Thousands gather for Juneteenth march in San Jose, organized by youth leaders, students

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- As organizers of the San Jose youth group Brave Space looked out into a sea of people at San Jose State University, they could hardly believe that the march they organized, just over a week ago, would have such a huge turnout.

"It really was just an idea that we put forward and 37 kids showed up in my living room," said Shay Franco-Clausen, who created the group Brave Space.

"The students took that call and ran with it. I mean we're crying on stage because I'm just overwhelmed with happiness," she said.

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Clausen is an elected director at Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority and a Black LGBTQA leader. She says she knows how it feels not to have a voice. She was determined to give young people in her community the space to speak out against racism, the kind of space that she never had.

"People are always talking about doing things for black lives, let us tell you how to protect black lives. We live it every day," she said.

By the organizers' count, about 9,000 people marched with their group from Santa Clara University to San Jose State University.

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The rally ended at the Olympic Black Power Statue on campus, where the lawn was completely full.

The crowd was made up of all ages, all races.

"I feel like George Floyd was probably a breaking point for a lot of people," said Jaziah Simmons, one of the students who protested.

"It feels good," said another young student Roobens Schilling, one of the youngest in the crowd. "It feels like everyone is voting for Black Lives Matter."

"I don't want him to be next and so we are here supporting the movement," said his mom.

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For others in the crowd, they showed up as allies, all too familiar with the discrimination that their black friends face, every day.

"As a white person, I do have the privilege to be able to come to these areas and feel safe, while a lot of my friends who are black, do not have that same privilege," said Madeline MacWilliamson, another student who attended the protest.

"I wasn't even taught what Juneteenth was. I just learned this year because of this movement and I feel like that's a problem." said another student, Shannon Kennedy.

It's a problem that keeps Franco-Clausen and her students, motivated to keep the Black Lives Matter movement strong, their voices heard.

"My message on Juneteenth is this: 155 years later from the last person being told that they're free and we were still marching and we are still marching against systemic racism," she said.
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