On Christmas Eve morning, more than 200 people blocked the Octavia Boulevard exit and entrance to the Central Freeway in solidarity with police brutality protests that spread to the nation's largest cities since Thanksgiving week. But unlike many of those protests, this one was completely void of violence.
The action was planned last week and organized by San Francisco's LGBT community to show support for the ongoing protests that arose after grand juries in Missouri and New York decided not to indict white police officers in connection with the deaths of two unarmed black men.
“It just needed to get organized,” 27-year-old Luciano Sagatume said of Wednesday's action.
Sagatume, a transgender Latino from the Mission district who helped organize the march, said his community, like black people nationwide, has had some of the same strained and sometimes violent relations with police. Marching in support of changing those relationships and how streets are policed makes sense, he added.
The Christmas Eve demonstration was the first time since the protest movement emerged in late November that an explicitly LGBT march took place, Sagatume said.
The protest, which began at Market Street and Octavia Boulevard, headed west along Market Street to the Castro Street intersection in the heart of San Francisco's LGBT Castro district. About 9:30 a.m., the group of some 200 people again blocked an intersection, beneath the Castro pride flag, while carrying banners and chanting, “Black lives matter.”
Those three words have become a popular refrain during the protests.
Several police officers stood on the fringes of the gathering but had little interaction with the demonstrators.
A little after 10 a.m., it was over.
One of the speakers leading the group in chants said, “Black lives matter. Now go home!”
That speaker, 21-year-old Declan Cante of San Francisco, said he was heartened by the numbers.
“Anybody who shows up in any number, the difference is made,” he said.
The fact that so many people came out to the streets on Christmas Eve, said Cante, shows the importance of the cause.