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!