Jidenna and Janelle Monáe, center, meet the crowd. Photo by Cristiano Valli

Some 300 people gathered at the Mission and 24th Street BART plaza on Saturday afternoon to rally against shootings by police and see singer Janelle Monáe and the Wondaland Arts Society collective, whose song “Hell You Talmbout” commemorates the names of black shooting victims, many of whom have been killed by police.

After a press conference and rally, the artists, accompanied by a small brass band, led the crowd down Mission Street toward 22nd, singing the song and chanting the names of those killed. The march moved to Valencia Street and headed north to arrive at Mission Police Station where the protesters chanted names of victims and danced to the band’s music.

Though several organizations helped plan the rally, the artists’ presence helped draw a crowd.

“It’s good to get attention to it,” said protester Roxanne Anzelce. “It’s always useful, you know, the masses… It’s good to get it with a pop star, they’re not going to get it with a New Yorker story.”

“It’s so incredible to have them doing this. And you definitely want to see that from aspects of all social classes,” said Sacramento resident Ronnie Guice. “The people who lost their lives to police brutality, you don’t have a run for that. You don’t have a charity for that. So we pull together from all over the country and we come together to unite for power, strength and love.”

Still, Jahmal Cleveland, who works with the Stop Mass Incarceration Movement, a co-organizer of the event, said he wished the crowd had been larger. “I wish our headliner would have encouraged more people to come out, but we’re still very satisfied [with] the diversity of the crowd,” he said. “It’s something that affects, as we see, every family member, the regular guy from around the block.”

Photo by Cristiano Valli

Oscar Salinas, an organizer who attended the protest with the family of police shooting victim Alex Nieto, called attention to the gentrification of the neighborhood.

“Evictions, gentrification and police brutality are all tied together. We cannot talk about one without talking about the others,” Salinas said.

Even Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi was part of the crowd.

“I believe that us and law enforcement have an obligation, a responsibility, to achieve many of the ideals and realities that I think people are talking about here,” said Mirkarimi adding that everyone was responsible. He added that body cameras on staff inside prisons and jails were critical to ensuring transparency and reducing deaths in custody. Reforming the discipline process for peace officers is also important, he said.

Photo by Cristiano Valli

The protest drew residents from around the Bay Area and beyond.

Oakland resident Rhonisha Victor said her cousin was killed by Oakland police officers.

“I think it’s beautiful, I loved that it was peaceful from beginning to end,” she said. “And I loved when Janelle Monáe and Jidenna came out and I loved that they came not as artists, but as people, and I really appreciate that, we definitely need it.”

Others came to show support for the movement despite not having been personally affected.

“It’s a known fact that our people are being attacked,”said Alyssa Steverson, a Hayward resident. “We don’t want to be one of those people who come out just because it happened to us… At the end of the day it’s still our family.”

“I came out here for a movement, for a cause,” said Roger Holmes. “I found a lot of love. Everybody’s here for one reason, to be heard. A bunch of different groups came together for something beautiful.”

Like organizer Cleveland, one protester found the diversity of the movement key to its message.

“The LGBTQ community was here with Black Lives Matter, the Latino community, everyone regardless of background came together and showed love and support for one another,” said Steverson’s friend Cynthia Husband. “That’s what we need, that’s what we expected, and that’s what we saw.”

Photo by Cristiano Valli

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