Mario Woods protest prompts SFPD to cancel Suhr’s forum on black community relations

Christopher Muhammad, San Francisco Bay Area Minister of the Nation of Islam, speaking to protesters at a Mario Woods gathering in front of the police headquarters on Tuesday Dec. 29, 2015. (Michael Barba / SF Examiner)

San Francisco police on Tuesday canceled a forum about police relations with The City’s black community when supporters of Mario Woods, a black man who officers shot and killed Dec. 2, planned to make demands and listen -in at the meeting.

Chief Greg Suhr’s African American Community Advisory Forum was scheduled to meet around 5 p.m. at the police headquarters, but the gathering was canceled around noon when police got wind of a planned protest at the meeting.

“Not knowing the size and the potential action that could take place, we spent most of our time trying to figure out how to facilitate the protest,” said Officer Carlos Manfredi, explaining why the meeting was canceled. “We wanted to [be] on the side of safety.”

Protesters were not informed of the cancellation. Instead, about 100 demonstrators who arrived at the Public Safety Building around 4:30 were met with barricades and police lines.

The protest was organized by the Mario Woods Coalition, whose members, including SEIU Local 1021, are calling for Suhr to be fired. They are also calling for an independent investigation into the shooting and for the five officers who shot Woods to be charged with crimes.

“We wanted to meet with the advisory board and find out what they’re advising,” Rev. Franzo King said, noting those expected at the meeting included Police Commissioner Joe Marshall and Rev. Amos Brown.

“This was a subsequent meeting in the wake of the unfortunate death of Mr. Woods,” Brown said in a phone interview, noting the first meeting of the forum was held in October.

Brown said the meeting’s cancellation in response to the protestors finding out about it was a secretive move.

“A certain person asked, ‘How did the public know about the meeting today?’ and I made it very clear that I was not going to serve on a secret group for anybody,” Brown said. “If that can not be a transparent group, I’m not feeling that.”

The meeting is rescheduled to Wednesday, Brown said.

For less than an hour, protesters faced off with a row of police officers that appeared to close off the building to the public, chanting “fire Chief Suhr!” and “Suhr, no sir!”

Even though both sides of the building and the front were lined by officers, Manfredi said the police headquarters was still open to the public to file police reports through a police escort into the building if necessary.

Yayne Abeba, a San Francisco native who said her grandfather was one of the first black cops in The City, said the Woods killing prompted her to join the activist coalition and called the shooting “disgusting.”

“I feel like everyday I am waking up to an officer-involved killing,” Abeba said.

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