The teenage brother of a young man shot and killed by police officers in San Pablo as he ran, unarmed from a car crash in 2009, told hundreds of students gathered late Monday afternoon that “the hardest part was knowing that the people who protect, or are supposed to, took my trust away.”
The coroner’s report showed that the fifth and fatal shot was to 16-year-old Leonard Bradley’s head and came from above, indicating he was on the ground, said his brother Rome Jones, a junior from Abraham Lincoln High School.
It was dramatic preamble to the visit by Michael Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old black man who a white police officer shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri this summer. Recently, a Grand Jury failed to indict the white officer involved in the shooting and that decision has triggered another round of protests across the country.
“Stay in school and get your education so we can all better ourselves in life,” Brown said in a brief speech to students from a long list of schools including Mission, Balboa, Lincoln, Galileo, Burton, City College and San Francisco State University. “Just take the time to get your education…please, please, please.”
The rally was part of the national movement that is fighting against the recent wave of police violence against people of color, particularly young, black men. Guests of honor included Brown, Oscar Grant’s Uncle Bobby and Reverend Amos Brown, San Francisco’s NAACP President.
Mission High’s Black Student Union organized the event, which was not open to the public but rather meant for students as a means to support the family of Michael Brown and discuss race and society with other students from across the district.
“We are proud of our student leaders here,” said Mission High principal Eric Guthertz as the event began at 4:30 p.m.. “You wanted to respond to the injustices happening all over this country.”
The brief speech was followed by a question and answer period in which students asked the guests of honor about how to change the image of the black man in society and how to keep the current movement alive.
The evening ended with student performances and an impassioned speech by Reverend Amos Brown, who instructed students to register to vote the day they turn 18 so that they can help indict those who kill their peers.
“Jurors are chosen from the voter registration list,” he informed the room.
“It was beautiful, the speeches, the energy,” said Marianna Baines, a sophomore at the June Jordan School for Equity, as she filed out of the auditorium to enjoy chili and cornbread that a local organization made for the occasion. She and about 20 classmates had performed an original piece that Baines had created. Each of the students shouted the last words of a person of color who police officers had killed in the last century and then fall to the ground, rising again to Baines’ and the audiences promises of “We will breathe for you.”
“It was powerful. Everyone’s emotions. You could feel them. They were raw emotions. People were sincere,” Anthony Dade, a junior at Phillip & Sala Burton High School, said of the night.
Other students were happy with the sense of community they felt throughout the evening.
“It really brought all the schools together. We have our own club at school, but we were able to share ideas as a community tonight. It’s nice to know there is a community in San Francisco,” said Paola Montoya, a senior at City Arts And Tech High School. Four of her friends from City Arts and Tech nodded in agreement around her.
Nicky Johnson, a senior at Mission High, recited a poem “When the Shotgun Questions the Black Boy” by Sonya Renee Taylor about the death of Darius Simmons, who was a 13-year-old black boy shot and killed by a neighbor after he was believed to have stolen a television set. The first stanza reads:
When the shot gun questioned the boy’s heart it asked,
“Nigga child, do you sass your mother?
Did you do your chores last night:
before bed, before being asked, before the mule
that pays the bills got home from 2nd shift?
Are you a good kid?