Protesters gathered at the Ferry Building and marched to City Hall on July 4, 2020. (Nicholas Chan/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Small, impassioned crowd celebrates the Fourth of July with protest for affirmative action

Lawmakers and marchers urge voters to pass Proposition 16 in the November ballot

While many Fourth of July events have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic and health officials have urged people to stay at home, a band of protesters, local and state lawmakers marched along the streets of The City Saturday afternoon, supporting affirmative action and rallying against police brutality.

A small and impassioned group gathered at San Francisco’s Ferry Building before marching to City Hall.

“I decided to come and participate in Black Lives Matter because I am a brown person. It’s very important in America that we support the Black, brown, Asian, Middle Eastern, Pakistani … America is a country where our forefathers came here from different countries,” said Hassan Zee, a film director and medical doctor living in San Francisco. “I feel that I am a part of this culture. I need to do my role on the fourth of July and support the cause of the people in this march.”

People knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds at City Hall. (Nicholas Chan/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Protesters marched holding placards that read “White Silence Enables Violence,”Black Lives Matter,” and “Skin Color is not a Crime.”

“It doesn’t really matter that I work hard, went to school and got good grades,” said Reece Proctor, a 20-year-old Oakland resident. “I live in a really nice community and [I] never had a criminal history. The police still look at me differently.”

When organizers chanted “Say His Name,” protesters cried “George Floyd,” in honor of the man whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police in May triggered nationwide protests. Upon arriving outside of City Hall, people knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds — the length of time a Minneapolis police officer is believed to have pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck.

Protesters hope that voters will repeal the ban on affirmative action. (Nicholas Chan/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Lawmakers and advocates spoke in front of the crowd at City Hall, urging voters to pass a measure which they hope would create more diverse workplaces and education systems.

“We can’t just pretend that race doesn’t exist and say: ‘Oh, we live in this nirvana. We don’t have to pay attention to race.’ We know that is false,” state Sen. Scott Wiener told the crowd.

Proposition 16 will be on the November ballot and if passed, it would remove the state’s 24-year old ban on affirmative action, overturning Proposition 209 and allowing consideration of race and gender in public education, public hiring and contracting.

“Prop 209 was one hundred and ten percent race-baiting,” Wiener said. “It is a scar on the California constitution. We should be deeply embarrassed.”

Supervisor Dean Preston speaks to the crowd at City Hall. (Nicholas Chan/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Since Proposition 209 was passed in 1996, there has been a 37 percent decline in the number of hires of black workers represented by the union, according to Kathryn Lybarger, president of AFSCME Local 3299 which is a union representing workers at University of California’s campuses and medical centers.

Advocates say that overturning Proposition 209 will help level the playing field for the black and brown communities.

“The sun is shining down on us because we are on the right side of history …” said Shanell Williams, president of the board of trustees at City College of San Francisco. “We are going to repeal Prop 209. We are going to get Trump out of office. We are going to take back our country.”

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