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Several dozen protesters have gathered in San Francisco’s Financial and Mission districts this morning with plans to shut down Muni lines on the one-year anniversary of a police shooting, according to organizers. Organizer Marco Scott said he and other protesters hope to shut down Muni service throughout the day to commemorate the death of 19-year-old Kenneth Harding, Jr., who died July 16, 2011 after an encounter with police conducting Muni fare inspections.
As of 7 a.m., protesters were still arriving at 14th and Market Street, with a noticeable police presence to monitor the protest, said Scott, who is Harding’s uncle. Meanwhile, several dozen more protesters marched in the area of Duboce Avenue and Church Street to disrupt Muni service there, according to police. Scott said today’s attempt to shut down Muni is meant to be a peaceful protest against police brutality. “We want to honor (Harding) and our other fallen children that have been killed by police brutality – we’re here to make a statement,” Scott said.
Police said they would be on hand today to facilitate protesters’ first amendment rights, provide traffic control and monitor the scene. Muni officials did not immediately return calls for comment this morning, but a Muni spokeswoman Friday said they were aware of the event and planned to take it into consideration as they managed service today. Scott said he and other protesters today want to alert Muni riders to what he calls “the profiling of inner-city kids.” He said protesters plan to hold a memorial for Harding at Third and Palou streets around noon. Police initially said Harding was shot after an exchange of gunfire with officers after he tried to avoid paying Muni fare.
However, investigators later said that the gun that fired the fatal shot did not belong to police and that Harding appeared to have shot himself. When no gun was found on Harding’s body and videos began to circulate showing the 19-year-old slowly bleeding to death on the ground, many community members were outraged. Police contended that amateur video shows someone removing Harding’s gun from him, and that that weapon was eventually recovered.
“We want free transit for all youth,” organizers said in a written statement. “No youth should have to worry about losing his or her life for not having a $2 transit fare.” Protesters say they are also seeking federal charges against the officers involved in Harding’s shooting. Flyers calling for the Muni shutdown also cited the June 5 shooting of 15-year-old Derrick Gaines by South San Francisco police.
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