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A group of protesters upset over recent police shootings disrupted San Francisco Municipal Railway service this morning. Shortly before 7 a.m., protesters gathered at Church and Duboce streets, blocking N-Judah and J-Church light-rail vehicles from entering and exiting the tunnel system, SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said. Shuttle buses substituted for the N and J lines until 7:30 a.m. when the protesters were cleared from the Church and Duboce intersection, Rose said.
The protesters marched to the SFMTA headquarters at 1 S. Van Ness Ave. where they continued their protest. They held signs, including some reading, “They Shoot Us Down, We Shut It Down” and “Stop the Brutality.” The protest came one year after the death of Kenneth Harding, Jr., 19, who was shot after a MUNI fare inspection by San Francisco police. 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 bullet that killed Harding appeared to have been fired from Harding’s gun, not a police weapon. When no gun was found on Harding’s body and videos began to circulate showing the teen bleeding to death on the ground, many community members were outraged.
Police contended that amateur video shows someone removing Harding’s gun from the scene, and that that weapon was eventually recovered. Marco Scott, Harding’s uncle, was among those who participated in today’s protest. He said today’s attempt to shut down Muni is meant to be a peaceful protest against police aggression. “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. Scott said he and other protesters today want to alert Muni riders to what he calls “the profiling of inner-city kids.”
Protester Charles DuBois, 59, said he has been fighting against police brutality since the 1960s and said the police have the “same tired excuses from police. ‘They thought they had a gun.'” “Every working-class person that is out of a job is being taken advantage of by the system,” DuBois said. “They’re squeezing us. This action is designed to be an educational example.” Thomas J. Medina-Jimenez, 25, joined the protest after waking up near Church and Duboce and seeing the demonstrators. He said he had spent six months in jail and that he was beaten while in custody.
“There was three cops on one person, me,” he said. “You just take it and that’s not cool. We’re just taking it.” Today’s protest was organized by groups including the Oscar Grant Foundation, an organization created after the BART police killing of Oscar Grant to foster better communication between police and the community. Other organizers included Labor Black and Brown and Grant’s uncle, Cephus Johnson. Flyers calling for the Muni shutdown also cited the June 5 shooting of 15-year-old Derrick Gaines by South San Francisco police. Protesters will reconvene at 5 p.m. to hold a vigil for Harding at Third Street and Palou Avenue.
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