San Francisco, CA

Posted: November 13, 2011 by o22ndp in Area reports 2011


On October 22, hundreds of people took part in two separate actions against police brutality. In the Bayview District, where the masses rose up against the police murder of Kenneth Harding Jr., more than 100 people marched through the community in the October 22 National Day of Protest To Stop Police Brutality, Repression & Criminalization of a Generation. Later that afternoon, Occupy SF staged a “Solidarity March for National Anti-Police Brutality Day.”

Bayview

The Bayview is one of the many mainly Black communities in the U.S. which are “occupied”—where police are constantly coming down on the youth and others. But it’s also one where there is a growing mood of defiance and resistance. On October 22, over 100 people—relatives of those murdered by the police; people from the Bayview community, as well as the Mission District and the Western Addition; a contingent from Occupy SF; revolutionaries; former prisoners; and students—including from high school and SF State—took part in a spirited march through the neighborhood, with people stopping at various points to rally—with many people stepping forward to voice their outrage at the police and the way people are forced to live—and their determination to fight back.

Kenneth Harding, Jr., 19, was murdered by San Francisco Police on July 16 for allegedly trying to avoid paying a $2 bus fare. Videotapes showed Kenneth lying on his stomach on cold concrete bleeding to death while cops pointed weapons at the people who had gathered. Kenneth Harding’s picture was held up by protesters and his name rang out along with other names of those killed by the police: Charles Hill…Oscar Grant…Raheim Brown…Brownie Polk…Derrick Jones…Andrew Moppin…Gus Rugley…Mark Garcia…Idriss Stelley.

Denika Chapman, Kenneth’s mother, spoke at the protest. Denika, who moved to the Bay Area from Seattle after the killing of her son, told Revolution, “My life literally changed overnight. It’s no longer about me. I’m here in this Bayview community almost every day, going to the high schools, to the colleges, reaching out to the youth, trying to create awareness and prevention so no one else has to suffer another loss like I did. It takes more than just me to stand for justice. We all have to unite together if we want to create any type of change.”

“I’m not going to stop. This is my mission. This is my purpose,” Denika said. “When we all leave here and cross that bridge and go home to our own communities, these people who live here in this community, the Bayview-Hunters Point, they have to continue to go through this and that’s why I’m going to continue to be out here every day, every chance I get.”

Anger in the community and aggressive counter-attack by the authorities has been building in the community leading up to the protest. DeBray Carpenter, known in the community as Fly Benzo, a City College student, hip hop artist, has been outspoken in opposing police brutality, in particular the murder of Kenneth Harding, was arrested on October 18. An article in the San Francisco BayView by mesha Monge-Irizarry, founder and director of Idriss Stelley Foundation, reports how Fly was knocked to the ground by police and beaten after the police told him to turn down his boom box (ripping out the power cord) and knocking down Fly’s video camera which he was using to film the police. Outrageously it was Fly who was charged with aggravated assault on a peace officer, resisting arrest, interfering with police business and inciting riot. He is being held with a bail of $73,000.

On October 17, a day before his arrest, Fly performed a rap and spoke at a press conference for October 22. Fly’s performance is available on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_vbh28x0_E4. The video begins with the voice of Black Panther founder Huey Newton comparing the police to an occupying army. At the end of the video Fly says, “Whoever stands with the police does not stand with the community, period!” The San Francisco BayView wrote, “Fly’s latest arrest Oct. 18 is probably to silence him on Saturday, Oct. 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality.”

Fly was still being held in jail on the day of the protest. But his presence was felt. Shouts of “Free Fly Benzo!” and “Hands off the Truth Tellers!” rang out. Fly’s father Claude Carpenter spoke at 3rd and Palou as the demonstration began saying, “They just can’t kill our children down in the street and have no one say anything about it or do anything about it.”

Also speaking at the protest was Kilo G, an educator who founded the community group, “Cameras Not Guns.” Kilo was arrested after videotaping immediately after the murder of Kenneth Harding. His charge: obstructing justice. “They don’t want me to talk,” Kilo said. “I got pepper sprayed, I got arrested. I got my arm twisted. I got choked. The police did this in front of my three year old son. So I know for a fact that we are standing up for justice because they are mad.”

Jerry Elster from the ex-prisoner group All of Us or None spoke of the hunger strike waged by thousands of prisoners in California who are kept in solitary confinement for years and decades in conditions that meet international standard of torture. “Our society and us are guilty of conformity and we ain’t doing it no more. We not going to acquiesce with the bullshit no more,” he said. Jerry who spent 27 years behind bars said, “Before I went into the penitentiary I was a product of the system. Now I am a threat to that system because I’m educated, I think and I can see.”

The Statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party on the Occasion of October 22, 2011 was read and punctuated by raised fists and cheers at each of the “salutes” to those fighting the power—and drawing serious attention, and Revolution newspapers circulated among many in the protest, as well as some of the onlookers.

The Peoples’ Neighborhood Patrol was present throughout the march, and one member gave a statement—and then a spoken word poem.

Other groups and individuals speaking at the demonstration included Willie Ratcliffe, publisher of the San Francisco BayView; Cephus Johnson, uncle of Oscar Grant; an activist in World Can’t Wait who was recently arrested for doing civil disobedience in support of the prisoner hunger strike; representatives of Poor Magazine Poets; a representative of the Oscar Grant Movement in San Francisco. Terry Joan Baum, the Green Party candidate for mayor of San Francisco was at the protest and spoke at the press conference endorsing the protest.

From Occupied Territory to Occupied Territory:

As the march began, a crew of youth chanting and carrying banners jumped off the MUNI T line banging drums, wearing face paint, covered in stickers denouncing police brutality. Occupation San Francisco had arrived! The contingent of some 15-20 mostly youthful people had been organizing for October 22 at the encampment in the San Francisco financial district, where they had been subjected to two raids and daily harassment by the police. Denika Chapman, Kenneth Harding’s mother, was invited to speak at occupation on October 21.

Revolution spoke with Charlie, a 25-year-old white man who spoke to why he was taking part in Occupy San Francisco and the links with opposing police brutality: “I don’t see a future for me that isn’t hopeless and morally bankrupt. In order to survive I would either have to work a dehumanizing job or a morally repellant job and I don’t want to have to choose between those two options. This protest against police brutality is very important because it’s tied in because police seem to be an armed wing of the rich than people who serve and protect.”

Charlie commented on the moving accounts that people from the community gave of brutality by the police saying, “I’ve never been to this neighborhood before.  What people are saying is that this is occupied territory.  We are occupying for the 99% but this is territory occupied by the military wing of the 1%.”

No More Stolen Lives

The march ended at the spot where Kenneth Harding was killed. mesha Monge-Irizarry, whose son Idriss Stelley had been killed by San Francisco Police, built a memorial for Kenneth. Several family members spoke there. Elvira Pollard whose son Gus Rugley was killed seven years ago came because she was moved by many similarities between the way the cops operated when they killed her son and the way they operated when they killed Keith Harding.  She bitterly recounted how 20 police officers fired more than 500 rounds at her son, an unarmed construction worker. “I’ll always hate them motherfuckers,” she said. “I’ll always talk shit. I’m always one who will say fuck the police to their face. I’m not somebody to talk behind your back.”

At the end of the demonstration Danny Garcia, whose brother Mark was pepper sprayed and killed by San Francisco police, read names of some of those killed by police from the large wall. The police officer who was in command at the scene at the time when Mark Garcia was murdered, Greg Suhr, is now Chief of the San Francisco Police Department.

Occupy SF’s “Solidarity March for National Anti-Police Brutality Day”

Later in the afternoon, several hundred people from Occupy SF militantly marched through downtown San Francisco to the main police headquarters and jail at 850 Bryant Street. Occupy SF has been repeatedly threatened or attacked by the police, and today the demonstrators went right to this notorious “Hall of Injustice,” and took over the street in front —forcing the police to block it off. One protester emailed Revolution that “Occupy SF protesters stood in front of the building on Bryant Street with a double phalanx of police officers on the steps of the Hall facing their fellow citizens.”

A contingent of people from the Bayview action—which included both members of the Oct 22 Coalition and the youth from Occupy SF who had come to the Bayview—joined the action on Bryant Street.

There are different views about the role of the police among people at Occupy SF (including that police are part of the people—or the “99%”). It was very important that people from Occupy SF came to the Bayview and heard the voices and stories of those with a lifetime of experience of what the police are all about – brutal, murderous enforcers of a system of exploitation and national oppression. As one young white woman from Occupy SF who came to the Bayview action said to Revolution, “Listening to mothers like Denika was very important. What they’ve lived through—people should hear this. I’d never heard this before.”

The protesters then marched from Bryant Street back to Occupy SF in high spirits—right down the City’s central artery—Market Street. It was one of the largest protests against police brutality in SF in recent memory.

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