Black youth gunned down by San Francisco police
Published Jul 27, 2011 4:16 PM
Kenneth Harding, a 19-year-old African-American man, was shot and killed by San
Francisco police in the Bay View neighborhood June 16. His “crime”?
Not having a transfer pass from the Muni public transit system to show that he
had paid his $2 fare. When approached by the police, Harding took off running
and was shot at least 10 times by the police.
Photo: SF Bay View
A large, angry crowd gathered in the busy shopping area as the young man lay
writhing on the sidewalk, cordoned off by the police. A bystander caught the
police attack on video, showing Harding lying alone for several minutes on the
ground, bleeding profusely, without any police officers or medical technicians
coming to his aid.
The police instead were busy training their guns on the dying Black youth and
roughly keeping away concerned community members who were outraged by this
latest police atrocity. Harding was finally taken to a local hospital, where he
Despite disinformation attempts by the police stating that Harding shot at the
police first and that he was a parolee wanted for questioning in Washington
State, no gun was found at the scene at the time of his murder. Additionally,
eyewitnesses clearly stated that Harding never turned around after police
started chasing him.
ABC Channel 7 news interviewed Trivon Dixon, who said, “He was running.
How could he be a threat in retreat? And he wasn’t running backwards,
turning around shooting. He was in full throttle, running away from the police.
I don’t see in any way how he could be a threat to the police.”
Several people who witnessed the police attack on Harding stayed and watched
while firefighters washed his blood off the sidewalk. In an eyewitness account
on his Facebook page, Rick Hauptman noted, “The police seemed almost
jolly. I saw many handshakes among them; I couldn’t figure that out. Were
they solely being respectful to their colleagues and to senior officers, or was
it something else?”
Police killings are not new to this city. In fact, there has been an epidemic
of police brutality and murders.
On July 3, a homeless man, Charles Hill, who could barely stand, was shot and
killed by the Bay Area Rapid Transit police. Hill is the third person killed by
BART in three years.
The community still mourns the police killing of Oscar Grant, another young
man, who was shot and killed on Jan. 1, 2009, on the platform of the Fruitvale
BART station. Grant was unarmed and physically restrained by the police at the
time that he was shot at point-blank range. Grant’s death has sparked
several demonstrations and community rebellions in Oakland.
Police terror, fare hikes connected
The community has been organizing to demand justice for Harding and all victims
of police brutality and murder. On July 18, a news conference was held by the
Idriss Stelley Foundation and SF Education Not Incarceration, at the corner of
Oakdale and 3rd in the Bay View neighborhood. The Idriss Stelley Foundation is
the group that has been spearheading this city’s fightback against police
brutality for many years.
On July 19, approximately 150 people gathered at Dolores Park in the Mission
Neighborhood to protest Harding’s killing. The spirited demonstration
wound its way through the Mission and Castro districts where protesters
disrupted traffic and stormed one of the Muni stations. Police arrested 43
people by the end of the protest.
The following evening, at a town hall meeting organized by a local minister at
the Bay View Opera House, SF Police Chief Greg Suhr was shouted down by an
angry crowd of over 300 Bay View residents.
Despite the fact that the police are now claiming that Harding had a gun and
that he had gun residue on his hand, the community is demanding answers to the
real crime — the senseless killing of Kenneth Harding for not paying his
“How come a Black man can get shot for not having a transfer? How come a
Black man has to be so terrorized that he feels that he has to run for not
having a transfer? These kinds of killings have not, would not, do not ever
happen in white communities anywhere in the world,” notes Malaika Kambon
in a Facebook discussion about the murder.
Besides the blatant racism of the SFPD, there’s another glaring reason
why Harding was killed over not paying his Muni fare. Muni riders have been
waging a battle for lower fares for years. Muni workers recently came close to
striking as the city has demanded more cuts in pensions and wages.
In an article written by Willie Ratcliff, publisher of the San Francisco Bay
View newspaper on July 18, he mentions a recent demonstration by a Mission
District-based community organization at the end of June, calling for free Muni
and transit passes for all passengers.
According to Ratcliff, “The San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) has
followed up major rate increases in recent years with greatly intensified
police fare enforcement, imposing heavy fines and even jail time for riders who
are unable to prove by showing a paper transfer that they paid their
In Kenneth Harding’s case, no transfer translated into an unprovoked
racist murder by the police. This killing is sparking a mass movement here. The
struggle against police murders and brutality will continue to grow in the Bay
Area, as will the fight for justice for all poor and working people.
For more information, contact the Idriss Stelley Foundation, 415-595-8251 or
the SF Bay View Newspaper at sfbayview.com.
Source: June 18 article by Willie Ratcliff reprinted in the online edition
of SF Bay View at http://tinyurl.com/3n3w6x6
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