"Black Lives Matter Friday," November 28, San Francisco Bay Area

November 29, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From readers:

Here in the Bay Area, outraged, defiant waves of people have poured into the streets since Monday night's grand jury decision to let Ferguson cop Darren Wilson go unindicted for Michael Brown's murder. Friday morning, mass protests continued. The BART (regional subway) system was brought to a two-hour halt by protesters in West Oakland who chained themselves to trains and each other. Meanwhile, another crowd gathered at the Walmart in East Oakland, where "Black Lives Matter Friday" protesters marched with the "Our Walmart" picket line (national campaign against Walmart labor conditions), chanting and at one point taking a noisy march into the aisles of the store itself. Later, this protest continued, moving on to another nearby Walmart.

Another protest was called for that evening by World Can't Wait, members of Occupy SF Action Council, and Code Pink. They announced a "Black Lives, Latino Lives, ALL Lives Matter—Demand Justice for Michael Brown" rally in the heart of San Francisco's most upscale Black Friday corridor, Union Square. The official city Christmas tree was to be lit with much fanfare, so the square and the blocks all around it were packed with shoppers, international tourists, and news media.

As dark fell, the first few dozen protesters appeared on the steps just below the giant Christmas tree and across the boulevard from Macy's. As they began hoisting signs and banners, their numbers quickly grew to over 100 people of all ages and from all parts of the Bay Area. We had suburban high school students at their first big demo, Black families with children, antiwar and Palestine and Occupy and Code Pink activists, middle-aged professionals, some Starbucks baristas, and a lot of young people of all nationalities, bursting with energy and outrage.

With several thousand spectators filling Union Square and facing us from the sidewalks below, waiting for the tree lighting—we stretched across the top of the steps, lofted a huge Light Brigade display spelling out "BLACK LIVES MATTER" in bright blue Christmas lights. Chanting "Black Friday doesn't matter—Black Lives Matter!" "Ferguson Is Everywhere—Justice for Michael Brown!" "Hands Up, Don't Shoot!" we held this message up for an hour. There were orange signs all around it—many homemade signs, a Stolen Lives banner, a revcom.us giant BLACK LIVES MATTER banner, and from World Can't Wait a huge "Arrest Darren Wilson," sign plus 13 portraits with stories about people killed by police in the U.S. just during a single month in 2014.

Holiday gaiety blared out behind us. "This is wild, this is weird," said one young woman who helped keep up the defiant spirit, leading chants over a bullhorn. "We're holding up these pictures of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and all, and they want to drown us out with fucking Jingle Bells!" Her friend replied: "If these people weren't thinking about Ferguson when they got here, we're sure making they think about it now!" We saw a lot of people nodding to the beat of our chants, many people picked up signs and joined in for a while. There were relatively few hostile hecklers ("He [Michael Brown] got what he deserved!"), but mostly they were shut up and shut out by the crowd.

Minutes after the giant tree lights went on, dozens of protesters snaked their way out of Union Square, and marched toward Market Street. Police tried to deflect their route because they knew another 1,000 "Black Lives Matter Friday" protesters had rallied farther downtown and were now marching up Market Street, attempting to meet up with the group from the square. This began the next few hours of hundreds marching in the street as larger and smaller groups from both protests succeeded in linking up. They kept calling many more people off the sidewalks into the streets to join in, and filled Market Street with their continuing call-outs and chants. Dodging and defying police blockades and stand-offs, the marchers made their way into the Mission District and stayed in the streets for several more hours. Repeatedly in a call-and-response, they raised their voices: "Black Lives Matter! Latino Lives Matter! All Lives Matter! We Are Not Afraid!"

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