By Jaden Jarmel-Schneider
SAN FRANCISCO – Thousands of protestors marched through San Francisco’s central neighborhoods Wednesday afternoon, sending a powerful message about solidarity in a time of crisis.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and a slew of protests across the nation—including several already in the Bay Area, protestors demanded a restructuring of the American police state that enabled the death of Mr. Floyd.
Protestors began gathering outside of Mission High School (where the march’s organizers were students) around 3 p.m. Different contingents formed clusters across the lower lawns of Dolores Park as speakers, dancers, and musicians took turns in front of the growing crowd by the school’s main entrance.
As volunteers set up picnic tables and rolled coolers around, handing out water and snacks, a group of police officers on motorcycles rode around the perimeter of the park, the last one with a waving American flag attached to his seat.
By 4:30, the streets around the school were packed. Different chants sprang up throughout the crowd, some calling out George Floyd’s name, others denouncing police officers and the president. Banners, flags, and signs popped up as someone blared “FDT” from a speaker. At a quarter past five, after an hour of excited anticipation, a float parted the crowd and began leading the protestors up 18th Street toward Market.
As the crowd began to move, cheered on by onlookers on stoops and in windows, an Amber alert-style message about San Francisco’s 8 p.m. curfew created an almost audible buzz in the crowd. Unfazed, the protestors continued up 18th, turned right on Castro, passing the famous theater marquee, and continuing up the steep hill to 16th Street.
At the top of the hill, several cars got trapped in the crowd. One driver rolled down his window, honked, and shook his fist in support, which lead to an enthusiastic cheer. Turning again, the march pushed back toward the Mission.
Upon reaching the northwest corner of Dolores Park again, the march split up, one group heading for the Civic Center, another for the Hall of Justice, and a third to the Mission Police Station around the corner.
Police officers, stationed about ten feet apart from one another, lined the block in front of the station’s entrance. Wearing helmets, face shields, masks, and guns, they stared straight ahead, almost robotically, as a crowd formed behind the metal barrier they’d stationed just beyond the sidewalk.
As the crowd grew more spirited, more police officers filed out of the entrance and a squad organized, visible through the side gates carrying orange rubber bullet guns. Two more, with binoculars, appeared on the roof of the Valencia Room bar. As curfew neared, a group of officers in riot gear blocked off the western entrance to 17th Street, threatening enclosure.
Protestors chanted, “Why’re you wearing riot gear, we don’t see no riot here!” A little under 15 minutes before curfew, one officer, then another, kneeled. Some protestors cheered, another said to a friend, “You take a knee but kill my brothers with that knee,” before beginning to chant, “Quit your job!”—which the crowd echoed emphatically. At 8 p.m., still with no signs of violence, the crowd dispersed, many walking to join the other two groups.
Protestors continued to gather at the Hall of Justice, where activists called for the closure of the municipal jail, and the Civic Center, where National Guard officers in riot gear were deployed. Several protestors pointed to the irony of funding and resources deployed to law enforcement as health workers face equipment shortages.
Later that night, videos emerged on Twitter of a series of arrests that took place on Mission Street for curfew violations, including the arrest of a minor.
With growing concerns surrounding COVID-19 spread, protestors in San Francisco sent a powerful message to the country: racism in America is as perverse a disease as any.
Nearly every protestor wore a face mask, but the organized presence made clear that the murder of George Floyd would not, under any circumstance, be forgotten. One sign reminded: “Black males are more likely to be killed by police than tested for COVID,” while another said: “Racism is the pandemic.”
To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9