was moving and articulate.  The crowd was with them all the way, clapping, raising signs, and whooping from under their masks.

After the mic was opened for a short time to anyone who wanted to speak, the speakers and organizers led the crowd peacefully down sidewalks on First Street to Marina Green.

We hope to have video and more pics in a later post.
UPDATE: See 3 VIDEOS: Benicia Police join with protesters, take a knee to honor George Floyd

Benicia students organize Youth Against Brutality rally, Sunday May 31, 11AM City Park

By Roger Straw, May 30, 2020

Several Benicia High School students are organizing a YOUTH AGAINST BRUTALITY rally to be held on Sunday, May 31 at 11am.

The Facebook event gives details: Join us for a rally this Sunday, May 31st at 11AM to protest racism and hatred. Meet at the First Street Park in Benicia, near the Gazebo. This will be a peaceful protest with respect to social distancing. Wear a mask, bring friends, make a sign, or whatever you please. Please repost this! Let’s make it known that we do not support racism and fight for those who have lost and fear for their lives because of it. Black lives matter. We will march down First St. at noon.

I tracked down the two organizers, who prefers to remain anonymous.  “This protest and movement is much larger than us,” one graduating senior said, “and we do not wish to receive recognition for organizing this.”  His co-organizer, a junior at Benicia High, added, “It’s just the two of us ‘officially’ and I put that in quotations because we are just the people who decided a date and a time. The people who show up and march are the ones who really make it a protest.”  A third student at Benicia High is responsible for making the Facebook event.

Asked about the purpose of the rally, one of the young organizers said, “I was inspired to organize this protest after the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery and more recently, George Floyd. After hearing of the many protests around the nation, I realized that a small community like Benicia could benefit from a rally like this. Racism needs to be fought. I saw an opportunity to bring our community together to fight racism and injustice in this country and I took it.  This is about showing our support while standing up against racism and police brutality.”

His colleague added, “Personally, it’s been something that’s been boiling in me for a while. I remember being 10 and hearing about the Trayvon Martin case and I thought it would be a onetime thing. But of course, it kept happening and showed itself as a real issue in America. I see the protest as an opportunity to make a difference in my community and to give angry people a chance to speak. We specifically chose this Sunday so it would align with the protest in Berkeley.”

The protest has been promoted on many social media sites, including Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.  Nearly 60 people have claimed to be attending the event on Facebook. Nearly 90 people have claimed to be interested in going.  Organizers anticipate at least 50 to show up.

Several speakers will make brief statements at the city park.  A moment of silence will be observed before marching down the sidewalks of First street.

Asked about City permitting, the organizers said they went to the Benicia Police Department on May 29 to receive information regarding obtaining a permit. “Unfortunately, who we spoke with was unsure as to whether or not one was needed and the city’s planning department was closed. So we did not obtain a permit. However, Benicia Police had already caught wind of the situation and we spoke with a very respectful and supportive sergeant. We explained our intentions to them and they let us know that police presence would be there. I understand that having the police there threatens our protest and its protesters but I am very confident that Benicia Police supports us and is willing to cooperate with us. We all want this to be peaceful and safe.”

I’ll be there at 11 on Sunday – hope to see you, too!

VIDEO: Benicians gather in City Park, take a stand against hate

By Roger Straw, November 2, 2018

I hope to write up a short story about this important event when I get a few minutes.  Until then, MANY MANY thanks to all who showed up, to Rev. Dr. Mary Susan Gast for planning and leading the vigil, and to Dr. Constance Beutel, for this beautiful 20-minute video capturing much of the gathered spirit.  (Note that the first 5 or 10 seconds of this video are silent…)

Benicians asked to stand against hate on Thursday, 11/1, City Park

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

Benicians asked to stand against hate on Thursday

By JOHN GLIDDEN, October 31, 2018 at 7:02 pm
5:30 p.m. Thursday (TODAY!), City Park Gazebo, First Street & Military West

BENICIA — A week after 13 people were violently killed in two separate shooting sprees, local residents have put together an impromptu gathering asking Benicians to stand against hate.

The event begins at 5:30 p.m., Thursday near the City Park Gazebo, located along First Street and Military West.

“Gather in solidarity, in song, in remembrance of those killed in Kentucky and Pennsylvania, in commitment to our common humanity,” according to an event flier.

One of the organizers, the Rev. Mary Susan Gast said that Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson is scheduled to office words of encouragement, Poet Laureate Tom Stanton will present a poem, while the Mourner’s Kaddish, a traditional prayer for the dead, will be offered in Hebrew.

“We will reflect on our unity as a nation and community of diversity,” she added.

Two African Americans were shot and killed in a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky on Oct. 24, which authorities are investigating as a hate crime.

Gregory Bush, a 51-year-old Caucasian man, has been accused of killing Maurice Stallard, 69, and Vickie Jones, 67, inside the Jeffersontown grocery store and outside the location, respectively.

Bush allegedly, prior to the shooting, attempted to enter a predominantly black church but was unable to get inside.

Then last Saturday, Robert Bowers entered Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue killing 11 people in one of the deadliest attack on Jewish individuals in U.S. history.

Bowers was indicted Wednesday on 44 federal charges, including 11 counts for obstructing religious freedom resulting in death and 11 counts of committing violent crime using a firearm.