In response to a national call to action by the Justice 4 Akai Gurley Family Committee to demand the maximum jail sentence for NYPD killer cop Peter Liang, the ANSWER Coalition and the Party for Socialism and Liberation mobilized in San Francisco’s Mission District on April 1.
In a rally and march that shut down several streets and locked-down the Mission’s Police Station, the demonstration saw anti-police brutality organizers from around the country stand in solidarity with San Francisco’s own victims of racist police terror. The murders of Alex Nieto, Mario Woods and Amilcar Perez-Lopez, among others, have sparked mass outrage, led to organized resistance and fighting unity between San Francisco’s dwindling and oppressed Black and Brown communities.
Kerbie Joseph of the ANSWER Coalition, Party for Socialism and Liberation, and leading organizer of the Justice 4 Akai Gurley Family Committee in New York City assessed the murder of Akai Gurley:
“We know what police officers are really trained to do. They’re trained to occupy and oppress. They’re trained to shoot first and maybe ask questions later. Right now in New York City, we had a two week trial. Liang was convicted by a jury of his peers. The DA, who is supposed to be working on behalf of the family, recommended five years probation, six months house arrest, and five hundred hours of community service. So basically within this system, you kill a Black man on the street, you kill a Latino man on the street, you get to sit in your house.”
An activist with ANSWER LA and the Party for Socialism and Liberation added an international perspective on police terror:
“I’m Palestinian, I’ve lived in Palestine for most of my life, and I witnessed the occupation of my city and my country by Israeli forces. I witnessed the brutality that came with it. This is not unlike the occupation of police in our communities here. They are given free reign to harass and even now murder anyone they view as a threat. Alex Nieto was murdered here in San Francisco simply because racist police officers were enforcing the rule of the rich developers and gentrifiers who are stealing this communities’ land and homes, just like Israel does in Palestine.”
Alex Berliner of the prisoner solidarity organization All of Us or None noted that:
“We understand that all these murders that are happening on the street, they’re happening on the inside as well… the police brutality that’s happening, the hyper-criminalization of Brown and Black people in our communities is connected to the ethnic cleansing our communities. They don’t want us here.”
Mario Woods is San Francisco’s most recent victim of criminalization, gentrification and police murder. Along with other Black youth in the Bayview-Hunter’s Point district, he was falsely labeled a gang member to rile up reactionaries and give the police a green light to occupy and gentrify that community.
After getting out of jail, Mario was struggling alongside his mother to get his life back together. But before he could begin his new job at UPS and continue down a new path, the police made a conscious decision to execute him as he stood powerless against their hail of bullets. The movement surrounding Woods’ murder has demanded the firing of SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, murder charges for the killer cops and an independent investigation.
Kashara White of the Black Radical Organizing Collective in Philadelphia connected struggles, giving an analysis of the movement surrounding the police murder of Brandon Tate-Brown that resulted in the Black Radical Tradition Conference held at Temple University in early January.
“Anchored in revolutionary love, the conference represented unity in Black Philadelphia and the activists around the nation in challenging white supremacy and capitalism and it anticipated the next stage in Black liberation. What we found out in this conference, the reason why the struggle to get justice for Brandon Brown fizzled out was because it was too focused on police reform, and also very focused on the legal proceedings of this particular case. What we realized is that if you want to struggle alongside people, poor people, Latino people, Black people, that you need to know who they are, their struggles. You need to know their lives…
We have a tradition of radicalism that spans all the way back to the Middle Passage, and we know that the struggle for Black lives is not just about police reform, but about liberation and freedom for all. The vocation of the Black radical tradition is the liberation of Black humanity as a part and parcel of the liberation of all humanity.”
Gloria La Riva, the 2016 Presidential candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and long-time resident of San Francisco’s Mission District, encouraged onlookers and community members: “If you’re part of the Mission, defend the Mission!”
La Riva is also Vice-President of Communications Workers of America Local 39521. Commenting on the racism of SFPD and police throughout the country, La Riva stated:
“The police union is not a union in the sense of defending worker’s rights. The police union is in complete union with the police chief and all the higher-ups who see us as the enemy, especially Black, Latino, other youth of color, and working-class white kids too… We are women and men, young and old, LGBTQ people, we’re so solid that we have more power than these cops. They’re worried about this struggle. The only reason there has ever been any convictions or trial of a cop has been the people demanding it. You can never depend on an independent investigation…
I’m running for President of the United States representing a hell of a lot of people who could also be President if we only had the power…what we need is revolution, not just fighting for reforms.”
La Riva continued:
“I’ve been to Cuba many times, and I have never seen an example of police brutality, and I can say that definitively. I have a friend who’s a cop in Cuba. He’s retired. He was an officer for many years, and he’s a Black policeman. And he said to me, ‘The day we raise our guns against the people the revolution is finished.’ Have you ever heard a cop say that? That the system is finished the day that we raise our guns against the people? No. They use the cops to repress us. In Cuba, they are liberated.”
Lead by banners reading “Fire Chief Suhr, Stop Police Terror!” and “Racism is the disease, Revolution is the Cure,” a march of 200 people ensued that shut down both Mission and Valencia streets and drew bystanders into the protest. In front of the Mission police station, Eugene Puryear, leading organizer with Stop Police Terror DC and the 2016 Vice Presidential candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation offered insight into the path forward for the nationwide movement:
“It’s about more than just creating space, it’s about more than just being heard. Because at the end of the day, it’s not going to be a police chief with a new policy that saves you, it’s not going to be a Board of Supervisors, it’s not going to be a congressperson, a governor, and it’s certainly not going to be a President that’s gonna do it. They’re all co-signers. So at the end of the day we need to get rid of all of them and put all of us in power. That’s when it’s gonna stop. It’s a struggle for power over and above anything else.”