A coalition of San Francisco organizations rallied outside the District Attorney’s Office today to criticize the DA for her decision not to prosecute the Walgreens security guard who shot and killed Banko Brown, a 24-year-old Black trans man.
The 60 people assembled Wednesday morning repeated what has now become a common refrain: The security guard, Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, was not acting in self-defense when he shot Brown, as District Attorney Brooke Jenkins has said.
“If there was a crime that was committed in terms of stealing — that is if — there was a greater crime, which was murder,” Honey Mahogany, the first Black trans chair of the local Democratic Party, told the crowd.
Jenkins accompanied the video release with an investigation laying out why she was not pursuing charges against the guard, saying she could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Anthony had not acted in self-defense.
This morning, Brown’s supporters made their stance clear: Security camera footage released in the DA’s report shows no such proof of self-defense.
“Banko Brown was not a danger to anyone,” said Kevin Ortiz, from the Latinx Democratic Club, one of about nine organizations present at the 10 a.m. rally at 350 Rhode Island St., alongside groups like SF Black Wallstreet, the local chapter of the NAACP, the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club and the Rose Pak Democratic Club.
“[He was] retreating, after being assaulted for $15 worth of candy. The real danger is behind us,” said Ortiz, pointing back toward the DA’s office. “Brooke Jenkins needs to do her job — she must be held accountable for the families she’s failed. And that starts with Banko Brown.”
Mahogany pointed out that Jenkins is continuing to prosecute the case of Garrett Allen Doty, a homeless man who allegedly beat ex-fire commissioner Don Carmignani — despite Doty’s claim that he was acting in self-defense after purportedly being bear-sprayed by Carmignani.
So why, asked Mahogany, is that case different from that of Banko Brown? “We need the law to be applied equally and equitably here in San Francisco.”
Barbara Brown, Banko’s stepmother, confirmed after the press conference that she and Brown’s father, Terry Brown, will be scheduling a follow-up meeting with the DA. On Thursday, the family will hold a press conference with their attorney, John Burris, who said he will be filing a wrongful death lawsuit against Walgreens, against the security firm that employed Anthony, and against Anthony himself.
“It enrages me that the burden of proving this crime is falling on the shoulders of the Black community in San Francisco, and the family of Banko Brown,” said Tinisch Hollins of SF Black Wallstreet. “This is what happens every time a Black life is lost in San Francisco — we are left in a public debate about whether or not this person’s life is worthy of justice.”
Other speakers at the rally emphasized systemic issues, such as the fact that the encounter pitted two Black men against each other, both of whom struggled with homelessness in a confrontation sparked by $14.64 worth of Walgreens snacks.
Anthony told police investigators that, just before the shooting, his employer, Kingdom Group Protective Services, had explicitly instructed guards to confront alleged shoplifters and take a “hands on” approach.
That, Hollins said, was the result of “an environment where the retailer, Walgreens, has flooded our media with stories about the impact of retail theft on an establishment that is protected by insurance.”
“Misinformation and fearmongering about the rate of crime — we know too many of our people and seniors are being hurt. But that fearmongering has led to society to view people who are houseless, and specifically Black people, a certain way,” she added.
Behind the press conference loomed the DA’s office, from which nobody came or went. Though the only city representative present appeared to be District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston, organizers emphasized renewed solidarity among the Black and LGBT communities in the aftermath of the shooting.
“We need to unite the Black community of San Francisco,” said Geoffrea Morris, a local Black activist who helped organize the press conference. “I saw my LGBT brothers and sisters out there, fighting the fight without all of us. And it needed to be a whole Black community: Black clergy, Black LGBT, Black leaders. We need to come together, because a harm to any of us is a harm to all of us.”