“I’ve got a right”: The Adolescents play the Second Annual Kelly Thomas Benefit

I arrived to shut down streets with blinking police barricades. Somewhat imposing, I hoped for barely managed chaos. I parked and wandered into a relatively un-crowded Museum Plaza. Fullerton’s own, the Adolescents, one of the best punk bands to come out of southern California were playing in their hometown to a few hundred well-outfitted punk rockers. I had anticipated a much larger crowd and had expected to a struggle to get near the front of the stage, always my preferred spot. Having had a rough week, I secretly hoped for some sort of uprising against the police who murdered Kelly Thomas. Expecting a large police presence I only spotted one rather apathetic looking cop. Hmmm.

Opposite the stage, there were several make-shift booths sheltered by easy-ups: clothing donation booths with the homeless searching for a good find; a food drive booth, another with raffle tickets sales to raise money for the Kelly Thomas Memorial Foundation and finally, a booth hung with t-shirts, displays of bumpers stickers and large as life pictures of Kelly Thomas. Most notable were the t-shirts embellished with “I am the voice of Kelly Thomas.” Seeing these shirts with the knowledge that someone’s son had been murdered, let alone the accused being six police officers from his hometown, was a crushing site. People milled around somberly reading the various stickers and t-shirts. Even the politically unaware seemed drawn to this booth. Later, I spotted at least a dozen people who proudly wore those very same Kelly Thomas t-shirts.

Stephan Baxter, organizer and Co-Curator of “Art with an Agenda,” took the stage. In a self-assured and empathetic voice, he spoke of the barbaric murder of Kelly Thomas at the hands of the accused Anaheim police department. The audience nodded and intently listened. Baxter vowed that we the people would get justice. They screamed out in agreement. “The police will be charged with murder! Not manslaughter!” he yelled. The mass roared and shook their fists in the air. The energy of the people could be cut with a knife. To an aroused group, Baxter introduced Kelly Thomas’ father as the band took their places quietly onstage. Ron Thomas addressed the crowd, and spoke of getting justice for his son, but also of collecting food and clothing for the homeless. He then thanked the Adolescents for coming out to play and supporting the Kelly Thomas Foundation. Near tears, lead singer Tony Adolescent then hugged Ron; the moment brought silence to the aligned mass. Then, to an enraged and vibrating audience he introduced the band.

Drummer Mondo Del Rio counted time on his sticks to start out “No Way”, and Tony burst out singing, “No class, no job; I’m just a victim of society, a slob.” The lyrics couldn’t have been more appropriate for a crowd of misfit punkers and the homeless. Two rows of chairs near the front of the stage began flying as the crowd came to life, and the pit formed. The Adolescents broke straight into Monsanto with the predictive lyric “The future’s now, reap what we sow.”  Next was “LA Girl;” by now the pit was in full force, energy building with each song. A dog pile of enthusiastic young punks struggled for the mic during “Creatures,” and Tony disappeared from view in the mass, smiled broadly. With each new song, “Warriors,” Welcome to reality,” “OC Confidential,” the energy rose, eventually reaching a peak with “Amoeba.” The pit was literally swarming with energy, and it had expanded like it had a life of it’s own to encompass more and more of the crowd.

Adolescents’ final song was, “I got a right”. The wide pit writhed with enthusiasm and Tony smiled heartily. Old punks held up posters of a young Kelly Thomas and his father; family while close friends lined the back of the stage. Kelly Thomas’ father smiled broadly thru palpable pain, but looked genuinely happy for the moment, as he watched the young social outcasts mosh with abandon in solidarity.

“I got a right,” was the perfect choice as the Adolescents’ finale. Kelly Thomas, who suffered from schizophrenia, apparently did not have a right and his father, Ron Thomas, was working to gain justice and make the plight of the homeless more visible. Putting his pain to work in a positive and loving manner, Mr. Thomas created the Kelly Thomas Memorial Foundation, to raise both awareness and support for homeless men, women and children. Just the day prior, on the anniversary of his son’s death, he filed suit against the six officers involved in his son’s death, as well as two former police chiefs and the City of Fullerton. In the hopes that his son Kelly, and those that will come after him, will receive the justice and care they deserve.

For more information on Kelly Thomas and how you can help: http://www.ktmf.org/

To sign the change.org petition, which asks for all 6 police officers involved in Kelly Thomas’ murder to be removed, click here: http://www.change.org/petitions/remove-all-6-fullerton-police-officers-involved-in-the-murder-of-kelly-thomas

Salvatore Baxter, local punk rock photographer, has excellent shots of the event:



4 Responses to ““I’ve got a right”: The Adolescents play the Second Annual Kelly Thomas Benefit”
  1. Joy Shannon Joy Shannon says:

    Awesome and meaningful article.

  2. Cholo says:

    Awesome event, awesome people with the best intentions trying to correct a tragic injustice. Great coverage by OCARTBLOG.

  3. Baxter says:

    I missed this when it came out. Thanks for going to the the show that day and telling others about it. I’m all about fusing a bit a of social justice and art, so please check out our next Art With An Agenda show in 2013 which will be about supporting marriage equality and showing mass love to the LBGT community in conservative North Orange County. (there is a little announcement posted at the home page of artwithanagenda.org. If you know of any great artist with whom this topic will resonate please have them contact me. sbaxter65@gmail.com

    thanks again


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