A crowd of more 60 people gathered inside 518 Valencia Street Wednesday night to hear about a moment in history that’s often overlooked and forgotten, the San Francisco Hunters Point Riot of 1966. This year marks its 50th anniversary.
“When police come down the street, and behind them is National Guard with fixed bayonets, and behind them is tanks. Who is rioting?” said Darrell Rogers, who lived through the riots. “Who is about to start the trouble? Who’s about to make things worse?”
Rogers, who was a teenager at the time of the riots in September 1966, made it clear that residents were not the ones rioting, they were the ones rebelling.
The riots erupted after police shot and killed 17-year-old Matthew Johnson, who was unarmed and fleeing after being discovered with a stolen car.
Residents of the African American neighborhood took to the streets to protest. Within the first couple of days, Governor Pat Brown sent the National Guard. The protests came to an end.
Joining Rogers on stage was artist and activist Adriana Camarena. She connected the event that sparked the Hunters Point Riot to recent cases in which officers of the San Francisco Police Department have shot and killed unarmed residents. She focused on the cases of Alex Nieto, shot and killed March 2014, and Luis Góngora, a homeless man who was shot and killed in April 2016.
“There’s no aggression from the victim, but there’s aggression from the police,” Camarena said.
Camarena went over the Anti Eviction Mapping Project’s statistics on killings by law enforcement in San Francisco from 1985 to 2016. Of the 98 persons killed (102 in total) for which race was identified, 40 percent were black.
Alexander Malakai, a teacher who works at Mission High School, said he came after hearing Darrell Rogers would be there. The two had met briefly a couple of months before.
“I didn’t know much [about the riot],” Malakai said. “I had seen about two or three videos, some of which they showed here today.”
“Hunter’s Point Riot, 50 years Later” is part of the fall 2016 series of talks from Independent Arts and Media and Shaping San Francisco. Guest were treated to historic footage that captured the scene on Third Street on September 28, 1966, and the emotions of black citizens of the neighborhood.