A large crowd cheers at a student-led rally at Mission High School before a protest march commemorating George Floyd and those killed by police on Wednesday, June 3, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Thousands flood Mission District for youth-led George Floyd protest

As civil unrest over the killing of George Floyd continued Wednesday in cities across the nation, thousands turned out for another day of marching in San Francisco.

This time, a massive crowd gathered at Dolores Park shortly before 4 p.m. for a student-organized march from Mission High School to the district police station on Valencia Street.

The student-of-color organizers also provided water, snacks and medics. Others, like city resident Nchimunya Milambo took it upon themselves to help. “It’s one thing to say #BlackLivesMatter but what are you going to do?” Milambo said. “I’m proud of everyone. It’s very encouraging.”

San Francisco resident Shaye Daniels attributed a significant portion of the turnout to the pandemic. “It’s a huge catalyst,” said Daniels who grew up in The City. “A lot of us are pent up. The United States has left us hanging. “

News helicopter footage showed people filling up the entire stretch of 18th Street between Church and Dolores streets as the protest began, with the crowd spilling over into Dolores Park.

While student-led, the protest drew demonstrators from a range of ages and ethnic backgrounds. It opened with Aztec dancers in front of Mission High School before speakers delivered speeches from the steps.

“We need complete reform,” said Michael Houston, one of the main speakers. “We need complete revolution. Let’s continue to protest until we dismantle the system.”

Kalani Seymore of Union City was among those in the crowd. Seymore said he identified with all the speeches and felt the education system needed to address stereotypes within school curriculum.

“We have all become part of this change,” Seymore said. “We have really revolutionized how we help each other.”

Jasmine Redmond said that with today’s social media and resources, perhaps the racism she experienced at International High School would have been acknowledged now. “That idealism (of youth) can be actually pivoted to action,” said Redmond, who is black. “I’m seeing a lot of white ally-ship, which is a little amazing. I didn’t expect to see it. “

(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Shortly after 5 p.m., protesters marched to Mission Police Station, where officers had set up barricades and held a line. As of press time, the protest appeared to be unfolding without significant violence or destruction.

Protests began in San Francisco on Saturday as anger and sadness built over the death of Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes in an encounter captured on video.

The demonstrations have persisted despite the officer, Derek Chauvin, being fired and arrested. On Wednesday, prosecutors upgraded the murder charge against Chauvin and charged three other officers in the case.

At the Police Commission Wednesday evening, Police Chief Bill Scott addressed the protests, saying that these are “unprecedented” times for our generation.

“We have been through a lot this past week,” Scott said. “Our Police Department is doing everything we can.”

While protests not only in San Francisco but across the nation have started out peaceful during the day, Scott said they have at times turned violent at night with people setting fires, assaulting officers and destroying property.

March organizer Simone Jacques speaks at a student-led rally at Mission High School commemorating George Floyd and those killed by police. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

At around 8 p.m. Saturday, protesters near Civic Center and downtown San Francisco began looting. They overtook the Westfield Mall, smashed windows and threw Molotov cocktails, Scott said.

“It was a very challenging and quite frankly overwhelming situation for our officers,” Scott said.

That prompted Mayor London Breed to issue a nightly curfew beginning Sunday at 8 p.m. through 5 a.m. The City also began receiving mutual aid in the form of more than 200 officers from agencies around the state.

While 87 people were arrested for violating the curfew or looting, Scott said Sunday night was fairly peaceful in comparison to the night before with most people obeying the order.

Overnight, city departments like Public Works helped board up windows and clean up graffiti.

Michael Houston speaks at a student-led rally at Mission High School. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

“It has been peaceful in our city since that time,” Scott said.

Indeed, 45 minutes after the start of the curfew on Wednesday night, the vibe was very different, as police stood back, and did not tell the many protesters which remained, gathering at City Hall, to leave.

Earlier on Wednesday, Breed announced that she would lift the curfew beginning Thursday morning after facing free speech concerns from members of the Board of Supervisors and the public.

Scott, who recommended and supported the curfew, said the Police Department did not want to “abuse” the order,

“It gave us the ability to restore order in our city very quickly on Sunday,” Scott said.

While there is talk on social media of provocateurs or white supremacists inciting violence, Scott said his department is working to determine what is real or fake.

“Up to this point, none of what we have seen on the websites about people coming to the city, shooting up The City, raiding residential neighborhoods, none of that has panned out,” Scott said.

But Scott said looters have coordinated flash mobs around San Francisco through social media.

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