A major protest in San Francisco was organized by people not old enough to vote.
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Demonstrations against police brutality continued across California on Wednesday, with one of the largest ones organized by teenagers tired of systemic racism and abuse.
The killing of George Floyd at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd begged for his life, set off a week of protests throughout the country. Chauvin was initially charged with third-degree murder, which was elevated to second-degree murder on Wednesday. Three other police officers who did not intervene to stop Chauvin were charged with aiding and abetting murder.
In San Francisco on Wednesday, thousands of young people of all races flooded the streets in the Mission District to protest police brutality, racism and white supremacy. They also came to give a giant middle finger to the establishment.
The demonstration started on the steps of Mission High School, where young organizers addressed the impassioned throng, carrying pictures of Floyd and Black Lives Matter signs. They were led by 17-year-old Simone Jacques.
“We’re just youth who grew up in the city. We’re just people who care and love each other,” she said. “We are here to fight, abolishing police and to dismantle the systems dependent on our oppression.”
She continued to cheers from the crowd. “Today we are here for George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, and many more black men and women killed. We are here to honor their lives as sacred, because the United States never has. We’re also here for our loved ones and our future children.
“So today, we say ‘Fuck the police, fuck ICE, and fuck Donald Trump,’ because we will no longer tolerate our persecution and our murders. We are here as children of our generation to disrupt their peace. This is community taking care of community and we are living proof that we do not need police.”
Another organizer, 19-year-old Sabrina McFarland, read a heartbreaking poem to the crowd. “I awake to a country that reeks of black death. There’s never enough time for me to even catch my breath before the next hashtag surfaces, and I start to feel my PTSD surfacing again. I was about 10 when the police killed my cousin. The San Pablo Police Department said he had a weapon, and the only weapon they could identify was his skin. I done heard too many stories like his. I’m sick of it, and it’s really simple actually, not quite complex. Tell the police to keep their knees off our necks.”
Michael Houston, who recently graduated from high school, said he had just heard that a 13-year-old black boy had been killed by police in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York, the night before.
“We may not have all the facts, but one fact remains clear: What condition would lead to a 13-year-old boy being murdered by the police? The same exact condition that led to George Floyd,” he said.
Calling out San Francisco’s wealth and privilege, he urged white people who work in tech to advocate for more diversity in hiring. “It is up to you to use your privilege and go into your companies and demand to see more black people in those companies,” he said.
Houston said he didn’t care if some corporations had lost money from the looting in San Francisco the previous weekend, after decades of violence against black businesses at the hands of white rioters, such as the complete devastation of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s prosperous Greenwood District known as the “Black Wall Street,” in 1921.
“So I don’t give a fuck about Target, about Walgreens, or CVS,” Houston said. “In the same breath, to those anarchists who are there to spread pure chaos, understand something: We will hold you accountable. You don’t have to worry about the police. You gotta worry about us. You will not disrupt our revolution.”
It was difficult to estimate the size of the crowd. Local media reports pegged it at 10,000 to 30,000. Volunteers handed out bottles of water and Gatorade, protein bars, and bags of chips. One brought macaroni and cheese.
The march was planned to go from Mission High School to the Mission Police Station on Valencia Street, a roughly 10-minute walk. But Jacques announced that the route had been changed, to the Hall of Justice, about 2 miles away.
As the march got under way, Jacques implored the crowd to stay safe and hydrated.
Artist Aireon Tavares, 27, said he came over from Oakland to show support for the movement. “I came out here to support my brothers. I’m just coming out here to be present,” he said.
He said he’d been doing street art in Oakland, and hopes to give other artists a space to do the same. He and his friends had also been cleaning up the streets from the aftermath of past demonstrations.
“We’re cleaning up graffiti, we’re cleaning up all the mess from the looting which we didn’t cause,” he said.
Of the citywide curfew, to be rescinded on Thursday but still very much in effect Wednesday night, Tavares said, “We’re peaceful and we’re going to keep marching.”
To the thunderous beating of drums from local performance group Loco Bloco, the protesters, largely in their late teens, 20s and early 30s, set off for the Hall of Justice, pausing for a moment of silence under a freeway overpass.
When they reached their destination, they confronted a line of police officers guarding the criminal courthouse.
A news helicopter circled overhead, and more police were spotted on the roof. The protesters marched straight up to the barricades and raised their fists.
As the sun began to set, organizers lit a piñata of President Trump’s head on fire, chanting, “Trump, you liar, we set your ass on fire.”
Standing triumphantly atop a school bus used as part of the march, Jacques told protesters that they were welcome to leave before curfew, but asked white people to stay, saying their privilege might help them protect their black and brown compatriots.
No arrests had been made as of 9 p.m. News site Mission Local reported that the march continued to the Mission Station, where police in riot gear awaited them.
In Los Angeles, the National Guard in fatigues, full gear and carrying assault rifles were positioned around City Hall as teenagers and adults carrying signs decrying police violence marched by in peaceful protest.
Los Angeles, like many other metropolitan centers across the country, saw some protests in the last week spiral into looting. Police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters and thousands have been arrested, according to the LAPD, for charges including vandalism, robbery and breaking curfew.
Mayor Eric Garcetti called for the National Guard’s assistance over the weekend, bringing back images of the 1992 race riots that were sparked the beating of Rodney King by several police officers.
On Wednesday, Los Angeles extended its curfew for a fourth day in a row, nearly a week after the first protests in the city spilled onto a freeway.
For nearly three years, the L.A. chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement has met outside the downtown Hall of Justice in downtown, in the same building as District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s offices.
Attendees share stories about police violence. Since taking office in 2012, Lacey has brought charges against only one police officer, over a deadly shooting of an unarmed civilian.
The Black Lives Matter rally swelled to thousands as the L.A. chapter’s co-founder Melina Abdullah spoke about the stark contrast of the protesters with their signs and the heavy police presence outside the Hall of Justice.
“We need to think about this idea of justice and redefine what justice means. Everything they say is the opposite,” said Abudullah. “When they say justice, they mean injustice.”
Lacey said this week the she was “heartbroken” by the footage of Floyd’s death and that “the racial inequities in our criminal justice system are as clear as ever.”
Across the street from the Hall of Justice, Ruth Davis listened to the Black Lives Matter members list the names of other men and women killed by police, some of whom gained national attention and some who did not.
Davis said Lacey’s comments were too late.
“When BLM has been doing this for years and we haven’t heard anything from her, she wants to share her crocodile tears now?” Davis asked. “It’s clearly not a black thing. She’s a black woman. I’m a black woman. It’s about doing your fucking job, and holding these officers accountable for the murder of U.S. citizens, people.”
Outside City Hall, 12-year-old Joshua said he really wanted to attend the protest, but his grandmother wouldn’t let him go alone, so she tagged along.
Catalina, who did not give her last name, said the criminal justice system must change the way it treats people of color, so her grandson’s children can see a change.
“How many years later and it’s still the same thing for people like us? We see the injustice. Until the people sitting in these buildings do something nothing is going to change,” Catalina said.
Julia, 17, who did not give her last name, said she was aware that she could be exposed to the novel coronavirus by attending the demonstration.
“But I would rather be here than at home behind a screen singing a petition,” she said.
A campaign to reprioritize the Los Angeles budget may have resulted in City Council President Nury Martinez calling for city staff to find $100 million to $150 million be cut from the police budget and moved to low-income communities.
Governor Gavin Newsom met with black community leaders and business owners in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Joined by local officials and area lawmakers, Newsom said it was important to spend time volunteering and supporting charitable efforts in the south Los Angeles neighborhood of Leimert Park.
Newsom spent part of Tuesday scrubbing graffiti off buildings near the California State Capitol Museum in downtown Sacramento.
“With this crisis, it’s more imperative that I spend more time out and about all across this state,” Newsom said in a pool interview conducted by a Los Angeles Times reporter.
Though he’s activated the National Guard and thousands of troops continued to roam city streets Wednesday, Newsom said he would draw the line at federal support. The Democratic governor said California would not accept a potential offer from President Trump for active-duty military backup.
“It won’t happen; it’s not going to happen. We would reject it,” Newsom said.
Maria Dinzeo reported from San Francisco, Nick Cahill from Sacramento and Nathan Solis from Los Angeles.