by JULIAN MARK APRIL 15, 2021 (missionlocal.org)
Approximately 200 demonstrators gathered at Mission High School on Thursday evening and marched to Mission Police Station, shouting “fuck the police” and chanting the names of Daunte Wright and Roger Allen — two unarmed Black men killed by police in recent days.
Wright, a 20-year-old unarmed Black man, was shot by a Minnesota police officer on Sunday during a traffic stop. Allen, a 44-year-old Black man, was shot by an unidentified Daly City police officer, who purportedly mistook a pellet gun in Allen’s possession for a firearm.
Although the men were killed 2,000 miles apart, their images sat side-by-side on the steps of Mission High School Thursday on a makeshift altar where protesters lit candles and set down flowers.
“We can’t get distracted by reform,” said Aditi Joshi, a 26-year-old organizer with the group Defund SFPD Now, in front of a crowd at Mission High. “Abolition is the only path to justice.”
It was a common refrain: Defunding and ultimately abolishing the police was the only way to stop the police killing of Black men. “I don’t think abolition is super radical,” said Samantha, 20, standing near the tennis courts at Dolores Park.
The demonstration began around 6:30 p.m. and slowly built up to a crowd of about 200 marchers, many of whom wore black clothing. It began as a largely solemn affair, with a moment of silence and speeches on the high school’s front steps. But the protest grew in intensity as demonstrators began marching down 18th Street toward Valencia around 7:30 p.m., chanting “No justice, no peace — no racist police!” and “Stand up! Fight back!”
Marchers turned onto Valencia Street, heading north, and stopped in front of Mission Station, where they were met with police guarding the building in riot gear. As the protesters chanted and sometimes heckled the police, the police largely watched them stoically. Some protesters accused the cops of smirking and rolling their eyes.
A key moment came at Mission Station when Talika Fletcher, Allen’s 30-year-old younger sister, addressed the hundreds gathered in front of the police station — including the cops. “My brother is in the morgue right now,” she said through a bullhorn, her body pressed against metal barricades set up at the police station.
Allen was reportedly parked on Niantic Avenue between Citrus and Westlake avenues, when police asked him if he needed help with a flat tire. A struggle ensued, and police purportedly mistook a pellet gun in Allen’s possession for a real gun and shot Allen in the chest, the San Francisco Examiner reported.
“My brother was my heart,” Fletcher said, addressing the police officers. “I can’t even look at ya’ll. I’m terrified of ya’ll.”
“Say my brother’s name,” she continued.
“Roger Allen!” the crowd yelled back.
It was a sparse crowd compared to the demonstrations in June, 2020, when some 15,000 protesters gathered at Mission High School and marched through the city following the killing of George Floyd, who died after Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes.
But almost a year later, with the murder trial of Chauvin drawing to a close and a new round of police killings in public view, people who marched on Thursday said momentum for a change should not be lost.
“Last year I saw more people than I’ve ever seen come out and protest against injustice, and I want to see people keep that same energy,” said Xla, 18, who said she grew up in Bayview. “Just because last year was more publicized doesn’t mean it was the first murder to happen at the hands of police — and it’s not going to be the last unless we keep … making our voices heard.”
Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times. More by Julian Mark