By Mike Kinney
They are the signs of the times. Throngs of protesters, many carrying signs with messages that spoke volumes about their support for justice for George Floyd and an end to police brutality, gathered for a peaceful youth-led demonstration at Richmond Civic Center and march to Richmond police headquarters on Saturday. Organizers pegged attendance at over 1,000.
Called “Mobilization for Organization,” the event featured speeches and performances, including a stunning Acapella rendition of the National Black Anthem, ‘Lift Every Voice,’ by Jane Hancock.
The event was organized by UCLA students Samone Anderson and Armond Lee along with Howard University graduate LaVonia Bobo, all of whom are graduates of West Contra Costa Unified schools. They worked closely with school district educators, students and members of local organizations in its planning.
Richmond Interim Police Chief Bisa French and a small contingent of uniformed officers attended the protest, as did Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, who praised the demonstration on Facebook and posted a photo holding a Black Lives Matter sign at City Hall.
At 2 p.m., the crowds began the march from Civic Center Plaza to the Richmond Police Department headquarters at 1701 Regatta Blvd.
According to Kennedy High Assistant Principal Helene Burks, who attended the protest as a community advocate, said it took about 45 minutes to make that walk. In the parking lot at police headquarters, youth organizers gave remarks against the backdrop of two police vehicles and several officers blocking further access to the station, Burks said.
In addition to youth organizers, speeches by SF Pride President Carolyn Wysinger Tamisha, Safe Return Project Director Torres Walker and New Life Movement founder Bendrick Foster were delivered from the middle of the parking lot.
At the end, organizers Lee, Bobo, and Anderson proclaimed their list of demands, which included those at the national level, those directed to the mayor or Richmond, those directed to WCCUSD, and those directed to the Richmond Police Department.
National demands included holding police officers responsible for deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, and Ahmaud Arbery, and “an end to the racist system that allows this culture of corruption to go unchecked and our lives to be taken.”
The youth called for the removal of police officers who monitor Richmond school campuses, calling them “detrimental to the economic and public health of the black community due to the restrictions it places on access and achievement.” They demanded a reorganization of campus safety and security to include mentors, along with investments in mental and behavioral health, special education and restorative justice models.
Marvieon Harris, a graduate of El Cerrito High, said after the protest, “I’m so proud of my city.”
“There was so many people,” Harris said. “I don’t remember the last time seeing everybody coming together like that….It was history, going down Cutting and Portrero while we were marching, like that’s where I grew up at, so it hit hard for me at that point. I’m really proud of everybody and I hope that we continue to come together like this and continue to make change.”