In Richmond, solidarity with victims of violence in Ferguson and New York breaks boundaries
on December 9, 2014
Once she read the news on Facebook, Jamaya Walter knew she was going to miss school the next day.
The 17-year-old skipped class for what she thought would be a “historic” day in her city, and rushed to make “I can’t breathe” and “hands up” signs.
“I had my mom come pick me up and bring me to the RYSE center to protest because Black lives do matter,” Walter said. “I’d rather put my education at risk than miss this.”
Working with less than 12 hours to prepare, the RYSE Youth center organized a solidarity action to stand with Ferguson, MO for four-and-a-half hours, the amount of time Michael Brown’s body was left in the street after the unarmed teen was shot and killed by a police officer.
With national protests erupting over the non-indictment of the police officers involved in the Brown and Eric Garner cases, Richmond served as a rare example of a peaceful protest on Tuesday. More than 100 people joined the protest, holding signs or their hands up in surrender – like some witnesses said Brown was doing before being shot – and drawing approving honks from cars passing by.
In recent days, neighboring Berkeley witnessed protests turned violent with windows smashed and trash cans lit on fire, as well as alleged police brutality. Spates of violence have also marred demonstrations in Oakland.
There was no violence at the Richmond protest.
“We felt that Richmond was too silent on this issue,” said Kimberly Aceves, RYSE’s executive director. “And we felt that it was our role as a youth center to come out and show solidarity, both with Ferguson, but also with the young people in this community who feel the impact daily.”
With Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech blaring in the background, supporters, armed with black armbands, lined Macdonald Avenue holding signs and chanting “Richmond Rises” and “no justice, no peace.”
Many community leaders, from outgoing Mayor Gayle McLaughlin to Mayor Elect Tom Butt and Police Chief Chris Magnus, took their place in the line.
Holding a “#blacklivesmatter” sign, Magnus made sure to attend Tuesday’s solidarity action for a full four hours even though it meant letting his work pile grow.
“We support people’s rights to peacefully protest. We have a lot of respect for all lives in our community, black, brown, everyone,” Magnus said. “Our goal is to promote and build the strongest relationships possible between the police and the community.”
But for Councilman Jael Myrick, who was joined by his brother, the message hit closer to home.
“I am here as a young black male myself, who has been watching for years and years, as society is basically telling young black men that we’re not human,” Myrick said.
The protest brought together all facets of Richmond’s community, even prompting the RYSE Center’s Palestinian American next-door neighbors to buy bottled water for all the supporters because he understood their cause.
The day served as a source of pride for George Mitchell, a young Richmond resident who attends the RYSE Center’s programs.
“I wanted to lend my voice. I’m proud of people coming together in Richmond,” said the 24-year old. “And we are doing it peacefully and so I am real proud of that.”
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