STOCKTON — Local activists hope that a three-day event in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza will spark a larger discussion aimed at putting an end to gun violence and officer-involved shootings.
Members of the Black Lives Matter Stockton Chapter 2.0 were in front of Stockton City Hall on Thursday morning to announce plans for a three-day Juneteenth gathering at the plaza open to anyone interested in learning more about public safety and mental health issues affecting the city.
“We are networking with moms, families and grass-roots organizations concerning police violence and gun violence,” chapter member Denise Friday said. “But we’re also concerned about housing, about homelessness, health issues, mental illness and (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients). We want to have a conversation about what can be done for these issues, and about any bills that are being or can be passed through state legislation.”
The group planned to camp out at the park Thursday night and tonight, with each day filled with workshops on topics such as “Police and Gun Violence” and “Know Your Rights,” the latter of which would be provided by the National Lawyers Guild of America.
The event is scheduled to end by noon Saturday, ending with a workshop entitled “Where Do We Go from Here?”
Friday and Dionne Smith-Downs, both mothers who lost sons in incidents involving police, are hoping Stockton police officers and City Council members will engage with them over the three-day period.
“I hope they come. It will be successful,” Smith-Downs said. “I hope they come out and discuss things with us. We can talk about what’s bothering us, and they can tell us what is bothering them.”
Smith-Downs’ 16-year-old son son, James Rivera Jr., was shot to death by Stockton police in 2010. Her 42-year-old brother Bobby Smith was the victim of a 2016 homicide.
She said the three-day event is not just about her son or brother, or Friday’s son Colby, but about everyone in the community who wants to see a safer city.
Danisha Brown, the widow of Colby Friday, said she hopes the event will be a way for victims of violence to meet with people who can guide them to the proper recovery resources.
Colby Friday was 30 when he was shot to death by a Stockton police officer in 2016.
Originally from Hayward, Brown said after his death she was directed to Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments in Fremont, a nonprofit organization providing shelter and assistance to victims of violence and crime.
She said many people in Stockton do not know how to access such services or that they even exist.
“I believe there needs to be an organization dedicated to helping or saving people who used to be on the front lines with the people who caused these issues,” she said. “Everyone needs some tender loving care.”
Juneteenth commemorates the June 19, 1865, announcement that slavery had been abolished in Texas, even though President Abraham Lincoln had freed all slaves two years earlier through the Emancipation Proclamation.
“(Juneteenth) is the work of freedom and pride,” Denise Friday said. “We want to stand up for freedom and pride, and discuss the issues holding this community down.”
Contact reporter Wes Bowers at (209) 546-8258, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @WesBo26.