Shut down Muni Monday, July 16, beginning at 6 a.m., 14th and Market, San Francisco
by Willie Ratcliff
Desperate cries rising from a crowd of hundreds pierced the peaceful sunny summer Saturday afternoon nearly a year ago, July 16, 2011, on Third and Oakdale in the center of Bayview Hunters Point, San Francisco’s Black heartland. Police had pulled 19-year-old Kenneth Harding off the T-train because he looked suspicious – young and Black – and couldn’t show them a Muni transfer to prove he’d paid his $2 fare.
He ran, they shot him in the back and for an agonizing half hour, instead of trying to save his life, they trained their guns on Kenneth and the crowd while the young man “lay in a quickly growing pool of blood writhing in pain and trying to lift himself up,” as I wrote the next day, and the crowd screamed in horror.
The video has been seen 373,000 times. Reflecting the common wisdom in the community that this was a public execution with a purpose, one commenter said: “The white man did the same thing during slavery. They would take a Black man and whip him or kill him in front of all the slaves, to make sure the slaves got the picture of who’s in control.”
Kenny’s mother, Denika Chatman, who has become a major voice for justice, plans a weekend of events July 13-16 described below to commemorate his life and prevent a repeat of his terrible death.
Mayor favors stop and frisk
Knowing that the police murder of Kenneth Harding was the outcome of the routine, though unofficial, police practice of stopping and frisking young men of color, why would San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, a former civil rights attorney, consider importing New York City’s disastrous stop-and-frisk policy? He announced June 27 that he’s considering adoption of the policy to control gun violence and would implement it only in so-called high-crime neighborhoods, where Black and Brown youngsters are already racially profiled.
On July 10, in response to Mayor Lee’s fondness for stop and frisk, the Equal Justice Society and over 50 other civil rights groups called on the mayor to retract that announcement. And that afternoon, a majority of the Board of Supervisors endorsed the proposal of Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents Bayview Hunters Point, to urge Mayor Lee “to stop pursuing any notion of implementing a local version of New York City’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy,” according to the Chronicle.
“I can’t think of a worse step to take than implementing a version of the stop-and-frisk policy used in New York City,” Cohen said. Co-sponsoring Cohen’s resolution were Supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, David Chiu, Eric Mar and Christina Olague.
Mayor Lee is undeterred. “He certainly won’t support a program that includes racial profiling or violating anyone’s constitutional rights,” however, mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey told the Chronicle.
But stop and frisk is an invitation to racial profiling. San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi writes in a Chronicle op-ed: “Make no mistake: Racial profiling does occur in San Francisco. Despite its liberal leanings, a 2007 study by The Chronicle found that African Americans in San Francisco are arrested for felonies at nearly twice the rate as in Sacramento and Fresno, and three times the rate in San Jose, Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego, and four times the rate in Oakland. …
“While Mayor Lee says that the law would not be applied in a discriminatory fashion, data from stop-and-frisk cities bears out the discriminatory nature of the policy’s implementation. The ACLU found that of the 4 million people stopped and questioned by the New York Police Department since 2002, most were Black or Latino and 90 percent had committed no crime.”
Adachi concludes: “Stop-and-frisk doesn’t work. Of the hundreds of thousands of frisks conducted in New York last year, a weapon was found in fewer than 2 percent of the stops.”
“Stop-and-frisk doesn’t work. Of the hundreds of thousands of frisks conducted in New York last year, a weapon was found in fewer than 2 percent of the stops,” writes Public Defender Jeff Adachi.
Aliya Karmali of the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter stated, “The National Lawyers Guild and others were extremely surprised that Mayor Lee was looking to New York City’s ‘stop-and-frisk’ as a model practice for San Francisco, when the New York City program has been thoroughly discredited and criticized as discriminatory.” Karmali noted that “less than a month ago, on June 17, thousands of New Yorkers marched in the street to protest this precise policy.”
“Simply put, this initiative targets young minorities of color, legitimizes and legalizes racial discrimination and profiling,” states the Black Young Democrats of San Francisco’s Executive Committee in a release signed by Theo Ellington, Halimah Najieb-Locke, Javieree PurittHill, Leah LaCroix and Obai Rambo.
They write: “Over the past decade statistics show that of all New Yorkers stopped, 54 percent were African American, 32 percent Latino and 12 percent white. Over half of these people stopped and searched were 14-24 years of age. In addition to this, in 2008 our Sister City of Los Angeles saw ‘for every 10,000 residents stopped, 3,400 more were African American and 360 more were Latino opposed to white. Stopped African Americans are 127 percent more likely and stopped Latinos are 43 percent more likely to be frisked than stopped whites.’
“The Fourth Amendment protects us against unreasonable search and seizures; however, this policy allows the disregard of ‘probable cause.’ Youth and minorities are directly affected by this intangible idea of what ‘suspicious’ is.”
These young Black San Franciscans – who invite everyone to sign their petition titled “Mayor Ed Lee: Say No to Stop Frisk for San Francisco” – predict that an official stop-and-frisk policy would swell the Black exodus from San Francisco, already occurring at the highest rate by far of any major U.S. city. In the 15 years between 1990 and 2005, nearly half the Black population was pushed out by economic exclusion, police harassment and mass incarceration.
“I started this petition on Change.org because I couldn’t bear to witness predatory policing practices occurring in my neighborhood,” said Theo Ellington, president of the Black Young Democrats. “It’s sad to know that Ed Lee would even consider something like this. At just 23 years old, I’ve been detained by police numerous times for what appears to be having the wrong skin color in the wrong place.”
More than 2,000 people have already signed the petition. Ellington plans to deliver the signatures in person to City Hall next week.
A young Black life stolen by police every 40 hours
“In 181 days, from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2012, alone, there’s been 110 Black people killed … Every 40 hours a Black person in this country gets killed by the police,” revealed Kali Akuno in his first interview on an explosive new report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. He was a guest of Davey D on KPFA July 10.
“These killings are definitely not accidental or random acts of violence or the work of rogue cops,” states the report, titled “Report on the Extrajudicial Killings of 110 Black People.” From its findings, MXGM concludes that “the use of deadly force against Black people is standard practice in the United States, and woven into to the very fabric of the society.
“The corporate media have given very little attention to these extrajudicial killings. We call them ‘extrajudicial’ because they happen without trial or any due process, against all international law and human rights conventions. Those few mainstream media outlets that mention the epidemic of killings have been are unwilling to acknowledge that the killings are systemic – meaning they are embedded in institutional racism and national oppression. On the contrary, nearly all of the mainstream media join in a chorus that sings the praises of the police and read from the same script that denounces the alleged ‘thuggery’ of the deceased. Sadly, too many people believe the police version of events and the media’s ‘blame-the-victim’ narratives that justify and support these extrajudicial killings. …
“This report documents how people of African descent remain ‘without sanctuary’ throughout the United States. Nowhere is a Black woman or man safe from racial profiling, invasive policing, constant surveillance and overriding suspicion. All Black people – regardless of education, class, occupation, behavior or dress – are subject to the whims of the police whose institutionalized racist policies and procedures require them to arbitrarily stop, frisk, arrest, brutalize and even execute Black people,” according to the report, which is the work of Arlene Eisen, Kali Akuno and Ajamu Baraka.
“And now we have Mayor Ed Lee – Emperor Ed Lee – wanting to adopt (stop and frisk) to San Francisco. What is this about? And do you connect that with this type of carnage that is occurring with the police?” Davey D asked Kali Akuno. “Absolutely, Davey,” Kali replied. “We need to put it in context. It’s really what I would call a broader program of containment – containment of the Black community and containment of its resistance that’s gone on now for generations.
“And now we have Mayor Ed Lee – Emperor Ed Lee – wanting to adopt (stop and frisk) to San Francisco. What is this about?” Davey D asked Kali Akuno.
“It’s these policies of containment” – such as stop and frisk – “that lead to these murders, that lead to 2 million people being incarcerated, and that lead to millions of folks being arrested, detained, harassed and beaten.”
The report finds that 39 percent of the police murders began with stop and frisk. Police saw the victim as “suspicious.” Young people are in the greatest danger: 71 percent of the police murder victims were 13-31 years old.
Thirty-five percent were running away from police when they were executed. Seventy-nine percent either were definitely unarmed or the police allegation they were armed is disputed by witnesses.
In 95 of the 110 deaths, 86 percent, the use of deadly force was “excessive” – unjustified and in violation of basic human rights. Yet only nine of the killers – in fewer than 10 percent of the extrajudicial killings – have been charged with a crime.
Kenny’s Weekend: Remembering Kenneth Harding July 13-16
All those statistics describe the extrajudicial killing of Kenneth Harding, 19, murdered over a $2 Muni fare on July 16, 2011, at Third and Oakdale in San Francisco. The people of Bayview Hunters Point remain enraged at the memory of police holding them off with guns while the young man slowly bled to death alone on the sidewalk where he fell.
“We all know that Kenny was the worst case of stop and frisk and racial profiling, so stand up and say, ‘No, we’re not having it!” The strong, calm voice of Denika Chatman, mother of Kenneth Harding has become a Bay Area beacon lighting the way to justice.
She and Kenny’s many supporters plan a weekend of activities leading up to a shutdown of Muni, San Francisco’s public transit system that includes the T-train Kenny was riding to Bayview Hunters Point when he was stopped by the police who murdered him. The event descriptions come from Denika and her crew.
Friday, July 13: Press conference, 6 p.m., Third and Oakdale, where Kenneth Harding died; Community Speak Out, 7 p.m., Nation of Islam Mosque 26a, Third and Revere, Bayview Hunters Point, San Francisco.
Saturday, July 14: Free Community Hip Hop Show, 3-6 p.m., San Francisco City College Ocean Campus in the amphitheater.
Sunday, July 15: Regular Monthly Community Feed, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Kenny’s (Mendell) Plaza, Third and Palou, San Francisco. The Peoples Community Medics will be in Kenny’s Plaza to teach us how to save one another so we don’t have to depend on ambulance services. When anyone, such as Lil Kenny or Oscar Grant, is denied medical attention, we can step in and help to save their lives.
Monday, July 16: Kenneth Harding Jr. Shut Down Day, beginning at 6 a.m. at Market and 14th Street, San Francisco. Bring your walking shoes and your determination for justice for people who have been murdered by police for no good reason. Also, a vigil will be held at 5 a.m. at Third and Palou.
On July 16, it will be one year since the San Francisco Police Department murdered Kenneth Harding Jr. over a $2 Muni fare. The city, the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and SFPD are stonewalling on the investigation and aren’t releasing videos they confiscated. The family of Kenneth needs answers. The police shot him in the back but can’t look us in the eye? Kenneth Harding didn’t have to die.
When we have family emergencies, we SHUT DOWN our work and take care of our loved ones. Shutting it down is normal. Sweeping it under the rug and going about business as usual is not normal. Do any of our city leaders care? So on Monday, July 16, at 6 a.m., we are going to start the Shutdown Movement and SHUT IT DOWN.
What do we do when they shoot us down? Shut it down! Shut it down!
Concluding the commemoration, also on Monday, July 16: Vigil for Kenny at Kenny’s Plaza, Third and Palou, 5 p.m.
Willie Ratcliff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 671-0789. Visit the Justice 4 Kenneth Wade Harding Jr. Facebook page for updates on the commemorative events of July 13-16 or call Kenneth Harding’s Uncle Marco at (510) 239-8311. For more information about the “Extrajudicial Killings Report,” contact Kali Akuno at email@example.com.