Category Archives: Benicia Youth Against Brutality

Benicia Herald coverage of Youth Against Brutality protest in Benicia

Benicia High School students hold Youth Against Brutality protest and march on First St.

Protesters in Benicia call for an end to police brutality and justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
The Benicia Herald, by Galen Kusic, Editor, and Aleta Andrews, Correspondent, June 5, 2020
Protesters in Benicia call for an end to police brutality and justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Photo by Dr. Teresa Van Woy

As the country continues to mourn in anger over the brutal police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week, activists and protesters have taken to the streets to call for justice and accountability for not only Floyd’s murder, but the countless other black and brown people that have been murdered by the police without repercussion or consequence.

BHS student and organizer Tyler Payne speaks about the need for more unity than ever to achieve equality for all.

While surrounding cities like Vallejo, Richmond, Oakland, San Francisco and others have experienced police violence toward protesters, Benicia thus far has experienced peace. As looting continues and curfew restrictions have been put in place county-wide, Benicia High School students organized a peaceful Youth Against Brutality Black Lives Matter march and protest on Sunday in honor of Floyd and the many other black people that have been killed at the hands of law enforcement or racists.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the country with over 105,000 deaths and nearly two millions positive cases, millions are also calling for justice for the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year old black man that was hunted down and shot by two men while jogging in Georgia in Feb. and Breonna Taylor, who was shot by police eight times while asleep in her bed as police unlawfully entered her home without a warrant looking for a man that did not even live at the residence.

Parent Kashana Lee speaks about the need for police to become more involved in combating racism within their own departments.

The outrage throughout the nation has sparked protests, arson and destruction of businesses, but it should be noted that much of this destruction is not caused by peaceful demonstrators. Movements for civil rights have historically been infiltrated by racist and anarchist groups in an attempt to draw attention away from the issue at hand.

While Benicia has thus far escaped looting or riots, it is up to the citizens and residents of the community to stand up to hatred, police terrorism and violence to create a more just and democratic society for all.

The demonstration began at 11 a.m. at the First Street Park near the Gazebo and marched down First St. to the waterfront. In an effort to make it known that Benicia does not support racism and that people are willing to fight for those that have lost and fear for for the lives, the marchers stood in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and oppressed people nationwide.

BHS student Lia St. Pierre quotes Huey P. Newton that you can’t jail a revolution.

Herald correspondent Aleta Andrews took photos and caught up with some of the protesters to get their take on the state of the nation and what can be done to make positive change for equality.

“We must find a way to escape this cycle of hatred and violence, we must take the lead for our brothers and sisters cause a cause without a voice or direction is a lost one,” said Benicia High student and organizer Tyler Payne. “The enemy is hatred – one of the devil’s greatest weapons. The true way to combat that is and will be found in unity. Great minds together can change so much.”

Activist Amon speaks out at the Benicia rally and protest.

As people marched down First St., students called for an end to ignorance and for people to stand up and fight for equality for all. White privilege was continually discussed, citing that white people must recognize their privilege and realize that just because an issue is not directly affecting them, that it is even more important to use that privilege for good and stand up for what is right through protest, civil action and a change in policy.

“People need to start texting those numbers for people to realize what privilege they have and make a list of all the possible ways to help– join a protest, be there as an ally, just listen to the voices that need to be heard, be active,” said BHS student Lia St. Pierre.

Benicia High students protest the police murder of George Floyd.

Later on during the protest, Benicia Police officers took a knee in the park to show solidarity with the protesters, but activists called on law enforcement to do more in the wake of these horrific tragedies.

“The most important thing that happened today was that the police eventually stood in solidarity with us after many conversations,” said BHS student Elijah Hahn-Smith. “This isn’t just a today thing, this needs to happen everywhere.”

BHS student Alexander Valencia speaks out that racism is taught, not born with.

Other protesters realized the fine line that many must walk, as members of their own families are literally torn apart by the civil unrest and anger from both sides. The consensus remained the same, law enforcement must do more to make a change and stand for what is right, instead of going with the status quo that has brought the nation to a boiling point.

“For me, I’m put in a hard spot because I have family members that are police,” said Adriana Bernasconi. “I want them to speak out more than ever to weed out the bad ones.”

Other BHS protesters noted they had been to protests around the area and relayed information that police had actually instigated tension amongst activists.

Protesters marched down First St. in Benicia to honor the life of George Floyd.

“We were at the protests in Oakland on Saturday and it started peaceful and then the police initiated the aggression,” said BHS student Alexander Valencia.

Students called for an end to racism and for people to look deep within themselves to realize who they really are and what is just. Without introspection and reflection from white people, law enforcement and lawmakers, many believe nothing will change and things will only get worse.

“We need to dismantle racism no matter how many generations it might take,” said BHS student Winnford Dela Torre. “We are here centuries later but we’re still in the same place.”

BHS student Winnford Dela Torre speaks out against systemic racism.

While many strides have been made through community activism throughout the nation to improve community policing practices and oversight, there is still a long way to go.

“What needs to happen now is that our local branches, our local police need to support us,” said parent Kashanna Lee. “I’ve had my own experiences with fear for me and my children. If they were marching with us today and made a clear statement saying, we are here for you, that would make a difference. This needs to happen on a national level and change legislation. Police are being treated better than civilians.”

While activists did see Benicia Police kneeling with protesters as a positive moment, they also saw it for what it was – a tactic to keep protesters peaceful.

“The big thing that is being missed is that this moment gave people hope that we can actually make a change,” said activist Amon. “It inspired people that were able to force them to bend to our will rather than it being the other way traditionally…so when things get tough as the revolution moves forward, they have something to look back on and hold on to as a reminder of how powerful we truly are united.”

Photos by Aleta Andrews and Teresa Van Woy.

Another video of protesters and Benicia Police: “Take a knee with us!”

Hugs and handshakes after a shared moment of silence…

ABC7 News San Francisco, June 1, 2020

Benicia police officers took a knee as the crowd held a moment of silence for George Floyd. They then shook hands with some of the protesters.
BENICIA, Calif. (KGO) — Residents in Benicia held a peaceful protest on Sunday.
Officers took a knee as the crowd held a moment of silence for George Floyd. They then shook hands with some of the protesters.

RELATED: Santa Cruz police chief takes knee alongside peaceful protesters  Officers stressed that they would allow for a peaceful protest.

3 VIDEOS: Benicia Police join with protesters, take a knee to honor George Floyd

Youth Against Violence rally, march, and then confront Benicia Police, who join them in respect and solidarity

Three videos tell the story…

Video by Dr. Teresa Van Woy
The youth of Benicia California gather for a peaceful march following the death of George Floyd. A peaceful gathering at the gazebo followed by a march down First Street, ended up at the Benicia Police Station where officers took a knee to the protesters.

Video by Constance Beutel
Youth in Benicia organized a protest of the murder of George Floyd

Video by Elijah Harris
On May 31, Benicia youth and supporting adults protested police violence against unarmed Black citizens, following the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. After a large rally at City Park, 300 or more protesters marched peacefully down First Street, rallied some more at Marina Green, and then marched to Benicia’s Police Station. When protesters took a knee, some of Benicia’s police joined them. Eventually all the officers joined on a knee and everyone took a moment of silence. Thank you, Benicia Police! Thank you Benicia youth!

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