Black Lives Matter demonstrators
Photos by Clara-Sophia Daly

Some 300 Black Lives Matter demonstrators gathered at Mission High School Thursday evening to honor survivors of police violence and to demand that the Board of Supervisors ask for bigger cuts in the San Francisco Police Department’s budget. 

So far, the board has proposed clipping $44 million, a cut of 6.3 percent, from the SFPD’s $700 million budget. Organizers of today’s march said they want to see a more dramatic cut – one that can be made by firing 200 officers, a step the board has not considered. 

With signs reading “Defund Police, Refund Community” and “How do you spell racist? SFPD,” the Black Lives Matter demonstrators, a cross-section of ages and all wearing masks, marched from Mission High School on 18th Street to Mission Street and back again to the school. 

“The Movement for Black Lives is one of the largest movements of civil rights history,” said Marion Wellington, an organizer with Defund SFPD and a member of the San Francisco chapter of Democratic Socialists of America. And so you think that this would be the moment that our progressive city would enact their values and defund the police and reinvest in our communities … ”

Honoring the lives of Black and brown victims of police violence as well as “trans siblings and unhoused neighbors that are subject to sweeps and violence every day by the SFPD” is the least they can do, said Wellington. 

To honor the victims, protesters held up posters with the names of people killed in police custody, and chanted “What do we want? Safer streets! How do we get it? Fire police!”

Although the Board of Supervisors may not be blatantly racist, protesters said, the board prioritizes constituents with wealth and property — who are often white. 

Meanwhile, 45 percent of police use-of-force incidents in San Francisco in 2019 involved African Americans, who represent only 5.3 percent of the city’s population.

“It’s super important to show up as a community and make it clear that we want resources that are allocated to the police to be distributed back to the community because we want better schools, better mental health services,” said Nataliya Bomani, a USF, student who protested today.

Maria Cristina Gutierrez, 70 and a longtime activist, said that the murder of Black and brown people cannot continue and that a “totally new unarmed entity” must be created.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Mayor London Breed are slated to finalize the budget by Oct. 1, and protesters complained that, to this point, the proposed cuts have been symbolic gestures.  

“I’m worried that people think the movement for defunding and restructuring the police is a trend, and that instead of making real changes the government and corporations will just hope we forget,” said Sabina Kariat, a 24-year-old who lives in the Lower Haight.  

Echoing others at today’s protest, Kariat favors a complete restructuring of police departments and thinks that social workers should respond to many of the calls police now answer. On the march back to Mission High School, protesters stopped in front of the Mission Police Station and wrote DEFUND SFPD in yellow paint on the sidewalk.

Black Lives Matter demonstrators
Black Lives Matter demonstrator

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Clara-Sophia Daly is a multimedia storyteller and reporter who has worked both in print and audio. A graduate of Skidmore College where she studied International Affairs and Media/Film studies, she enjoys working at the intersection of art and politics, and focusing on the stories of individuals to reveal larger themes.

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