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Cold-Blooded Murder in San Francisco... Enough Is Enough!
The YouTube video “SFPD Ruthlessly Shoots and Kills Unarmed 19yr old Man over $2 Bus Fare” documents in horrific detail the police murder of Kenneth Harding on July 16. It has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people. As the video begins, shots are heard and the camera focuses in on Kenneth Harding lying on the sidewalk with three police officers pointing guns at him. There is a small pool of blood beneath him which grows much larger as the video continues. People are yelling at the police, “What did you shoot him for, man? He was running away.” Another person is yelling, “Where was his gun?” You see a cop with a machine gun order people back. More people from the community are coming from across the street and you hear angry voices, “Fuck tha police!” A cop approaches Kenneth, with gun drawn, as Kenneth lies on the ground. The cop rolls Kenneth on his side and handcuffs him. People are yelling, “Call an ambulance!” The following correspondence describes the reaction of people in San Francisco to this outrageous police murder.
On Saturday, July 16, at 4 in the afternoon—in broad daylight in front of many witnesses—the San Francisco police shot down Kenneth Harding, a 19-year-old Black man, in the predominantly Black and Latino Bayview-Hunters Point district of San Francisco. In the neck. While he was running away from a bust for supposedly evading his bus fare. This execution was witnessed by many people, including people who videotaped what went down, and outrage exploded right then and there.
This was the second murder by police in San Francisco in less than two weeks. On the evening of July 3 two Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) cops shot and killed Charles Hill with three rounds to his chest. This killing has also led to significant outrage and protest.
On TV coverage and Internet video you can see some of the mood of the masses—while the young man is struggling to get up. It was reported that people were throwing bottles at the police. Almost NONE of the masses are buying the police story that this was self-defense on their part. As of now, police have still not produced the gun they claim the victim had. It seemed like a constant chant from the people in the video clip: “Where’s the gun? Where’s the gun?”
That evening Revolution readers and members of the Revolution Club, Bay Area, went to the area where this happened and talked to people. Here’s some of what we learned.
The SFPD routinely sweat people for their bus transfers, and something caused the victim to run when cops approached him. He was chased for less than 40 yards, from reports we have seen, and most witnesses agree that 10 shots were fired. No one noticed the victim fire back, or have a gun. Almost immediately there was a massive police presence (one person said “too many cops to count”). This was followed by SWAT teams which patrolled the neighborhood with machine guns. People were constantly saying “Where’s the gun” as well as “Fuck the police,” while pushing back against the cops.
Our crew got out on Saturday, four hours after the shooting. People told us, “We’ve had enough of this constant police presence,” and “we have a constant boot on our back.” And, “I knew something like this was going to happen.”
We had the paper out there that day and people reacted positively to the back page (the Three Strikes quote from Bob Avakian), and that this incident is part of the new Jim Crow.
Another point of anger is that the cops visibly did not come to the victim’s aid in any way, for example to stop the bleeding. Several people told our crew that the ONLY presence of the police was for crowd control; or to search for a gun; and NOT to attend to Kenneth Harding’s wounds.
Third and Palou in San Francisco, the corner where the murder happened, is full of masses both young and old, regular denizens, and these people are seeing themselves as the possible victims in this incident. Some people told a Revolution Club member that if someone is stopped by police in the neighborhood, people bring out their cell phone cameras, etc.
This incident happened very close to the doors of the San Francisco BayView newspaper, which serves the African-American community, and which, together with activists called a press conference for Monday, July 18 under the slogan ENOUGH IS ENOUGH; NO MORE STOLEN LIVES!
Protests against the police killing of Kenneth Harding broke out on Saturday night at 1 am at 16th and Valencia in San Francisco’s Mission District, among the artist crowd in that neighborhood. Police arrested dozens of them.
Monday, July 18
We went to the rally at Third and Oakdale at 11 am. There was a lot of press. I arrived with papers and a display with Oscar Grant and Brownie Polk with the quote “these days must be gone and they can be ... the whole damn system is guilty” ... and this display caught a lot of attention. I talked not only about Brownie but the current issue of the paper, as well as the back page about the new Jim Crow.
Before the rally, a woman approached me and said how she was harassed by the police after she witnessed the police killing in the ’90s of a Samoan boy with a squirt gun in Potrero Hill. The cops openly threatened her to the point where she had to leave the state temporarily.
Willie Ratcliff, publisher of the BayView, spoke via a bullhorn about the outrage and the need to resist these crimes. Then other victims of police murder spoke bitterness, including Lois Drake (mother of Raheim Brown, killed by the Oakland Police Department near Skyline), Anita Wells, Mesha Irizarry, whose son was shot and killed by the SFPD, and others.
There IS a lot of anger in the Bayview. As one person said, the murder was “bound to happen.” What purpose is served in having the police search people’s bus transfers except to down-press the people?
Wednesday Night, July 20
Some of us went to the Bayview Hunters Point Opera House where there was a town hall meeting over the shooting. This meeting was called by Rev. Grays of the Double Rock Baptist Church and the Dollar Store across the street. They invited the police. There were 400 very angry people in a building meant to hold about 300. (Astoundingly, I saw a TV news report later from Amber Lee where she interviewed a couple of people who were pro-police and none of the protesters! If you had been there, you would have realized how skewed the TV news presented the meeting! Nevertheless, they did report accurately that the crowd would not let SFPD Police Chief Greg Suhr speak!)
We held up the banner from Stolen Lives, while I was simultaneously selling the paper. There were a few people who were hostile... one man threw down the Revolution paper when he saw it was about Pelican Bay saying “This has nothing to do with this here. I don’t care about this!”
HOWEVER, we also got a LOT of positive response, including a boy about 12 years old who passed out about 100 copies of the Message and Call from the RCP, “The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have.” Lots of locals took pictures of the banner and the mother of a young man killed by the SFPD also held it with us.
Inside, the reverend who organized the meeting said, “We’ve had enough of our young people dying in the street. My own son was gunned down, so I know what I’m talking about. This city needs to pay attention to giving our youth jobs ... I see these jobs going to outsiders ... we need to get with Jesus.” Then he tried to bring up Police Chief Suhr, who just matter-of-factly claimed that the cops were firing in self-defense. He was booed down, with people calling him “killer” and other names. Rev. Grays tried to calm things down with “let him speak”; but it didn’t work.
Some of the things people said:
“Why you gotta kill a man for $2?”
One man said poignantly, “I don’t do nothing wrong, but I get criminalized every day.”
“Why you gotta bring machine guns around where children are?” This was both in response to the fact that on the day of the shooting, cops fired up to 10 shots at a running man 4:30 in the afternoon ... and in the following crowd control; they brought out machine guns to intimidate the masses.
“I don’t think this is over yet.” “Come on, he was executed over a fare evasion.” There really is a sentiment of “enough is enough.”
A speakout was held on Saturday, July 23 by friends of Revolution and representatives of the October 22nd Coalition. The anger of the people continues, as well as the constant intimidation by police. Some spoke bitterly about being criminalized. One poet said he’s stopped whenever he’s walking with more than two friends. We closed with a reading from BAsics 3:16, which we had been passing out in addition to a leaflet.
October 22, 2011
Join and Build the National Day of Protest
Against Police Brutality, Repression,
and the Criminalization of a Generation