Vigil, march honors those killed by police

Deaths of Daunte Wright, Roger Allen and others prompt renewed calls for defunding

Crowds gathered outside of Mission High School on Thursday night to denounce police violence and honor the lives of two of the most recent Black men killed by officers.

Roger Allen, a 44-year-old San Francisco native, was shot in the chest and killed by a Daly City Police Officer on April 7, after what authorities have said was a struggle over what officers thought was a firearm. It was actually a replica gun.

Days later, Daunte Wright, 20, was killed by police during a traffic stop in Minneapolis, just miles away from the courthouse where the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who killed George Floyd last year, is taking place.

The march also occurred on the day Chicago police released video showing the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo as he stood with his hands up, fueling widepread horror and outrage.

“I think it’s really important we show up as a community to hold eacxh other in our grief, and also call for defunding and abolishing of the police, prisons and the prison-industrial complex as a whole,” Aditi Joshi, an organizer with Defund SFPD Now, the group hosting the night’s events, said.

Opening remarks from Joshi and others reminded demonstrators that this was a peaceful event, and gave them information on what to do should they be arrested.

But another message was also clear from the night’s organizers, one that called for the defunding of the police as a stopover on the way to abolishing the police force outright.

The premise? That communities keep themselves safe, not law enforcement.

Chants of “we keep us safe!” rippled through the crowd.

Joshi called on the Board of Supervisors, Mayor London Breed and other elected leaders to divest money from law enforcement and redirect it toward social services, housing opportunities and community health, among other things.

“Our budget is a reflection of our values, and our city is choosing to fund violence,” she said.

Roughly a couple hundred people marched down 18th Street, followed by shouts of support from passersby who raised their hands in solidarity, drivers honking their horns and the now-familiar chants of “no justice, no peace.”

They ended at the San Francisco Police Department’s Mission Station, where officers lined the building’s brick exterior, standing behind guard rails and donning helmets.

The crowd gathered in front of the station. Most attendees congregated in the middle of Valencia Street, where chants continued and music played over a loudspeaker.

But some stood closer to the guardrails, directing their comments directly at the officers.

One of those women was Talika Fletcher, Allen’s sister.

“Y’all get to go home. My brother is laying in a morgue right now,” she said, also directing demonstrators to keep their distance to ensure their own safety.

As the night grew later, the crowds slowly dwindled.

Speakers gave rallying cries and shared reflections on their own experiences.

One of those speakers was Maria Cristina Gutierrez, who goes by Mama Cristina. A founder of Mothers on the March, a local organization that seeks to combat police violence, she called for “unity” and “clarity” between all people fighting for a more peaceful future.

“I am sad, but not defeated,” she told the Examiner before her remarks. “We are the givers of life. So we have the duty to fight for life.”

cgraf@sfexaminer.com

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