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Candlelight vigil at SRJC protests death of Daunte Wright

A common theme was clear Friday night during a candlelight vigil at Santa Rosa Junior College to memorialize Daunte Wright, the 20-year-old Black man recently shot dead by a police officer in a town northwest of Minneapolis.

People said they were tired of protesting without making progress in stopping excessive police violence against people of color. They were “tired of excuses” as lives continue to be taken, Amber Lucas said. Tired of getting out their “Black Lives Matter” signs again.

“I’m on the verge of tears because of why we’re here. ... I didn’t want this to happen again. And it has,” Lucas said at the start of the vigil. “Only the names change and the chants remain the same. I’m just tired of seeing my Black siblings killed. We are here tonight to honor Daunte Wright. But there are other names. Like Adam Toledo,” the 13-year-old boy who was shot and killed by Chicago police last month.

Police said Toledo was holding a weapon when he was shot, but video released this week showed he appeared to be unarmed and raising his hands when he was shot.

Lucas, who sits on the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women, then led the crowd in loud chants of “Black Lives Matter!”

More than 100 people gathered to mourn the death of Wright, shot Sunday by a veteran police trainer who said she mistook her gun for a Taser. The killing of Wright inflamed tensions in Minneapolis, where Derek Chauvin, a former police officer, is currently on trial in the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died last year when Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes.

Those who came, many of them young people of color, lit candles and held flowers as they listened to planned speakers and others who took their turns at the microphone to excoriate law enforcement.

“We just wanted to create a space where people could come together and mourn,” Chantavy Tornado, executive director of Love and Light, the Santa Rosa-based group that sponsored the vigil, said in an interview. “It’s almost the anniversary of George Floyd and we feel the community hasn’t had time to heal.”

When it was her turn to speak, Tornado did not hold back.

“We aren’t f---ing going to get anywhere until we abolish law enforcement,” she told the crowd.

Love and Light formed last year in response to the national fallout over Floyd’s death. The group later campaigned in support of Measure P, which was adopted by voters last November and expanded independent oversight of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.

Lucas led those assembled in chants calling for Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick to resign because she said “he underprioritized the needs of our BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) community,” defied the county mask order and has been accused of bullying by county Supervisor Lynda Hopkins.

The group is holding a rally Saturday at 1 p.m. in Roseland in front of the Andy Lopez mural. Called Viva La Mujer, the rally is being held to support women who are survivors of sexual assault. Organizers will also memorialize Adam Toledo.

A young Black woman who took the mic to speak late in the evening summed up the group’s sentiment.

“I’m so tired of having to get up every morning and fear for my child’s life,” said Jelly Washington, sobbing. “I’m tired, so tired.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at kathleen.coates@pressdemocrat.com.

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