Young novice protest leaders help drive US wave of dissent

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FILE - In this June 3, 2020 file photo, Stefan Perez, second from left, addresses a crowd at a rally in Detroit over the death of George Floyd. Many have seen on video a consistent drumbeat of deaths of people of color at the hands of police since they were children. They also have native fluency in social media, where information and communication can translate quickly into real-life action. Now, in big cities and small towns, whether liberal or conservative, the new young organizers are taking matters into their own hands and bringing together hundreds or thousands of people to peacefully press for change. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Before George Floyd stopped pleading for air beneath a police officer's knee, 19-year-old Weidmayer Pierre was planning to work at Wal-Mart during his summer break from Palm Beach State College.

Now his days look completely different. Pierre has quit his retail job to focus on organizing Black Lives Matter protests every few days in Florida, determined to channel the groundswell of energy around the world into meaningful reform in his hometown.

“Every time someone gets killed by police brutality we protest once or twice and it’s done," said Pierre, who wants to help police improve the system from within. “This time, I’m not planning on stopping until we have a change.”

Pierre is part of a grassroots, decentralized wave of young organizers across the U.S. helping drive the outpouring of protest against racism and police brutality in cities and towns around the nation.

Many are new to organizing, but have seen a drumbeat of deaths of police-brutality cases captured on video since they were children. Social media is second nature for many, and they're showing how small groups can translate online information quickly into real-life action.

Now, in big cities and small towns, both liberal and conservative, they are taking matters into their own hands and bringing together hundreds of thousands of people to press for change.

The novice organizers' visions for the future differ, but they all hope their voices are helping create a historic turning point in dismantling racism and inequity.

Tiffany Medrano Martinez had just graduated from eighth grade when she decided to organize a peaceful demonstration in her hometown of Redwood City, California. The 14-year-old had watched protests sweep the country in the wake of Floyd’s death, some accompanied by unrest in the form of smashed windows, stolen goods and burned buildings.