Revolution #248, October 23, 2011

October 21: Day of Defiance in Bayview, San Francisco

In the late afternoon on October 21, October 22nd activists and revolutionaries rallied in front of the notorious Bayview Police Station in San Francisco. This is the precinct of the cops who brutally shot down Kenneth Harding in July over a two dollar bus fare, and with guns trained on him, coldly prevented others from giving him aid. Carrying a Stolen Lives banner with the names of some of those murdered by police in the Bay Area and nationwide, the group positioned themselves in front of the main entrance of the station. While people were chanting, "Kenneth Harding didn't have to die, but we know the reason why. The WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM IS GUILTY," a man and a woman stepped forward and sat down in front of the doors, blocking them. They announced that they were sitting and not moving.

They read a statement saying they were acting "to stop police brutality and murder, mass incarceration and prison torture! And to end the police occupation of our communities!"

"Just like the Freedom Riders who couldn't stomach the Jim Crow laws and customs which legally pushed Black people down and lynched them when they stood up, we cannot turn our heads and pretend we don't see," they stated. "We are acting with moral conscience against laws and customs that are immoral and in effect are slow genocide against Black and Latino people and against the people of Bayview Hunters Point."

The man said they were taking action because of the cold-blooded murder of Kenneth Harding, the constant police occupation of the Bayview community, and the arrest and brutalizing of Fly Benzo, a witness to the murder of Kenneth and anti-police activist.* He said he took inspiration for the Non Violent Civil Disobedience from the actions against Stop and Frisk in New York, the courageous California Prison Hunger Strikers, and the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The woman with him, a teacher, spoke from her heart about the horrible situation undocumented Latino families face. She spoke of  "the terrible situation for their families, because ICE comes to get them from their homes, and when the children come home from school they have no parents there. People are taken off the streets, just because they're loitering. And what supposed to happen with the kids, they're home alone without their parents. And usually their parents haven't done anything of any consequence. If you have a conscience out there, you have to help us…leave them alone and leave their parents alone and stop arresting innocent people and targeting people of color. Hands off our youth of color."

They ended by saying, "So this should only be considered a beginning of a nationwide outpouring of mass resistance to this horrific New Jim Crow."

Both were arrested by the police.

A young Latino resident from the Bayview, with a black ribbon tied to his arm, was asked why he supported the action. "Because it is right," he said. Though he had not seen the cold-blooded murder of Kenneth Harding, he had heard about it. He told us that he sees the actions of the police every day in his neighborhood. He also brought up the police murder of the BART rider (Oscar Grant) as an example of what the police do and get away with.

Taking the Struggle Downtown…and to Occupy SF

Miles away, in the heart of downtown San Francisco, the Powell and Market cable car turn-around is a major crossroads for thousands of shoppers, tourists, and all kinds of youth and people from every walk of life. There, people from the Bayview protest linked up with another group of activists, and rallied—calling on people to step forward and become part of the struggle against police brutality and murder. Many, many people stopped to look at the powerful enlargements of centerfolds from Revolution, and other displays of victims of police brutality. Many stopped to talk about their own stories; many were shocked at the extent and scale of police murder; and many ended up with copies of Revolution and flyers calling for people to come to the Bayview for a march the next day.

The rally then took off down Market Street, San Francisco's busiest street, to join up with Occupy San Francisco. The musician Tom Morello had come to Occupy San Francisco earlier that same day, read a poem and gave out free tickets to his concert in San Francisco that night. 

At 6 that evening, at the start of Occupy San Francisco's General Assembly meeting, Denika Chatman, the mother of Kenneth Harding, spoke to the gathering. She had spoken to three high school classes in the Bayview/Hunter's Point area earlier in the day. She told Revolution that the biggest question the students raised was that it was too dangerous for them to protest. She said that they were shocked and impressed that in the wake of her son's murder, she had come down from Seattle to talk to them and to help them confront the reality of what the police are about. 

At the General Assembly meeting, she was greeted very warmly by the occupiers, both before and after she spoke.

She said, in part, "I am here today to endorse Oct. 22, national day of protest against police brutality. I am urging all of you to come out and support it.…We have to stand together. We cannot allow this to continue, to take our children. They are the future. We need our kids… I thank you for welcoming me, so please come out and fight back."

Occupy San Francisco had already planned their own protest at 3 p.m. on Oct. 22, listed on their calendar as "national march together against police brutality day." They were also making plans to join up with the Bay Area Oct. 22 Coalition's plans to march in the Bayview district at 12 noon.

* Fly Benzo was scheduled to speak at the October 22nd rally, but was arrested at an Occupy SF rally against police brutality and remains in jail. A "FREE FLY BENZO—ALL OUT TO SUPPORT FLY BENZO" rally has been called for Monday, October 24 at 9:00 a.m., Department 12 at San Francisco hall of (in)justice, 850 Bryant Street.) [back]

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