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Davis, California

Friday, July 19, 2024

Davis community gathers together to hold vigil honoring the life of David Henry Breaux, the ‘Compassion Guy’

Following the homicide in Central Park, people gathered together at the “Compassion Bench” to share how their lives were touched by Breaux


By CHRIS PONCE city@theaggie.org


On Sunday, April 30, less than a week after the fatal stabbing in Central Park, the Davis community came together to hold a vigil for the victim, a respected member of the community, David Henry Breaux. The event, which featured city council members, county supervisors, friends and family of Breaux alike, was hosted by the Davis Phoenix Coalition. The event had a large turnout, candles were handed to those in attendance and dozens of flowers were placed at the “Compassion Bench.”

The “Compassion Bench,” which is located at the corner of 3rd and C Streets, is the area where for the last decade, Breaux has asked anyone who came his way what compassion meant to them. Breaux, who was well known as the “Compassion Guy,” was a 50-year-old Stanford University graduate. He published a book titled “Compassion Davis, CA: A Compilation of Concepts on Compassion,” which contained interviews of people’s definitions of compassion. Breux touched many Davis residents’ lives, which could be seen at the event as people spoke about compassion, forgiveness and what Breux represented in the community. 

Councilmember Gloria Partida, an organizer with the Davis Phoenix Coalition, spoke first at the event. 

“Even though this is a horrible tragedy, and today we know that we are marking two deaths in the city, it still gives me strength to look out to your faces and to see that we are here for each other,” Partida said. “I know that right now there is a great deal of anxiety in the community and so many questions and so many need of answers. And we will get to your answers, and we will answer your questions and we will take care of each other because that is what we do.”

Mayor Will Arnold also spoke about a second homicide victim, UC Davis student Karim Abou Najm, and the distress the city has been in during the last few days.

“This has been an absolutely devastating few days for our community,” Arnold said. “No more so than for the loved ones, friends and family of David and Karim. And on behalf of the city of Davis, I extend our deepest condolences. These are two people with so much more life to live, so much more wisdom to share, so much more love to give. These are two horrendous acts, acts of violence that befell two peaceful, loving members of our community for absolutely no conceivable reason. These are two of our shared gathering spaces, where I love to let my own children run free, that are now the sights of two of the most heinous acts our city has ever witnessed.” 

Yolo County Supervisors Lucas Frerichs and Jim Provenza also spoke at the vigil. Frerichs said that Breaux would be humbled to see the turnout for the vigil and that the impact of Breaux’s work extends across the nation. 

While Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D–Winters) couldn’t be in attendance, Frerichs said that the state assembly will be meeting in Breaux’s memory. 

Frerichs welcomed UC Davis Alumni Brennan Bird, who helped create the “Compassion Bench” in 2013. Bird talked about how moved he was by Breaux’s work

The “Compassion Bench” is located on the corners of 3rd and C Streets. (Chris Ponce / Aggie)

“David, we love you so much, thank you for inspiring me to be a more compassionate human,” Bird said. […] “As I was thinking how is David’s legacy going to continue into my own life, I have never met anyone who has so devoted to a cause and, David, you’ve really inspired me to dig in deeper and to really just further devote my life to fighting for the Earth, fighting for a more compassionate Earth.”

Bill Pride, the director of Davis Community Meals, talked about his experience with Breaux. Pride said that no one had a perspective like Breaux and that even though he was unhoused, he only thought about others.

Becky Margio, a program supervisor and case manager for Davis Community Meals, spoke about their relationship with Breaux. Margio said that Breaux would sing and write songs. Many at the event, Margio included, described Breaux as “peaceful.” Margio shared that recently, Breaux had talked to them about moving into Paul’s Place

“Just about a month ago he had called and he had talked to us about moving into Paul’s Place, and we were really excited about that, and we had hoped that could happen,” Margio said. “We had a really good conversation and I’ll remember that forever.”

One of the final speakers was Maria Breaux, David Breaux’s sister, who talked about her brother and his love for compassion. She shared a story about how when they were kids, he was being bullied and she asked him if he was going to fight back. 

“He started crying and he said, ‘I can’t, I can’t hurt them, I don’t want to hurt them,’” Maria Breaux said. “And he wept, he wept for these two kids who were teasing him and from a very young age, extended an act of compassion.”

Maria Breaux said that her brother was committed to restorative justice and his mission of compassion. She shared that when she was going through old messages with him, she found one he sent her on Sept. 23, 2016, about forgiving those who harm him.

“If I’m ever harmed, and unable to speak for myself, forgive the perpetrator and help others forgive that person,” Breaux messaged his sister. “Today while at the bench in Davis, I experienced someone who seemed to want to hurt me. I’m noticing incidents here in the town of people actively opposed to who I am and what I do. Forgive.”

Maria Breaux shared her response. 

“I wrote back, I’ll forgive and encourage others to do the same,” Breaux said. “Hope you’re okay, I love you. So my last words, my last word really, tonight, is forgive.”

Written By: Chris Ponce city@theaggie.org