About 100 demonstrators protested in the streets of San Francisco last night in San Francisco’s first major Oscar Grant protest. Oscar Grant was the 22-year old man who was killed and shot in the back by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle early New Year’s day at the Fruitvale BART station with the shooting heavily seen afterwards in videos around the internet.
The protest was mostly peaceful in contrast to last week’s more violent protest that took place in Oakland.
The protesters began protesting at around 5:45pm at the Civic Center BART station and then marched from there down to the Powell Street BART station and then downtown around near the Sutter and Montgomery intersection. About 50 or so San Francisco Police Officers monitored the protest and accompanied the march down Market Street. The local news crews were out as well with cameras and microphones in the protest.
Except for a very small amount of graffiti that I saw spray painted downtown and a reported trash can fire, there were no other incidents of violence accompanying this protest. The speakers at the protest kept encouraging violence in their speeches though telling people that they needed to “tear s*** up,” but the crowd seemed to lack the momentum that turned Oakland violent last week. No one was arrested in this protest.
The protest was promoted earlier in the day on Indy Bay with the tagline, “The kids in Oakland know how to party. Let’s show them they are not alone.”
The protest did not seem very well organized and except for a small battery powered bull horn which kept losing power, there did not seem to be anyone really in charge.
A few of the comic moments for me came as the protesters passed the bull horn around to each other sort of randomly. In one case I think one of the guys who got a turn on the bullhorn wasn’t even part of the original protest. Before the protest had even started he seemed to be just hanging around Civic Center telling anyone who would listen about problems with his wife. When he got the bull horn I’m not even sure he knew what the protest was about, but he did get an opportunity to rant a bit about his wife.
Another comic moment for me came when the protesters seemed to get into some sort of an argument with each other over the fact that some of the protesters were wearing bandanas over their face to mask their faces. One of the protesters challenged the protesters wearing bandanas to remove them from their faces while a protester with a bandana on tried to explain why she had hers on handing out a leaflet explaining it.
It seemed early on that some of the protesters were trying to make the protest about other things complaining about Palestinian occupation and homelessness in San Francisco. At one point a protester shouted into the bull horn. “How many of you are homeless and living in Golden Gate Park?” No one raised their hand and so he said, “ok, well a lot of people are,” and went on with his speech.
A few of the protesters said that they knew Oscar Grant. Another gave a speech saying that his best friend had been killed by the cops. Mostly though they just shouted and chanted “f*** the police,” “we are all Oscar Grant,” and “no justice, no peace.”
The protest seemed to gain the most momentum down around Market and Sansome Street when the protesters took a turn into downtown and the police on motorcycles couldn’t easily follow them down a one-way street. The protesters then headed up Bush Street where the SFPD sort of cut the protesters in half completely blocking off the intersection of Sutter and Montgomery in riot gear for about 15 minutes. After that the protest just seemed to dissolve into thin air. A few folks headed back up Market Street but mostly people just went on their way.
I put together a set of 50 photos from last night’s protest that you can see here.