BOYNTON BEACH — The roar of engines and a wave of voices filled U.S. 1 in Boynton Beach on Saturday afternoon as more than 1,000 people shut down the highway for around two hours.
They marched together in grief for a Boynton Beach teen killed Dec. 26 during a traffic stop on U.S. 1 and Northeast Eighth Avenue.
The engines belonged to dirt bikes, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, electric bicycles, and other vehicles driven by people old and young.
The voices belonged to family members, friends and strangers to Stanley Davis Jr., who was riding a dirt bike when police said he lost control of it, hit the median, and crashed into a street sign during an attempted traffic stop. Davis, called “SJ” by friends, died at the scene.
Crowds at the rally Saturday wanted to honor Davis’ life. Sporting T-shirts and hoodies with his photos, signs that read “Justice for SJ” and carrying red balloons, they marched down U.S. 1 to the site of his death before turning west and ending at Sarah Sims Park.
But they also wanted answers about what led up to the crash.
Top of mind for many marchers was the death of a Black teen during a traffic stop — a familiar scenario that has sparked racial justice protests nationwide since summer 2020 and created a heightened skepticism of police.
Surveillance video from a Chevron gas station one-quarter mile south of the crash site showed a police vehicle with its lights on pursue Davis on his bike. Dirt bikes are not permitted on streets in Boynton Beach.
“We want to see the body camera footage,” Mary Barber-Nelson, Davis’ godmother, told The Palm Beach Post. “We need justice and change from the top down in the police department.”
The city said it had not equipped the police car involved in the crash with a dashboard camera. Police have not said whether the officer was wearing a body camera and whether it was activated.
The Boynton Beach Police Department has not released the name of the officer involved in the incident, citing a 2018 amendment to the state constitution modeled after California’s Marsy’s Law, which allows crime victims to withhold their information from public records.
Department spokeswoman Stephanie Slater said since the officer has been the subject of threats since the incident, and therefore can invoke Marsy’s Law. The officer is on administrative leave during the investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol.
While a handful of police vehicles were seen directing traffic around the rally, officers did not appear to be ticketing anyone involved.
‘It could have been me,’ biker remembers at crash site
On Saturday, families with young children attended the rally to walk down U.S. 1 alongside a robust community of Black bikers, all-terrain vehicle riders and three-wheel “slingshot” motorcycle owners.
Individual drivers revved their engines and tricked-out cars did doughnuts in the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. and Seacrest boulevards — leaving tire marks as physical symbols of the community’s grief.
Clouds of exhaust filled the air as Davis’ mother, Shannon Thompson, led the crowd in a moment of silence near a makeshift memorial for her only child at the median on U.S. 1.
Nearby, 27-year-old biker Zakee Marrow took in the scene from the seat of his bright red motorcycle. His helmet featured a bright red mohawk.
“This whole situation means a lot to me because it could have been me,” Marrow said, adding that he grew up riding dirt bikes around Lake Worth Beach.
Marrow said he wants to see the city build a place for kids to ride bikes and motorized vehicles that’s far from busy roads and police.
“We need a place to go. There’s nowhere for a kid to be a kid anymore,” he said. “How can you tell a kid that they’re wrong for riding their bike?”
Others want to see more systemic changes in policing.
“It felt like it could have been my own son,” Alisa Wright of Boynton Beach, told The Palm Beach Post. “We’ve just been through this so many times. Here, with Corey Jones in 2015, George Floyd, the names just go on and on and on. We’re not treated fairly here in America.”
Wright, a teacher in West Palm Beach, said she attended Saturday’s rally to show support for Davis’ family and advocate for a fairer world for her students at Roosevelt Middle School.
“This is 2022. This is not the civil rights movement or the 1960s. We have to do better and we demand better. We’re asking for accountability and transparency.”
cw: very loud noise
100+ people have gathered at a rally in Boynton Beach to support the family of Stanley Davis Jr., a 13 y/o who died during a traffic stop when he crashed riding a dirt bike.
— Kati Kokal (@katikokal) January 1, 2022