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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Outraged and Betrayed, Protesters Renew Calls for SFPD Chief's Resignation After Killing of Mario Woods

Posted By on Thu, Dec 10, 2015 at 12:02 PM

click to enlarge JULIA CARRIE WONG
  • Julia Carrie Wong
Two minutes at a time, scores of outraged and grieving community members — friends and family members of Mario Woods, mothers and fathers of murdered children, pastors, activists, teachers, students — delivered the same message from the podium at last night's meeting of the San Francisco Police Commission: Police Chief Greg Suhr must resign. 

The first meeting of the police oversight body since the 26-year-old Woods was shot and killed by at least five police officers was attended by hundreds of people, the vast majority of whom stood outside the at capacity meeting room, chanting for hours. Among the demands: "Fire Chief Suhr" and "Release the names" of the officers who fatally shot Suhr. 

"A person that rides in a car with a murderer is an accomplice," said Jeff Stewart, a cousin of Mario Woods, directing his comments to Suhr. "That's what you are." 

Stewart reiterated the list of six demands that have been circulated by Black Lives Matter Bay Area since the SFPD town hall last Friday: the release of the names of the police officers involved, a federal investigation, Surh's resignation, a public apology for Woods' death, SFPD to pay for Woods' funeral, and for the police officers involved to be fired and charged with murder.

Archbishop Franzo King of the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church had another suggestion: suspend the officers involved without pay. (The five officers are currently on paid administrative leave, according to police.) 

"Take away the idea that if you want a vacation, all you have to do is murder a black man," King told the commission. 

DeWitt Lacy, an attorney with John Burris' law firm, which is representing the Woods family, appealed to the commission to fulfill its "disciplinary" function in the case. The police have released few details about the shooting, but Lacy said that Woods' body had "21 bullet holes." 

Chants from outside the meeting room and interruptions from the audience occasionally drowned out public comment, and the meeting was briefly postponed when Sala Chandler, the mother of Yalani Chinyamurindi who was killed in a Hayes Valley quadruple homicide last January, refused to leave the podium. Chandler expressed her outrage that her son's murder — and the murder's of many other African Americans — has not been solved, while city officials have focused attention on the murder of Kate Steinle

After several hours of public comment, the Police Commission discussed the shooting and a plan to amend the Department General Order that governs SFPD's use of force policies. The commission plans to move quickly to overhaul the General Order, which has not been officially revised since 1995. They expect to produce a draft policy for discussion in time for the February 3 meeting. 

Among the likely controversial changes in the proposal will be Suhr's desire to equip at least some police officers with Tasers. The Commission has denied SFPD's request for stun guns in the past, and two years ago Suhr withdrew another request in the face of opposition. 

Suhr has repeatedly suggested that Mario Woods would still be alive if SFPD had Tasers, but opponents to the weapons remain firm. 

Biko Eisen-Martin, an activist working with Black Lives Matter Bay Area, described Tasers as "a pacifier for the people." 

"The police are aware of how to apprehend people peacefully," he said. "They just don't do that with black people." 
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About The Author

Julia Carrie Wong

Julia Carrie Wong's work has appeared in numerous local and national titles including 48hills, Salon, In These Times, The Nation, and The New Yorker.


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