People’s Tribunal on Racism and Police Violence
- Charge the SFPD with Murder of Kenneth Harding and Serial Murders in the Black Community!
- Unite to Create an Independent Investigation to Indict the Murderers!
- Justice for Kenneth Harding! Stop the Cover-up!
- Stop Pushing Black People out of San Francisco! NO to “Ethnic Cleansing”!
On Saturday, July 16, 2011, the SFPD killed Kenneth Harding, a 19 year-old Black man, in the Bayview area of San Francisco. Kenneth had just stepped off of a Muni-Metro train and onto the platform, where police were checking people for proof of fare payment.
Called “checkpoints,” these are common ways of criminalizing poor people, especially in neighborhoods undergoing gentrification and resettlement. Checkpoints have multiple purposes. They are used to harass and trap people, violating the human right to freedom of movement. They also help to facilitate the displacement of communities of color and families who come from the Bayview area and have lived there for generations. Checkpoints allow the police to monitor community members’ movements, putting people of color in great fear and ultimately forcing them to relocate from their homes and neighborhoods to ensure their own safety. This paves the way for the area to be redeveloped by major corporations and resettled by whites. In effect, checkpoints are a necessary tool of apartheid and genocide, historically used both in the United States and throughout the world.
The case of Kenneth Harding is a perfect example. When the police approached Kenneth, he ran for his life and they fired at him repeatedly. He died at the hands of the police and another life was lost in their ongoing campaign of genocide against the Black Nation. This terror campaign is happening not only locally and not only to African Americans, but it is happening statewide and nationally, to people of color and poor people overall.
As usual, the police and their corporate media mouthpieces immediately started a campaign to demonize Kenneth and bombard the public with accounts of Kenneth’s criminal record, to make it look like the police actually saved the community from a ruthless predator. Kenneth Harding was the victim here, and his criminal record is irrelevant to, and can in no way justify the crimes the police committed against him.
[Note: To this day the only information about his past comes from a criminal justice system that, given the history of misinformation and false information dished out by “official sources,” we cannot trust. But IF Kenneth had victimized people, we would respond with restorative justice: to care for people he hurt; help him make amends for harm done and prevent such harm in the future; and to repair damage done to the community by his actions. In this way, Kenneth Harding coul have been held accountable by people who actually care about him and value his life. But instead, he was killed by the SFPD.]
At the time of the encounter, the police knew nothing about Kenneth—only that he was a young Black man, and they would find a way to make his death his own fault. They claimed Kenneth had a gun, but dozens of witnesses on the scene say that he didn’t. The police said they couldn’t find a gun. Then they said someone picked it up. Then they said the gun was recovered elsewhere, and it was a .45. Then, they said no .45 was involved. Then they said Kenneth was killed with a .380. Now police have the audacity to claim that Kenneth shot and killed himself. Witnesses have been clear, however, that police shot and killed Kenneth as he fled.
The people in Bayview are well aware that the community is under attack and that the system will do everything in its power to protect police terrorists. Bayview residents made that clear when they shouted down S.F. Police Chief Suhr and forced him to leave a community meeting held days after the shooting (that the police organized to tranquilize and paralyze police critics). There is a long history of police attacks on the Bayview, Hunter’s Point, Double Rock and throughout San Francisco. And in addition to the unending police abuse, in recent years foreclosures, gentrification, and failed educational systems have driven half of the Black population out of San Francisco.
Since the police and the system have no credibility, the people need an INDEPENDENT investigation and public hearings. The people need to know what happened that day. The identities and track records of the police who killed Kenneth must be made public, so the police can be held accountable for their actions. We also need public hearings, including testimony from witnesses and the community, and the findings should be gathered and publicized before a world audience. And as this process unfolds, the right of the community to protest and defend against these continued injustices must be upheld and kept sacred.
In addition to holding police accountable for misconduct, the community needs to build formal and informal institutions that can organize our own defense and build the democratic authority of the people and our movements. We need to organize ourselves so that we have alternatives to calling the police and alternatives to using the current, fatally flawed criminal justice system.
The People’s Hearing on Racism and Police Violence was held earlier this year in Oakland, with the intention of increasing government accountability and organizing alternatives to the government institutions. The Hearing used direct personal testimony about the growing number of police killings and related issues of state violence against targeted communities, racial profiling, and government attacks on people’s political activism. This began an ongoing process that can be applied to the murder of Kenneth Harding by the SFPD. For more information, visit http://peopleshearing.wordpress.com.