In the wake of the highly publicized and controversial officer-involved shooting death of Mario Woods, tensions soared during a San Francisco Police Commission meeting on Jan. 20, as equal numbers of Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition and Police Officers Association members filed into an auditorium in the Tenderloin.
Uniformed police officers waited on the sidewalk outside and around the edges of basketball court in the Kroc Center on Turk Street, anticipating conflict over the Dec. 2 officer-involved shooting death of Woods.
The large crowd remained quiet as Suzy Loftus, president of the commission, explained that since the meeting was not specifically about the Woods case, the commission would have to go through other agenda items before the public comment section.
The commissioners sped through the agenda items to get to the public comment section, but protesters began to chant during a briefing about the Tenderloin Police Station.
“Excuse me, ma’am, are we going to get a chance to speak?” one man yelled.
A member of San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr’s African American Community Advisory Forum spoke first during the public comments section.
“What has happened in this town shouldn’t have happened,” said Rev. Amos Brown. “I came tonight to say justice must be served with a proviso that the wheels of justice will not move slowly but with deliberate speed.”
As Brown ran over his two-minute speaking period, audience members made sarcastic comments about his ideas.
“How’s non-violence working out for you?” one woman mocked.
Members of the Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition restated their demands, including that: Police Chief Suhr be fired; the officers involved be charged with murder; and that an independent investigation of the police department be conducted.
As Bayview officer Shante Williams—who administered CPR on Woods the day he was fatally shot—began to speak, protesters jeered and crowded towards the front of the room.
“Under our current justice system we are innocent until proven guilty…,” Williams began, before being drowned out by shouting protesters. The crowd only quieted after commission president Loftus threatened to end the meeting.
“The SFPD are what you are, we are brothers, sisters, mothers,” Williams continued, before the crowd noise rose again.
SFPD Sgt. Tracy MeCray tried to placate the crowd.
“I joined the police department because I felt that I wanted to make a change,” he said. “I have worked with the officers that were there that day. To me, I want to learn all of the facts just like you.”
After a few of their members spoke, the POA filed out of the auditorium, while Suhr and the commissioners remained silent for most of the comments period.
Loftus routinely spoke into her microphone when protesters began yelling over an unpopular opinion.
“We are better than this,” Loftus said. “Just because you don’t agree please give everyone their two minutes.”
Three community input meetings on the police department’s use of force are scheduled later in the week:
-Jan. 21 at Third Baptist Church, 1399 McAllister St., 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.
-Jan. 26 at Bayview YMCA, 1601 Lane St., 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.
-Jan. 27 at Boeddeker Clubhouse, 246 Eddy St., 7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Story by: Will Carruthers