By RAHNE PISTOR
A crowd of nearly 200 gathered Monday evening, December 17th,
at Saint Anne's Catholic Church, 2017 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica,
for a "Community Peace Vigil honoring the light of youth."
A third of the participants were teenagers and the others were
parents and community leaders.
The group marched about eight blocks to Douglas Park, 2439 Wilshire
Blvd., Santa Monica, singing and holding candles as a police escort
The vigil was in response to the recent stabbing death of 15-year-old
Santa Monica High School honor student Deanna Maran at a party
in Westwood and was designed to focus on the issue of youth violence
and to pay respect to victims of violence.
"The purpose of tonight is to stand vigil to remember our
young who have died far too soon over the past few years and to
stand vigil with our youth in respectful remembrance," said
Oscar Delatorre of the Pico Youth and Family Center.
"Our youth are the most important resource we have,"
added John Deasy, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District
"We must make it clear that it is not okay for our youth
to die of violence," Deasy said.
Comments were translated into Spanish and sign language.
Thin white candles were lit and gatherers passed the flame along
from person to person, illuminating the surroundings as night
Though the vigil was held regarding a somber topic, there was
a festive mood among marchers.
The procession to Douglas Park was led by students carrying a
four-by-eight-foot cloth banner lent by community peace activist
Jerry Rubin that displayed a large black peace symbol and the
inscription "Back By Popular Demand."
Four men with acoustic guitars strummed the tunes "This
Little Light" and "Let There Be Peace On Earth,"
as marchers followed along singing.
Saint John's Health Center employees clapped as marchers passed
People peered at the procession from storefront windows.
Diners at the local Earth, Wind, and Flour restaurant paused
during their meals to ogle.
Cars honked and passengers waved.
At one point, a homeless man rose from slumber next to a garbage
bin on Wilshire Boulevard and began dancing and clapping merrily
alongside the singing procession, waving the two-fingered peace
Marchers chuckled and continued onward to Douglas Park.
Two members of the Santa Monica High School Student Council spoke
at the park.
"Loss of life is something we at Santa Monica High School
have come to understand at a very young age," said Student
Council president Justin Brownstone.
"World issues as well as local issues of violence have affected
the conscience of students."
Brownstone called for students to be less "passive"
in their resistance to violent behavior.
Maria Vivanco, Santa Monica High senior class vice-president,
said that if a student sees a person committing a violent act,
that student is responsible for saying "¿qué
pasa?" and doing something about it.
Event organizers say that they will continue their community
dialogue on peace at a Community Forum On Youth Violence Prevention
between 7 and 9 p.m. Tuesday, January 29th, at Santa Monica High
School, 601 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. The public is invited.
Information, Betty Macias, (310) 458-8688.