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Moms for Liberty, other groups to hold vigil for teen beaten to death

Updated November 20, 2023 - 8:31 pm

A vigil partly organized by the local chapter of a controversial group that bills itself as a parents’ rights organization will be held in honor of a high school student who police say was fatally beaten by a large group of teenagers.

Spearheaded by Moms for Liberty’s Clark County chapter, the “Peace, Solidarity, and Prayer” vigil will be held Tuesday at 5 p.m. in honor of Jonathan Lewis, Jr., 17. The vigil is set for the corner of Searles Avenue and 21st Street, across from the high school.

Lewis was the Rancho High School student who died Nov. 7, six days after the brutal Nov. 1 attack against him was captured on a video that showed about 10 people kicking, stomping and punching him until he fell unconscious.

Moms for Liberty’s local chapter started organizing the vigil, which then became a team effort with the other groups that will take part, said Leslie Calianno, a board member of the Moms For Liberty Clark County chapter.

Those other groups, according to a press release from the local Moms for Liberty chapter, include Dads in Schools, American Christian Caucus, Kingdom Minded and Turning Point Faith Fervent.

“Of course, it’s for Jonathan. We want to help the family,” Calianno said. “We want to remember him. It’s a terrible thing that happened.”

‘We are about the children’

Moms for Liberty is a nationwide nonprofit organization that has won support from conservatives and opposed various issues including COVID-19 safety measures in schools, as well as curriculum and library materials that the group perceives as being too concerned with race and LGBTQ+ issues.

But its tactics, including pushes for books it deems inappropriate to be removed from school libraries, have generated headlines all over the country, with critics like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has described the organization as a “far-right” extremist group, saying the group “engages in anti-student inclusion activities.”

Clark County School Board Trustee Linda Cavazos called the group “a cancer” in a post to the social media website X in September.

But Calianno said the group’s mission shouldn’t be controversial.

“I’m not sure why anyone would want to come up against us because we are about the children,” Calianno said. “We are about parents’ rights.”

‘Not watching out for our kids’

According to a news release, Tuesday’s vigil will also memorialize “other Clark County children who have been tragically killed in the last year.”

Calianno said Monday that part of the group’s mission of holding CCSD accountable means ensuring that nothing like what happened to Lewis happens to any other child.

“They need to watch out for our kids. They’re not watching out for our kids,” Calianno said. “First and foremost, that beating happened right in front of the high school. I don’t know how that could have happened without somebody from the school stopping it, getting involved in it.”

In a statement from its media relations department on Monday, the school district said it “does not tolerate violence or threats to students or their safety” and called on the community to come together to address student needs “so disagreements are resolved through dialogue rather than violence.

“CCSD utilizes all the resources provided to secure and protect our students and staff in our facilities and on our campuses,” the statement read. “When incidents occur off campus and after hours, our municipal police agencies take over as our jurisdiction is limited.”

Meanwhile on Monday, the Metropolitan Police Department released four police booking photos of four of the eight teens who were arrested Nov. 14 in connection with the beating. Those photos show Gianni Robinson, 17; Dontral Beaver, 16; Damien Hernandez, 17; and Treavion Randolph, 16.

Their cases are being heard in adult court, while the other four teens, each younger than 16, will need to undergo a certification hearing in Family Court for a judge to decide if they will be charged as adults.

After Metro Undersheriff Andrew Walsh announced last week that all the teens, who are between 13 and 17, will face murder charges, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson has said that prosecutors were still determining the “varying degrees of culpability” in the case, and if all of the teens will be formally charged with murder.

On Friday, a judge ordered Beaver, Hernandez, Randolph and Robinson held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center. They are due back in court on Tuesday.

In addition, a GoFundMe page set up by Jonathan Lewis Jr.’s dad, Jonathan Lewis Sr., had raised over $130,000 as of Monday. Lewis couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com.

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