Dozens of supporters of the Walgreens shooting victim Banko Brown rallied and marched to San Francisco City Hall Monday evening, expressing rage at video of the shooting and the decision by District Attorney Brooke Jenkins today not to press charges against the security guard who shot Brown.
“Do you think it was murder?” chanted Nancy Robles, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, which organized the rally. “Yes, we do!” responded the crowd.
Over 150 people gathered outside the mid-Market Walgreens where Brown, 24, was shot and killed by Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, 33, on Thursday, April 27.
Video of the shooting was released by the District Attorney’s Office today after two contentious weeks during which the family, the entire Board of Supervisors, and state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) called on Jenkins to make the footage public.
The DA had earlier refused to do so, saying the investigation remained open and she could yet press charges.
On Monday, Jenkins made her final decision: In a 25-page report, she outlined her case not to prosecute the guard, saying she could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Anthony did not act in self-defense.
The assembled crowd reacted in anger to that notion.
“We already know what those tapes showed, which is that Banko Brown was murdered in cold blood,” said Sanika Mahajan, 24, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
The surveillance footage shows Brown — who stood 5-foot-4 to Anthony’s 6 feet — attempting to exit the Walgreens at 825 Market St. with a bag of allegedly stolen goods. Anthony, blocking the entrance, shoves Brown and then strikes him repeatedly, knocking him to the ground.
Brown attempts to reach his bag before Anthony takes him by the neck and holds him in a headlock, before slamming him to the ground. Anthony eventually releases Brown and Brown gets to his feet, grabs his bag, and begins walking out of the store backwards.
At this point, Brown raises his arm at Anthony, and Anthony unholsters his sidearm. As Brown continues to retreat out of the store, Anthony points his gun to the ground. Brown momentarily squares his shoulders and partly lifts his arm.
A second later, Anthony fires as Brown continues backtracking out of the store.
Anthony said that Brown repeatedly threatened to stab him during the altercation, according to the DA’s report. He also said that his employer, Kingdom Group Protective Services, the security firm used by Walgreens at the store, had instructed guards to take a “hands-on” approach when stopping shoplifters.
Board President Aaron Peskin and Supervisor Shamann Walton said Monday that they would introduce legislation at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting asking either the California attorney general or the U.S. Department of Justice to review the evidence in the shooting.
John Burris, the civil rights attorney hired by Brown’s family, said he would ask Attorney General Rob Bonta to step in and prosecute Anthony. Brown’s mother and father did not view video of the shooting, saying it would be too difficult to do so.
Though the family was absent Monday evening, Terry Brown, Banko Brown’s father, sent a statement to the organizers of the rally: “We are emotionally torn apart by DA Jenkins’s decision,” the statement read. “We want justice, and we are going to get justice.”
When asked about the video, attendees, largely Black and brown, said they could not stomach watching more killings of Black people.
“It was disgusting,” said Serran Lewis, 29, who works at a homeless shelter. Lewis said that the video, to him, showed no self-defense, and he said it was “blatantly clear” that Jenkins delayed the video’s release knowing it would stir anger.
“It’s just sad to see how a Black trans person is seen as disposable,” he added.
“I’m tired of watching videos of my people dying,” added another attendee, Travis, who declined to give a last name.
The crowd, at points, also called for Jenkins to be recalled.
“Recall Jenkins,” the crowd shouted. “Prosecute Anthony.”
Others called attention to the fact that Brown, a trans man, was homeless and struggled with getting enough to eat, presumably the reason for his alleged theft.
“We live in a society where rent is as high as would-be skyscrapers,” said Tory Sprague, a family friend who had known Brown as a child.
After 30 minutes outside the Walgreens, the crowd marched to City Hall.
“I say ‘trans lives,’ you say ‘matter,’” speakers chanted as the crowd marched down Market Street to City Hall. The crowd repeated: “Trans lives matter.”
At City Hall, the crowd gathered in a circle, continuing to chant “Say his name! Banko Brown!” Those gathered held banners reading “Disarm security,” and posters reading “Banko’s life over Walgreens profits.”
“What the hell does Walgreens have that justifies an armed guard? It’s Walgreens,” said Shawn Purcell, a queer Black San Franciscan. “The most expensive thing they have is fucking cologne.”
Violence at the store, he said, was unacceptable.
“There should not be blood in front of a Walgreens.”