Sad and somber, festive but fighting, protesters called for justice for George Floyd Monday from the steps of San Francisco City Hall.
Spread across the street and down the block, around 1,000 people chanted:
“I can’t breathe! Black lives matter!”
Sienna Forde, 26, from San Jose, spoke to SFBay before the protest:
“We’re here for justice for George Floyd and just fighting the injustice when it comes to police brutality. It’s tired, it has been too long, and it’s too continuous and it needs to stop.”
Forde talked about taking a knee for George Floyd and how it was representative of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. She said it seemed though there was no proper way to protest, as even Kaepernick’s peaceful protest was widely criticized:
“If protests were right all the time, people would change immediately and they wouldn’t be protests. Taking a knee is a form of protest and in this instance, it’s the right thing to do.”
Forde added that the first step to change is within each person to change themselves, hoping that everyone will someday receive equal opportunity to succeed. She also demands reforms in many aspects of life, including in healthcare and justice in the U.S.
Calvary Hill community church Rev. Dr. Joseph Bryant Jr. started the protest with a proclamation:
“Down with brutality, up with unity. Down with pain, up with peace. And we are here today because black lives matter!”
Protesters demanded police reforms, charged by the recent killing of George Floyd, a black man killed by white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, as well as a decade of police killings of people of color, particularly young black men.
The demonstration was led by Phelicia Jones and the group she founded, Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community, which was formed after Mario Woods was killed by San Francisco police in 2015.
Jones was pleased to see a large turnout demanding justice for George Floyd but questioned whether white and brown allies will continue to be there for the black community when protests nationwide calm down.
Jones then called for people to take a knee for Floyd and a moment of silence. Protestors took to the ground, marked out by chalk circles for social distancing and quieted their voices for a brief period.
District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton spoke next, demanding that police officers be held to justice when necessary, especially in killings of black people:
“These protests that you see are peaceful but we are very tired of the same mantra, of the same narrative. So unless we begin to prosecute and incarcerate law enforcement for killing innocent black lives, we will continue to rise up.”
Walton started a call-and-response, saying the names of black people killed by police in order to remember why they were fighting for police reform:
“Cuz’ this didn’t start with the murder of George Floyd. It didn’t start with that murder.”
Rico Hamilton, introduced by Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community, compared police brutality to a dream that he can’t wake up from:
“I have had a dream my whole entire life that has been a nightmare for me and my community. I’m trying to wake up from this nightmare. I’m trying to wake up from the injustices that happen to my people. But this nightmare, it haunts me. This nightmare, ‘I can’t breathe.’ This nightmare ‘My hands is up.’”
Hamilton continued, demonstrating the necessity to vote for legislators who will act in the interests of the community and overturn racist laws:
“But when you go and vote, keep agitated on those people because these are the same people who continue to look at the laws which govern the police department, which incarcerates people of color at mass rates, and they look at it and don’t do a damn thing.”
Jones then introduced Mayor London Breed, who began by saying that while she is the mayor, she is first a black woman. She spoke about growing up in public housing in San Francisco, and how her cousin was killed by SFPD in 2006:
“And when his mom showed up wanting to know what happened, she was treated like a criminal. There was no independent investigation and I didn’t understand why. I get it, nobody’s perfect, but my cousin didn’t deserve to die.”
She continued, and while avoiding specifics, promised police reforms:
“I’m in charge of this city. And as a mayor who’s in charge of this city I’ll do everything I can to push for the right policies for our law enforcement here in the city to make sure that what we know has been sadly happening all over this country doesn’t happen in our city. There is nothing more important to me than to do that.”
Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, head of the SF chapter of the NAACP, introduced actor Jamie Foxx. Foxx is a friend of George Floyd’s family and recently spoke in Minneapolis alongside friends and family of Floyd. Foxx spoke of Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin – the black teenager killed by a white security guard in 2012 – and the effort necessary after protests calm:
“Because what I can tell you is that after all this, if this is gonna die down, and this is just another one (protest after the killing of a black man by police), the work is still there to be done…Sybrina can’t have her son, George Floyd will no longer be here, the work is still here.”