Archive for the ‘International’ Category

Antioch council to discuss possible Israel-Hamas ceasefire resolution Tuesday

Monday, March 18th, 2024
Members of the Antioch City Council meeting audience wear pro-Palestinian keffiyeh scarves on Feb. 27, 2024. Photo by Allen D. Payton Former PLO and PNA leader Yasser Arafat wearing his iconic fishnet pattern keffiyeh in 2001. Source:

During special meeting; Ogorchock, Barbanica will not attend citing scheduling conflicts

By Allen D. Payton

During a special meeting called by Antioch Mayor Lamar Hernandez-Thorpe for Tuesday, March 19, 2024, the Antioch City Council, on a possible a ceasefire resolution for the Israel-Hamas War as proposed by District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker. (See meeting agenda)

Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker and residents wear pro-Palestinian keffiyeh scarves during public comments at the Antioch City Council meeting on Feb. 27, 2024. Video screenshots.

The council’s consideration follows requests by members of the public during recent Antioch Council meetings at which Torres-Walker, some speakers and members of the audience could be seen wearing black and white, fishnet pattern scarves known as keffiyehs. They have become a national symbol of pro-Palestinian activists in the Israel-Palestine conflict dating back to the 1936–1939 Arab revolt against the British. Former Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian National Authority (PNA) leader Yasser Arafat could regularly be seen wearing one.

A resident wearing a keffiyeh scarf speaks during public comments asking for a ceasefire resolution at the Antioch City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Video screenshot

This is perhaps the first time ever the council will delve into international matters and possibly give direction to the president and representatives in Congress. One idea is to tell the Biden Administration to not spend any tax dollars generated in Antioch on weapons sent to Israel.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the council will receive public comments, discuss the matter and provide direction to city staff on a possible proposed resolution.

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock said she would not attend as she only learned of the special meeting in a text from Acting City Manager Kwame Reed over the weekend and had already made other plans. Councilman Mike Barbanica will also not be in attendance as he also has a scheduling conflict, which he said he told the mayor last Monday.

The agenda was just issued on Monday afternoon, March 18, 2024, complying with the 24-hour minimum notice requirement.

It also follows the Richmond City Council’s 5-1 vote last October to condemn Israel and support the “Palestinian People of Gaza”. Contra Costa County District 1 Supervisor John Gioia opposed the resolution writing, “The passage of any resolution, regardless of attempts to amend it, will only contribute to the divisiveness.” It also follows a requested resolution by members of the public and the Brentwood City Council last November, but it has not been placed on a meeting agenda, as of yet.

The Antioch Council meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 200 H Street.

Princeton University student from Antioch wins Projects for Peace award

Saturday, January 20th, 2024
Princeton University senior and Dozier-Libbey Medical High School of Antioch graduate Carlos Cortez, 2023 Projects for Peace grant recipient. Photo by Gwen McNamara.

It takes a village: Carlos Cortez – Class of ’24 – and the people of Zináparo bring music and soccer to their youth

By Lou Chen, Trenton Arts at Princeton Program Manager

Originally published by Princeton University’s Pace Center for Community Service. Republished with permission.

Carlos Cortez ’24 straddles two worlds.

The 2020 Dozier-Libbey Medical High School graduate’s family is from Zináparo, a small rural village in Michoácan, Mexico, where few people have ever heard of Princeton University.

The son of Carlos and Eréndira Cortez is a senior at Princeton University, where few people have ever heard of Zináparo.

But Carlos, the student, had an idea to bring these two worlds together. Last year, with the funding he won as Princeton’s 2023 Projects for Peace award recipient, he started a music and soccer summer camp for Zináparo youth.

Now everyone in Zináparo knows Princeton. And Princeton is just getting to know Zináparo.

Carlos Cortez (back right) and his soccer team. Photo by Lou Chen.

An Idea

Even though Carlos was born and raised in Antioch, California, he considers his real hometown to be Zináparo, where most of his extended family still lives. Twice every year, he travels to Zináparo to enjoy the balmy summers and festive winters, hiking in the nearby mountains and participating in the annual peregrinación (religious pilgrimage).

Accepted into Princeton as a Questbridge scholar, Carlos chose to major in neuroscience and committed to the pre-med track, supplementing his coursework with research and tutoring jobs. Despite his busy schedule, he felt restless. His thoughts constantly returned to Zináparo.

Carlos in Zináparo’s town square. Photo by Lou Chen.

“My dream was to become a doctor and open a pediatric clinic in Zináparo,” he says. “But I realized that it would be many years before I could accomplish this. I didn’t want to wait that long. I wanted a chance to do something now.”

That chance soon arrived. During his junior year, he heard about the Pace Center for Civic Engagement’s Projects for Peace initiative, which provides Princeton undergraduates with a $10,000 award to implement a service project anywhere in the world. With his family’s encouragement, he proposed a music and soccer summer camp for children in Zináparo.

“Growing up in California, music and soccer were very important for me in making community,” he says. “I wanted the kids in Zináparo to have the same experience.”

In the spring of 2023, he won the award.

According to a preview article about his project, “He saw his project as an opportunity to not only influence the youth of his town, but to have positive reverberations for the entire community and surrounding communities as well.

He summarizes this hope as he looks forward to this summer by saying, ‘just like a musical note can travel through both time and space when it is played, I am hopeful of learning how my project’s ideals and goals are going to have transgenerational effects on the future generations of Zináparo and ultimately transcend beyond the borders of my hometown,’ he shared before the project began.”

Carlos and his music students. Photo by Adrián Pimentel.

A Village

As any entrepreneur will tell you, the road from idea to execution is a winding one. “Right before arriving in Zináparo, I was feeling that the process would be easy,” Carlos says. “But when I landed in Zináparo, I started to realize that it was going to be a long journey with a lot of challenges.”

The first challenge was recruiting children for the camp, which Carlos had titled, “Musical Notes: A Composition for Peace.” Even though Carlos was a frequent visitor to Zináparo, he remained an unfamiliar face to many people. It didn’t matter that Princeton was supporting the camp; none of the children knew what Princeton even was. 

He began by visiting the local high school where his aunt Noemí taught history and ethics, going from classroom to classroom and telling students about his new program. He later found out that one of the students called up Noemí, a widely respected community leader in Zináparo, and told her that someone from Princeton University wanted to start a summer camp. “Do you know about this?” the student asked. “Can we trust him?” 

“Of course, you can,” Noemí replied. “He’s my nephew!”

Carlos purchases a bass in Paracho. Photo by Adrián Pimentel.

Another challenge was procuring instruments. Almost 40 kids wanted to learn guitar, violin, or bass—but none of them had their own instrument. One hot summer day, Carlos, his younger sister Natalia, his mother, his uncle Adrián, and his grandfather Guillermo piled into the family van and drove two hours to Paracho, a small town in Michoácan that specializes in making instruments. (Paracho inspired the setting of the Oscar-winning animated film Coco.)

Once in Paracho, they purchased several instruments from a local luthier. Somehow, they crammed one bass, five guitars, and seven violins into a van that already contained five people. “I was pressed up against the side of the van,” says Carlos. “It was definitely an experience.” They made several return trips to Paracho for more instruments, and on one occasion, the aforementioned luthier drove a second bass all the way to Zináparo by himself. 

Carlos was surprised by how enthusiastically the Zináparo community rallied around the camp. Countless people pitched in: the neighbor who let them use his house for rehearsals; the business owner who let them use his shop for a private recital; and Carlos’ 10-year-old student Hector and Hector’s mother Luz, who cleaned up after every rehearsal. “Without everyone’s help, this project would not have been possible,” says Carlos. 

The camp exceeded even Carlos’ wildest expectations. Every Monday through Thursday for two and a half months, almost 100 children aged four to 17 participated in one or more classes: soccer, choir, guitar, and violin/bass. Carlos coached the soccer team and hired teachers for the other subjects. “I wanted teachers who were passionate about working with kids,” says Carlos. “I didn’t want them to treat this as just another way to make money.”

On the last day of camp, his soccer team surprised him with a loud round of applause. One student cried out, “Carlos for president!” Carlos promised to buy them jerseys out of his own money if they continued to practice soccer.

Carlos and his soccer team. Photo by Adrián Pimentel.

Continue they did. Even though Carlos had to return to Princeton for his senior year, he was determined to keep the camp going. He found two people to coach the soccer team on a volunteer basis; they had recently moved to Zináparo and had long dreamed of coaching their own team. He used his leftover Projects for Peace funding to pay for weekly choral and instrumental lessons for his students until December and let them keep their instruments. Noemí took his place as the point person for the program. 

For Carlos, the experience was a blessing. “I just wanted to change the future of even one of the kids,” he says. “I’m seeing that difference already.”

A Debut

On January 7, Carlos woke up with butterflies in his stomach. Today was the debut of Musical Notes: A Composition for Peace. Since the summer, the choir and orchestra (consisting of guitar, violin, and bass) had been rehearsing weekly for a big concert in the Zináparo town square. The entire community had been invited, and Carlos’ extended family in California had flown out to watch. 

Carlos’ soccer team wears their new Princeton-themed jerseys. Photo by Lou Chen.

First, Carlos stopped by the soccer field to observe a match between his team and a team from a neighboring town. He had kept his promise: His team was wearing brand-new orange and black jerseys. Natalia had designed the jerseys, including the iconic image of a Princeton tiger glaring through claw marks.

“In one of our first games, we played against a team from a much wealthier town,” says Carlos. “I could tell how discouraged my students were to see how much nicer [the opposing team’s] field was. I got them jerseys because I wanted them to feel proud to be on this team. I wanted them to feel like they were a part of something bigger…like they had the support of Princeton University.” The new jerseys seemed to do the trick: After putting them on, his team won the next game. 

After the match, Carlos and his parents walked to the town square to set up for the performance. The owner of the local funeral home, whose daughter was in the choir, had donated 150 chairs for the audience—and had even purchased new ones so that there would be enough. 

The audience seated (and standing) in the town square. Photo by Lou Chen.

Carlos was worried that not enough people were going to show up to fill the seats. But as people started entering the town square, he realized that he had the opposite problem: He didn’t have enough seats. His family raced to the rehearsal space, grabbed as many chairs as they could, carried them back, and set them up with only minutes to spare. The new chairs were quickly occupied, and latecomers had to stand. At least 350 people were in the audience. 

As Natalia helped tune the guitars, she noticed a student looking forlorn. She asked him what was wrong, and he quietly asked if this was the last day of the program. “Of course not,” Natalia assured him. He smiled.

The choir performs “Noche de paz.” Photo by Lou Chen.

The choir opened the concert with six Christmas carols. During “Noche de paz” (Silent Night), they cradled candles in their hands, their faces glowing as if lit from within. For their final song, “Ven a Cantar” (Sing with Us), they rolled up their sleeves, revealing bracelets made of jingle bells. As they clapped their hands, the ringing of bells filled the crisp winter air.

The orchestra was up next, performing two songs that featured a 15-year-old choral student named Andrea. Her voice, initially hesitant and wavering, gradually grew in power. The guitarists kept the orchestra together with their steady strumming, and the violinists trained their eyes on the conductor, determined not to miss their tremolo entrance. In the very back, a student plucked away at the bass that Carlos had brought back from Paracho.

José delivers his speech. Photo by Lou Chen.

After the orchestra finished, Noemí invited Hector and Luz to the stage and thanked them for keeping the rehearsal space clean. She presented them with gifts and embraced a clearly overcome Luz. The crowd cheered.

Next to speak was Carlos’ student José, who at 17 years old was the oldest member of the program. “I want to give a special thank you to Carlos for giving me and the children of this town the opportunity to learn music,” he said. “I hope this continues…Zináparo needs these programs.”

Carlos walked onstage to deliver the concluding remarks. “Thank you to my grandparents for giving me a love of Zináparo,” he said, choking back tears. “I know I wasn’t born here, but this is my home.”

As Carlos left the stage, he was mobbed by students, parents, complete strangers—all of whom wanted to take a picture with him. Grown men were crying and little kids were beaming. “Before this camp, the children of Zináparo didn’t have anything like this,” said Eréndira. “But now, they do.”

Carlos hopes that the camp will take place every summer, with weekly programming throughout the rest of the year. He hopes that someday his music students will be paid to perform or even to teach. (This is already happening: José has been invited by his guitar teacher to perform in a mariachi band, and Carlos wants him to teach for the camp.) He hopes to solicit donations from Zináparo residents who have immigrated to the United States, and to potentially seek funding from the Mexican government. 

Musical Notes: A Composition for Peace. Photo by Lou Chen.

These are all big dreams. It’s a lot for one Princeton student—and soon-to-be-alum—to take on alone. 

But Carlos knows he isn’t alone. “I feel honored to have so many different communities believe in the project,” he says. “It ensures the life of the project, because there are so many people invested in wanting to see the kids succeed.”

To learn more about Musical Notes: A Composition for Peace, follow them on Instagram. Their full debut performance can be viewed on YouTube.

Allen D. Payton contributed to this report.

CA Homeland Security Advisor issues statement on security related to Israel, Gaza

Friday, October 13th, 2023

On potential threats in response to Hamas’ call for “Day of Jihad”

SACRAMENTO – In response to Hama’s call for a global “Day of Jihad” on Friday, 13, 2023, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Director Nancy Ward, who serves as California’s Homeland Security Advisor, released the following statement yesterday on the efforts underway to protect the well-being of all Californians:

“As California’s Homeland Security Agency, we are actively monitoring the developing situation in Israel and Gaza and closely coordinating with our security partners to track potential impacts on the domestic threat environment.

“The situation remains dynamic and evolving. I continue to actively brief the Governor on the current situation and state intelligence and law enforcement officials are working around the clock to safeguard the safety and security of all Californians.

“We are in touch with faith leaders and communities across the state to provide support, listen to their concerns and offer the full resources of the state.

“While we are aware of statements made about potential threats on Friday, October 13, I want to emphasize that no specific and credible threat to California has been identified at this time.

“As with any potential threats to our state, Cal OES will coordinate with our partners at the local, state and federal level to ensure they have the resources and information necessary to keep our communities safe.

“All Californians have an important role to play in protecting our communities, and I encourage everyone in our state to be alert, vigilant and prepared and immediately report any suspicious activity through proper channels.”

About Cal OES

With over 38 million residents (12 percent of the US population), the State of California is the most populous state in the nation and has the third largest land area among the states (163,695 square miles). California is culturally, ethnically, economically, ecologically, and politically diverse, and maintains the eighth largest economy in the world with 13 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. California also faces numerous risks and threats to our people, property, economy, environment and is prone to earthquakes, floods, significant wildfires, prolonged drought impacts, public health emergencies, cybersecurity attacks, agricultural and animal disasters, as well threats to homeland security. Cal OES takes a proactive approach to addressing these risks, threats, and vulnerabilities that form the basis of our mission and has been tested through real events, as well as comprehensive exercises that help us maintain our state of readiness to plan for and mitigate impacts.

Allen D. Payton contributed to this report.

Antioch Mayor Pro Tem gives false testimony about Antioch cops in speech at UN meeting

Wednesday, October 11th, 2023
Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker outside the UN building and speaking while at a conference in Geneva, Switzerland last week. Sources: (L & C) her official Facebook page and (R) Safe Return Project.

See 10/13/23 UPDATE for her responses to questions about her comments. Now claims “entire department…under review.”

Joined by another Contra Costa organization leader at Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Switzerland

“Tamisha Torres-Walker…has now misrepresented what is truly happening at the Antioch Police Department to the world…” – APOA attorney Mike Rains

Barbanica Also Disputes Colleague’s Claims

By Allen D. Payton

According to an announcement by the Richmond, CA-based Safe Return Project, “on October 5, 2023, (Antioch Mayor Pro Tem) Tamisha Torres-Walker, (the organization’s) Executive Director and Co-Founder of, alongside James Heard, Director of Lift Up Contra Costa, sat in the grand auditorium in Geneva, Switzerland, at the United Nations to shed light on the decades of alleged racism and corruption of local law enforcement of nearly half the Antioch, CA police force and the impact on Black lives and civil rights at the 38th Meeting – 54th Session of Human Rights Council.”

The announcement also shared, “The United Nations Human Rights Council welcomed 45 speakers from around the globe who gave an enhanced interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner and the International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement. The EDFU Foundation invited Tamisha for the prestigious honor of providing a statement before the Human Rights Council based on two reports, the EMLER and OHCHR.

The Human Rights Council will report back to the United Nations to make recommendations using the presented EMLEROHCHR Report calls upon America to “do something” about the fundamental protection of human rights of Black people and their civil rights when it comes to cruel and unethical acts committed by the institution of American policing as well as ending the war on drugs, that has led to the incarceration and disenfranchisement of missions of Black Americans.

Torres-Walker’s statement to the Human Rights Council, United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland:

‘I was encouraged to see solutions to police corruption and use of force driven by community engagement stated prominently in the EMLER and OHCHR Reports.

Civilian oversight of law enforcement is a crucial and necessary mechanism that plays a vital role in ensuring transparency, accountability, and the protection of civil rights.

Antioch, CA, is the second most diverse city in the US Bay Area, with a population of over 115,000, with 20.2% of its population identifying as African American. It has a police department with more than 80% of its department sworn and non-sworn personnel under federal and state review for civil rights, use of force, and other violations of public trust.

Oversight serves as a check and balance and has the ability to promote sustainable solutions to public safety that are not simply alternatives to policing but have a higher success rate of preventing crime and harm while keeping communities safe.

Community-based solutions to public safety and protecting the rights of black Americans should be a priority, not over-policing and hypersurveillance. The city of Los Angeles’s police department’s budget, for example, is $3.2 billion annually and climbing; this is a budget the size of most developing countries’ military budgets. These sustainable solutions, like civilian peacemaker operations across America and elsewhere need to be funded at the same scale.

Again, thank you for this report, and thank Edfu Foundation for this opportunity.’”

False Information Corrected

However, part of what Torres-Walker shared is incorrect about the Antioch Police Department officers. As previously and extensively reported, the FBI and Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office have been investigating alleged “crimes of moral turpitude” involving a handful of Antioch officers. The larger number of officers caught up in the racist text scandal are undergoing an internal City investigation using an outside contracted investigator. (See related article here and here)

Furthermore, of the 105 sworn officers currently on the Antioch Police force, 80% would mean 84 are under investigation which is not correct.

Questions for Torres-Walker Go Unanswered

Questions were sent to Torres-Walker asking her to back up her claims. She was asked, “where did you get your statistics and facts that you mentioned in your speech at the U.N. meeting last week? What state review of the sworn  and non-sworn personnel for civil rights, use of force and other violations of public trust is currently underway? Which agency is conducting it? Other than the FBI investigation, along with the CCDA’s office of the handful of officers for alleged ‘crimes of moral turpitude’ what federal review are 80% of the department’s sworn and non-sworn personnel undergoing? Which agency is conducting it? Why didn’t you say anything positive about our city? Do you think spreading negative and false information will benefit the Antioch Police Department and city? What good were or are you hoping to result from your speech? Are you wanting the United Nations to get involved in the current investigations of Antioch police officers? Did the City of Antioch pay for your trip?”

Questions for Chief, APOA VP & Attorney

Questions were also sent to Acting Antioch Police Chief Joe Vigil, APOA Vice President Lauren Bledsoe and APOA attorney Mike Rains asking for the details on the number of officers on the force and how many are under investigation.

APOA Attorney Says No State Involvement, Provides Correct Statistics

Michael Rains, of the Rains Luca Stern St. Phalle & Silver law firm, which represents the APOA responded with the following:

“Tamisha Torres-Walker is apparently not content simply misrepresenting the facts to the local media in Contra Costa County, or to the constituents in the City of Antioch.  She has now misrepresented what is truly happening at the Antioch Police Department to the world at a conference in  Geneva, Switzerland, which will no doubt give the City of Antioch a bad reputation internationally if someone cares to check the accuracy of her statement that ‘. . . 80% of (the Police Department’s ) sworn and non-sworn personnel are under federal and state review for civil rights, use of force, and other violations of public trust.’

First, she neglected to mention that the former Police Chief, Steven Ford, initiated a request on behalf of his Police Department for an ‘audit’ of the Department by the State of California Department of Justice. State DOJ stated that it was willing to conduct an audit but has not initiated any type of audit or review as of this date.

Civil rights attorney John Burris has ‘demanded’ that the federal government initiate an investigation of the department, but apparently, the federal government does not respond to Mr. Burris’ demands, and has thus not initiated an investigation or notified the department it intends to do so as of this date.

There is currently an administrative investigation underway relating to approximately 17 officers who have been placed on administrative leave by city officials (not at the direction of, or the concurrence by former Chief Steven Ford), for engaging in inappropriate text messaging on their personal cell phones. That pending administrative investigation has nothing to do with either civil rights violations or use of improper force.

The placement of those officers on administrative leave represents approximately 20% of the sworn workforce, not 80%, as stated by Torres-Walker, and of the 17 who have been languishing on paid administrative leave for over half this year, the incompetent City leaders (outside of the police department) who are supposedly ‘managing’ the administrative investigation by hiring ‘outside’ lawyers to interview the officers have only had about half of the officers interviewed thus far, and have no interviews at all scheduled for the other half.

Of the seven or eight officers who were interviewed, other than two who declined to answer questions and face discipline for that reason, there are no adverse findings in possession of the City against those officers.

Alternatively, the City leaders who are supposedly ‘managing’ the investigation, for whatever reason, including the fact that the findings by the outside lawyers do not play into the ‘racist culture’ narrative they have perpetuated, have not shared those findings with the officers or their attorneys.

It sounds like just another day of misrepresenting the truth to the public, but here the distortions were delivered to a much larger audience.” 

Barbanica Also Disputes Torres-Walker’s Claims

District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica was also reached for comment and said in response, “I’m unaware of 80% of our department being investigated. I’m very proud of the city that I was raised in and still live in. Having the opportunity to speak on a world stage I would have personally used that opportunity to highlight the positives the city has to offer, while addressing those issues honestly and factually.”

“The investigation is going to weed out anyone who should not be part of our department. The system is designed to identify the bad cops and eliminate them and keep the good cops and make sure those who should be working are,” he continued. “It’s unfortunate, this issue is being dragged back into the news when the situation is being dealt with by the FBI, the DA’s office, the courts and internally through an independent investigator. But I want it to be reported factually. 80% of our officers being investigated is news to me.”

“What she could have said is there is a small number of officers that are being investigated by the FBI and DA’s office. The others are undergoing an internal investigation,” Barbanica added.

The announcement by Torres-Walker’s organization also shared, “The Human Rights Council will report back to the United Nations to make recommendations using the presented EMLER. OHCHR Report calls upon America to ‘do something’ about the fundamental protection of human rights of Black people and their civil rights when it comes to cruel and unethical acts committed by the institution of American policing as well as ending the war on drugs, that has led to the incarceration and disenfranchisement of missions of Black Americans.”

The others did not respond prior to publication time.

Watchthe Full Session Enhanced ID: Excerpt Mechanism on Law Enforcement – 38th Meeting, 54th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council. See related documents: EMLER Report to OHCHR 2023 and OHCHR Report on EMLER 2023.

10/13/23 UPDATE: Torres-Walker Responds, Doesn’t Back Up Her Claims

On Friday, Oct. 13, Torres-Walker responded to the emailed questions with general information and without providing details to back up her claims:

Q. – Where did you get your statistics and facts that you mentioned in your speech at the U.N. meeting last week? 

A. – “The entire department has been under review that’s a fact. Not everyone has been indicted which is why my comments didn’t mention charges or terminations.”

Q. – What state review of the sworn and non-sworn personnel for civil rights, use of force and other violations of public trust is currently underway? Which agency is conducting it?

A. – “You as well as the public knows that there are officers and none sworn personnel facing federal and state charges not misinformation facts. There is also an internal investigation being led by the city attorney’s office again facts.”

Other than the FBI investigation, along with the CCDA’s office of the handful of officers for alleged “crimes of moral turpitude” what federal review are 80% of the department’s sworn and non-sworn personnel undergoing? Which agency is conducting it? Why didn’t you say anything positive about our city?

“I was there to address the topic of law enforcement and its harmful impact on black people and people of color based on two UN Reports. Did you read the Reports? The issues facing the police department is public and has been devastating to the community what’s positive about that?”

Q. – Do you think spreading negative and false information will benefit the Antioch Police Department and city? What good were or are you hoping to result from your speech? Are you wanting the United Nations to get involved in the current investigations of Antioch police officers?

A. – “I also mentioned the budget of the Los Angeles police department the point was to get them to recommend investments in community based violence prevention and intervention programs as stated in my comments.”

Q. – Finally, did the City of Antioch pay for your trip?

A. – “Although I am a council member in Antioch and a resident of Antioch I attended the session as the director of Safe Return Project and a member of the lift up Contra Costa coalition. I included James if you have any questions for him on your fact finding mission.”

Torres-Walker was then asked, “which federal and state agencies are conducting a ‘review’ of the ‘entire department’?” She was also asked, “Where did you get your statistic of 80% of the department? What other personnel besides the sworn officers and the one CSO are under review or investigation?”

She responded simply, “You should be able to get that information from the city attorney.”

The questions and her responses were then sent on Saturday, October 14, to City Attorney Smith, Acting Police Chief Vigil and APD spokesmen asking for them to answer the questions posed to the councilwoman.

Please check back later for their responses and any other updates to this report.

Social media experts warn parents of horrifying content from Hamas following terrorist attacks in Israel

Wednesday, October 11th, 2023

CEO of the Organization for Social Media Safety says Hamas has put your kids at great risk online, parents should lock down or take away kids’ devices  

By Bridget Sharkey, Prime Media Management via

Social media has long been used as a weapon by terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. Now Hamas is using the power of the Internet to terrify, confuse, and demean its victims.  

“Hamas is planting videos on sites like X that show gory and horrific acts of violence, including mass murders and defiled corpses,” said social media safety expert Marc Berkman, CEO of theOrganization for Social Media Safety (OFSMS).   

According to their website, the organization “is a nonprofit, consumer protection organization focused exclusively on social media. We protect against all social media-related dangers through a comprehensive approach that includes education, advocacy, and technology development. We are available to provide expertise for your story on social media-related dangers.”

Berkman says that these videos have millions of views, despite only being recently uploaded.  

“Terrorist groups often use social media platforms to disseminate hate and extreme violence,” he continued. “Parents around the country are receiving alerts from schools and elected officials over concerns that terrorists plan to disseminate distressing videos, including of hostages, through social media. These officials urge parents to delete TikTok and Instagram from their children’s devices as a protective measure.”

Berkman and the OFSMS concur, saying now is a good time to make your kids log off. He also agrees that major social media platforms, including X, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, and Discord, may be used as weapons of war, spreading graphic violence and hateful messaging.  

“This is not a concern limited to TikTok and Instagram,” said the social media expert. “Many platforms already contain graphic, violent videos produced by terrorists. In the past, we have also seen videos of extreme violence shared through social media messaging-based platforms like Snapchat.”  

The Organization for Social Media Safety urges all social media platforms to block or immediately remove any content disseminated directly by a terrorist organization. Berkman and the OFSMS share the following tips for parents:  

  • Consider pausing children’s social media access to protect their mental health and well-being. 
  • Talk with your children about what to do if they come across violent content (We strongly recommend teaching your child about blocking and reporting.) 
  • Consider third-party safety software, like our endorsed choice, Bark, that can alert you if dangerous content, like extreme violence, is shared on your child’s social media account. 

“We all have a responsibility to protect our community from the dangers of social media,” Berkman concludes. “Report and block! Don’t keep scrolling.”

Antioch missionaries stranded in Niger on flight to France Friday morning

Friday, August 4th, 2023
Antioch missionaries serving in Niamey, Niger and at the airport Friday morning, August, 4, 2023. Photos courtesy of Cornerstone Christian School.

Niger had refused to refuel plane, State Department negotiated

“Just pulled up from the runway. Super emotional.” – Pastor Steve Miner of Cornerstone Christian Center

“They have passed the borders and are three-and-a-half hours out of Paris.” – Logan Heyer, Principal, Cornerstone Christian School

Holly and Madison Heyer on the plane to France Friday, August 4, 2023. Photo courtesy of Logan Heyer

By Allen D. Payton

A team of 11 missionaries from Antioch’s Cornerstone Christian Center and School were stranded in the West African country of Niger, following a military coup, last week. They were supposed to fly back last Friday, July 28 and be home by Saturday. But they were not permitted as the borders had all been closed. (See related article)

According to Ron Eckstein, spokesman for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Office in Washington, D.C. in a phone call at 11:45 AM Friday, August 4, 2023, “the 11 individuals are on a flight to France. We were told by the State Department. It departed about 11 AM Pacific Time. Our office has been working on it since Tuesday, August 1.”

“I was not expecting such a positive resolution. But good news,” he added.

A post on Corrnerstone Christian School’s Facebook page at  11 a.m. Friday reads, “On behalf of Cornerstone Christian Center and Cornerstone Christian School we are so incredibly grateful to be able to announce that our Niger Mission team is safely on their way home. We would like to thank the offices of Senator Feinstein and Congressman Garamendi for their consistent support and vital information over these trying days. We are so thankful for the help of the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Niger. We would also like to recognize the effort of KTVU FOX 2, KRON 4 and the Antioch Herald for their assistance in spreading awareness of this serious situation and their care and attention for our family members back home. The professionalism and concern that was demonstrated for this situation by our local media was truly amazing. Last, and most importantly, we would like to thank our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for his continuous protection and care for our team while they were serving in Niger.

Our focus now turns solely to the people of Niger and our thoughts and prayers will be directed for peace in that nation and that democracy will continue to be pursued so that the nation of Niger can be free. Thank you for all your prayers and support during this challenging time. The people of Cornerstone are what make this place one of a kind and I am personally grateful to be a part of such a special place. Our team landed in Niger 16 days ago with the goal of making much of the name of Jesus and we return knowing that His name was high and lifted up.”

School Principal Says Niger Was Not Going to Refuel the Plane

When reached for details at 12:15 p.m., school principal Logan Heyer, whose wife, Holly and daughter, Madison are among the 11, exclaimed, “They have passed the borders and are three-and-a-half hours out of Paris.”

“They got to the airport about 2 AM our time, which was 10 AM their time and sat there for about an hour but Niger was refusing to refuel the plane,” he shared. “So, I got a hold of Senator Feinstein’s office and they said they had been in contact with the State Department who were already negotiating with whoever is in charge of Niger, at this point.”

“I got a Whatsapp from Holly saying, ‘we’re on the plane. We don’t know where we’re going,’” Heyer stated. “Then a few minutes later she shared ‘it looks like we have enough fuel to get to France.’”

“Then we got the photos from them in the airport and one of Holly and Madison in the plane,” he continued. “Then I got a Whatsapp message from Pastor Steve that read, ‘just pulled up from the runway. Super emotional.’”

Asked if they expect to be back in Antioch tomorrow Heyer said, “She didn’t even have time to tell me the rest of it. She just knew they were going to Paris. They’re expected to arrive in about three hours.“

“Senator Feinstein’s and Congressman Garamendi’s office have been very helpful. They’re everything you could hope for in a representative. I was proud to be an American, today,” he added.

Antioch missionaries stranded in Niger following military coup

Thursday, August 3rd, 2023
Instagram post on July 28, 2023 of Cornerstone Christian Center & School missionaries in Niger. Source: Hannah Gabrielle

Team of 11 from Cornerstone Christian Center and School

“We sent our team to Niger to make much of the name of Jesus in that country and believe they are still doing that, and we are trusting in Him to bring them home, safely,” Principal Logan Heyer

By Allen D. Payton

A missionary team from Antioch’s Cornerstone Christian Center and School, led by Pastor and Superintendent Steve Miner has been stranded in Niger, Africa following a military coup.

In a post on her Facebook page on Wednesday, August 2, 2023, Hannah Gabrielle wrote, “My family is stranded in Niger Africa. The US government has evacuated part of its embassy staff but has been unhelpful in helping us get our family out! Help me spread the word. Share and pray. Whatever you can do. Email a congressman or senator. Call the local news. Anything helps. They are in a group of 15 US citizens ages ranging from 11 to 73.

On Friday, the team posted a photo from capital city Niamey, Niger, on the church’s Instagram page that reads, “Our Cornerstone Team has had an amazing week serving at Vie Abondante kids camp in Niger!”

Photos courtesy of Logan Heyer, Cornerstone Christian Center & School.

A Sunday report by the Marine Corps Times confirmed her information about the U.S. Embassy that reads, “The Marine security guards stationed at the American embassy in Niger will remain there as the United States evacuates all but essential staff because of a coup in the country.”

A Wednesday, Aug. 2 post on X (formerly Twitter) by U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken reads, “Today, we ordered the temporary departure of non-emergency personnel and eligible family members from Niger. The U.S. is committed to our relationship with the people of Niger. The embassy remains open, and our leaders are diplomatically engaged at the highest levels.”

Logan Heyer, Principal of Cornerstone Christian School, said about the missionaries, “They were supposed to be back on July 29.”

He learned of the coup, early last week.

“I looked at an article in the news that there was a coup in Niger, and I heard about it on the 25th,” he stated. “The coup closed all the borders in Niger.”

The team left for their trip on July 20th.

“They were supposed to leave on Friday, July 28th to return,” Heyer shared.

Asked if any students are on the trip, Heyer said, “No. One former student, my daughter, Madison. My wife, Holly is also there and my father-in-law, Scott Wells. School starts again on Aug. 21st. No teachers. But our head pastor and school superintendent is over there, Steve Miner, with his wife, Maria.”

“There are 11 from our church and school, about 15 total,” he added.

“We have partnered with a missionary that lives there in the country,” Heyer explained. “They went to do a Vacation Bible School and get their school ready for the fall, too.”

This is the second time the team has gone to Niger.

“Pastor Steve has led two teams,” he added.

“It sounds like, from what I understand, the Royal Guard kicked out the president. It’s not targeted at Christians.

According to a July 27 report by NPR, “Soldiers in Niger have announced a coup, imposing a curfew and closing borders in a country that is a key U.S. ally in West Africa. The president of…Niger was removed in a coup late last night, local time, despite frantic diplomatic efforts to save his government.”

Asked about efforts to get the team out of the country Heyer said, “We saw online that Senator Ted Cruz got missionaries out from Niger – teenagers on a mission trip not from our group. But they met up with them. Their parents were very frightened, like we are. Senator Cruz was able to get them out of the country on an Italian plane. We saw that the Italians and French got people out.So, we contacted Senator Feinstein and Congressman Garamendi on Tuesday, and they have been pushing whomever at the State Department to get our people out.”

A KRON4 News report about the stranded missionaries, quotes Garamendi saying, “My team is working closely with the state department and the constituents to get them home safely. However, I cannot share additional details at this time due to operational security issues.”

According to a report by Reuters early Wednesday, Niger has reopened it’s borders with several neighboring countries “a week after a coup that has sent shockwaves across West Africa’s Sahel region, one of the poorest and most unstable in the world.”

‘The land and air borders with Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Libya and Chad are re-opened from today, August 1, 2023,’ junta spokesperson Colonel Amadou Abdramane said in a televised address.”

“We sent our team to Niger to make much of the name of Jesus in that country and believe they are still doing that, and we are trusting in Him to bring them home, safely,” Heyer stated.

Private prayer vigils are being held for the team, he shared.

Antioch-Chichibu Sister City organization raising funds to send student delegates, chaperones to Japan

Monday, May 22nd, 2023
Antioch’s 2023 Student Delegates for the trip to Chichibu, Japan in July. Source: Antioch Chichibu Sister City Organization.

The Antioch-Chichibu Sister City organization is an incredible nonprofit organization that works independent from the city of Antioch, raising their own funds. The purpose of the organization is to give Antioch and Chichibu students, ages 15-18, the life changing opportunity to experience each other’s country and culture while developing new, lifelong friendships abroad. The program teaches students the importance of communication, teamwork and integrity. Student delegates are selected from deserving applicants that will best represent our city.

Unfortunately, with increasing costs and no city support, students and adult chaperones are finding it difficult to participate in this worthwhile opportunity. Our young delegates are working tirelessly to make this trip a reality!

The 2023 trip to Chichibu, Japan is scheduled for mid-July. Any funds raised after that date will continue to contribute to this ongoing program and future delegates.

The goal is to raise $40,000. Contributions can be made on the GoFundMe page.

Your support in any amount helps provide a culturally immersive educational opportunity to our students. Thank you!