Thursday, January 21, 2016

For the Love of MLK: Tolerance In Short Supply In City By The Bay


photo by Steve Rhodes

-by Denise Sullivan

With so much activism, advocacy, and service taking place in the name of MLK from coast to coast on the third Monday of January, it's easy to forget we largely have a musician to thank for making the dream of a federal holiday in Dr. King's name a reality.

This year was the 30th anniversary of making it official and the effort to #ReclaimMLKDay was not just a hashtag campaign but a full court press toward reinvigorating the civil rights movement. Ignited by the escalation of police murders of black men and women, whether it's the right to water in Flint, better representation for people of color in Hollywood, or protection from police terrorism across the nation, Black activists and their allies took to the streets in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Chicago, staking a claim for racial and economic justice. Here in the Bay Area, organizers and participants were successful on a number of levels at shutting things down.

On Sunday, an early morning protest at the homes of Mayor Ed Lee and Police Chief Greg Suhr was designed to keep the pressure on the demand for justice in the police shootings of Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perez-Lopez in the Mission and most recently the slaying of Mario Woods in the Bayview district which went video viral on December 2. Strangely, the case has not received much national press, but that is about to change as on Monday, civil rights attorney John L. Burris held a press conference to announce he would be calling on the Department of Justice to investigate the SFPD's racially biased "pattern and practice" of law enforcement.

In in addition to the cold-blooded killing, this third in a series of police murders in San Francisco has been left to be investigated by the force itself, further fueling public outcry. On Monday, The Justice For Mario Woods coalition successfully disrupted Lee from addressing a crowd that had assembled for the Interfaith Council's annual MLK Day commemoration at Yerba Buena Center For the Arts. Given the increase in police violence here and in light of the City's abandonment of its working poor, homeless, senior, disabled, and average citizens trying to make ends meet, Lee was a poor choice to lead a faith-based gathering. "We're here to reclaim San Francisco," one of the protestors shouted, thereby mercifully pre-empting any further remarks from the mayor and hastening his exit. Among the protestors was hip hop musician Equipto who made headlines last year for calling out Lee as a "disgrace to Asian people." The rapper and local pre-school instructor continues to devote an increasing amount of energy to the fight to reclaim the City for San Franciscans (Wednesday evening, the Justice for Mario Woods coalition had another chance to confront the cops and call for answers).

Oakland protest calling for end to police violence
photo by Steve Rhodes

Protestors also succeeded with an action to stop traffic on the Bay Bridge on Monday afternoon. Working as an adjunct to Black Lives Matter and the Anti-Police Terror Project, the group Black.Seed used the bridge sit-in to call for the resignation or firing of Chief Suhr as well as that of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff and Police Chief Sean Whent while issuing a general call for Black Health Matters. Though the group was arrested and released that evening, they took heat on social media for inconveniencing fellow drivers with their civil disobedience. Yet it must be said: These young men and women of color, some of whom identify as queer, have their peace disturbed pretty much every day, living Black lives by the Bay.

Meanwhile, the fight against displacement, foreclosures and evictions continues in the African American community, now officially down to 3 percent and closer to 2 percent of the overall population in the City and County of San Francisco. Few know the reality of displacement better then Pastor Yul Dorn of Emmanuel Church of God in Christ and chaplain at the San Francisco Sherif's Department: He's counseled many displaced persons on the job site. Yet on January 15, the pastor was unironically evicted from his home and arrested, alongside protesters, by the Sherif's department.

San Franciscans should be prepared and/or be ready to participate in further actions highlighting displacement, income disparity, racial injustice, and police terrorism in general, and specifically as it pertains to the Super Bowl here on February 7. This completely tone-deaf booking of a major spectacle like the Super Bowl by a city already under siege by jerk-offs, done in a deal struck behind-closed-doors is particularly egregious. For chasing out homeless encampments and inconveniencing thousands of working San Franciscans (who, for what it's worth can't afford a ticket to the game), the City shall expect in return plenty of public intoxication, urination, illegal gambling, human trafficking and domestic violence---the kinds of activities known to accompany massive sporting events around the world--and very little in the way of revenues trickling down to average citizens. But hey, welcome to San Francisco 2016 and the Year of the Monkey anyway. Here's to hoping things get better from here.

Altar on the Bay Bridge to people killed by San Francisco and Oakland Police. Members of Black.Seed blocked the span in the effort to ReclaimMLK.
-photo by Steve Rhodes

Denise Sullivan writes on arts and culture and gentrification issues for Down With Tyranny.

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At 4:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So long as J. Edgar Hoover believed that King was a racial divider, he was fine. But the minute he came out against the war and staged the Poor People's March on Washington, he was a dead man.


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