Candlelight vigil marks year since Mario Woods was killed by police

by Meaghan M. Mitchell

A Mario Woods candlelight vigil in the Bayview commemorated his death a year ago at the hands of San Francisco police on Dec. 2, 2015. The community response made headlines all year.

A group of community members supported by the Justice For Mario Woods Coalition and Mario’s mother, Gwen Woods, kicked off the ceremony at Martin Luther King Park in Bayview on Third Street between Armstrong and Carroll at 3:30 p.m.

A large crowd from Bayview Hunters Point and far beyond marches on the Third Street Muni tracks from Carroll to Fitzgerald to commemorate the first anniversary of the SFPD execution of Mario Woods on Dec. 2, 2015. The man in front on the right carrying a bag is part of a delegation that traveled all the way from Ferguson, Missouri, to lend their strength and solidarity. – Photo: Meaghan Mitchell
Phelicia Jones, who has led a campaign for justice for Mario Woods all year that has been both aggressive and dignified, speaks to rally the crowd. – Photo: Meaghan Mitchell

“Over a year ago, I created this coalition,” said Phelicia Jones of Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community. “We, the people, got Chief Suhr fired. We, the people, worked with the Board of Supervisors to deem July 22nd Mario Woods Day.”

Jones called for the city to charge the police who shot Woods with murder and for SFPD to be investigated.

“I know that after a year things have died down, but we are not OK with this,” she said. “The killings of our Black men and women need to stop. The district attorney needs to do his job.” Her organization organized a forum with DA George Gascon, where “he’s going to have to answer to us,” she said.

The sound of African drums summoning the people lent cultural enrichment to the vigil for Mario Woods. – Photo: Meaghan Mitchell
At Martin Luther King Park, nationally renowned civil rights attorney John Burris autographs a sign saying, “Mario is our son.” – Photo: Meaghan Mitchell

After a brief presentation on the intent of the peaceful protest, the group made their way down Third Street to Fitzgerald Avenue. As they marched on Muni’s T-line tracks chanting, more community members joined, and cars driving by honked their horns in support.

Gwen Woods, center, stands in solidarity with other mothers who’ve lost sons to police violence. – Photo: Meaghan Mitchell

Gwen Woods expressed her gratitude to all the attendees.

“I love you all for loving Mario so much,” she said. “Thank you for showing up and showing out. Thank you for letting the city know that we are not complacent, and we won’t become complacent. We can’t move mountains if we are divided.”

As the sun set, attendees shared remarks while sipping hot cider. A bouquet of red, white and black balloons – Mario’s favorite colors – was released to the sky.

To learn more about the Justice for Mario Woods Foundation, visit their Facebook page.

Bayview Hunters Point native Meaghan Mitchell covers her hood and others for Hoodline. Contact her at @meaghan_m on Twitter or by email at Bay View staff contributed to this story.