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Vigil held on Huntington Beach Pier for Nex Benedict

Holding candles, a crowd of 40 to 50 people walked the length of the Huntington Beach Pier Friday night, holding a vigil for 16-year-old Nex Benedict some 1,500 miles away from the Oklahoma home where the teen died.

The teen’s cause of death is still being determined, police have said, but Benedict’s story and experience of bullying has sparked concern — and outrage — around the country, even drawing the attention of the White House.



According to reports, Benedict’s family, who said the teen used they/them pronouns and identified as nonbinary, said they had been bullied at school because of their gender identity and had been involved in an altercation in a school bathroom a day before their death. Police, in a preliminary autopsy statement, have said Benedict did not die as a result of that fight, according to the Associated Press, but the cause of death has not yet been determined.

Local LGBTQ+ advocacy groups Pride at the Pier and Groundswell said on social media say they have received many messages from Orange County residents “expressing their despair, their anger, their grief, their fear, their search for justice,” adding, “We have felt these emotions ourselves.”

So the vigil for Benedict — and “all local victims of queerphobic hate” — was organized for Friday evening.

Long Beach resident Shannon Snyder, who used they and them pronouns, said that as a nonbinary person, they felt it was important to show up in solidarity.

“People should be able to be protected,” Snyder, 29, said. “I think just showing up, bringing a light to Orange County in Nex’s honor is what’s needed.”

Before the march down the pier started, attendees embraced each other. The song “This is Me,” from the musical “The Last Showman,” played as they walked.

A giant pride flag was unfurled at the end of the pier. Attendees left notes of hopes and wishes for the future of the LGBTQ+ community.

Friday’s message: “Hate will not win.”

Source: Orange County Register

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