Breonna Taylor demonstration
Alex Karim, from Defund SFPD Now, addressed the crowd in front of the Mission Police Station. Defund SFPD Now advocates for much more extensive cuts to the police budget, including firing at least 200 officers this year, according to Karim. Photo by Juan Carlos Lara

Protesters gathered at the Mission Police Station Wednesday night after Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced that no Louisville police officers would be charged for the killing of Breonna Taylor. 

The 26-year-old EMT worker was shot dead in her bed on March 13, 2020, by three Louisville police officers executing a no-knock warrant. Taylor’s survivors allege the police were in the wrong house. One of the three officers, Brett Hankison, was yesterday indicted — not for shooting Taylor, but for “wanton endangerment” in spraying bullets into neighboring apartments.

Breonna Taylor demonstration
More than 100 protesters gathered in front of the Mission Police Station shouting, “Defund SFPD now” and “How do you spell murderer? SFPD!” beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday night. Photo by Juan Carlos Lara.

The crowd contained at least 100 people, and tensions ran high early in the night. People began to gather at around  7 p.m. and, roughly 20 minutes later, the protesters began marching eastbound on 17th Street. At 7:43 p.m., an altercation occurred between a San Francisco Police Department officer and a protester.

The unidentified officer was stationed on his motorcycle in the intersection of 19th and S Van Ness streets when a protester approached and stood in front of the motorcycle. In response, the officer rolled his motorcycle forward suddenly, hitting the protester and forcing him to take multiple steps back. The officer then repeated the action, pushing the protester to the side in the process, at which point the officer drove off. 

The protester, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid potential retaliation, said the officer tried to drive through him unprovoked. When asked if he would seek any action against the officer, the man replied, “We’re taking action right now.”

SFPD did not return a request for comment regarding the incident.

Only a few blocks away, an unidentified individual in a white truck did something similar as the motorcycle officer. The driver had honked at protesters blocking an intersection multiple times, and very quickly drove forward through a gap in the crowd. The driver then stopped before fully clearing the intersection, then reversed quickly and stopped, as if to make the protesters believe they might be run over. 

Once the group circled back to the police station, several speakers addressed the crowd. 

A protester holds up two signs while staring down the line of police officers in front of the police station. While officers in front of the station generally did not engage with the protesters, at least a couple heated exchanges occurred between officers and protesters. Photo by Juan Carlos Lara.

The first speaker, and seemingly the primary leader of the event, was Alex Karim, a member of Defund SFPD Now. 

Karim expressed sadness and anger over the lack of charges but said she was not surprised. She also referenced recent news that the Department of Police Accountability would recommend no discipline for the officers who killed Mario Woods in 2015 as evidence of a structural problem in policing. 

“Breonna Taylor wasn’t just murdered by these three cops,” Karim said. “She was murdered by the fucking institution of policing.”

Dozens of protesters face off against SFPD as officers undergo a shift change. Photo by Juan Carlos Lara.

While the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ proposed budget includes a nearly 6 percent cut in the annual SFPD budget, Karim said that is “peanuts.”

“After tens of thousands of people hit the streets this summer to protest policing, after hundreds of hours of voicemails and public comments … the Board of Supervisors almost unanimously voted to approve a budget that fires zero officers,” Karim said, eliciting boos from the crowd. 

While the mayor’s budget proposal cut $40 million annually from the police budget, the Defund SFPD Now website advocates for nearly $300 million in cuts from the 2020-2021 budget, with an outlined plan of specific line item cuts, including eliminating policing in schools, eliminating community engagement units, and eliminating all new police academy classes. 

Charnelle Ruff, a sixth-grade teacher and member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation also addressed the crowd. Ruff said she struggles to speak optimistically with her students about their futures while worrying that they may be victims of police violence one day. 

“What am I supposed to tell my students? Just try to be good at code switching?” Ruff asked the crowd rhetorically.

When asked why she felt the need to protest in San Francisco over the decision of  Kentucky officials, Ruff said, “We have to make sure that the whole country knows that this isn’t just a problem in certain cities, it’s the whole country. There have been multiple examples of cops getting away with things here.”

Neptune Schwab, a man who is in a wheelchair and currently experiencing homelessness, attended the protest. Schwab shouted over the metal barriers to the police, “I talk to people in the streets, I work with them, and I don’t have to use a gun or force.”

Schwab told Mission Local that he has been living on the streets of San Francisco for more than 10 years and claims he has witnessed or been personally victim to police harassment many times. 

Neptune Schwab, a man who has been living on the streets of San Francisco for more than 10 years, attended the protest to condemn the mistreatment of homeless individuals at the hands of police. Photo by Juan Carlos Lara.

A woman named Jasmine, who declined to give her last name, said she chose to attend the event because she is outraged at the continued employment of SFPD officer Joshua Cabillo. 

Cabillo, previously a South San Francisco police officer, shot and killed 15-year-old Derrick Gaines in 2012. Jasmine said she met Gaines when they were both 11 years old, and became closer friends with Gaines during the beginning of high school, just before Gaines was killed. 

Cabillo was later hired by SFPD, where he shot an armed man in the back as he fled from the officer in 2018. The man, Oliver Barcenas, survived the two gunshots. 

Jasmine claimed Cabillo is a “real threat to the people,” and should be fired immediately. 

By approximately 9 p.m., protesters began clearing out in numbers, and when Karim announced at 9:23 p.m. that volunteer medics and security would be leaving for the night, the majority of the crowd dispersed. 

Correction: A previous version of this story referred to Mayor London Breed’s proposed budget, but was meant to say the budget proposed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors

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Juan Carlos Lara covers business and development in the Mission. Juan Carlos, a San Francisco State alum, is as much a photographer as he is a writer and previously worked as the campus news editor at Golden Gate Xpress, SF State’s student paper.

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