Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Milk club joins calls to fire SF police chief

Chief Greg Suhr (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Chief Greg Suhr (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club’s political action committee has joined calls for San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr to be fired.

The group sent a letter Wednesday, January 13 to Suhr, the police commission, Mayor Ed Lee, the Board of Supervisors, and the police officers association “to demand justice for Mario Woods and the countless individuals who have been unjustly terrorized and murdered by the SFPD.”

Police fatally shot Woods, 26, of San Francisco, December 2 in the Bayview neighborhood. He’d been suspected of stabbing someone just before the incident and was still holding a knife when he encountered police. The shooting was captured in dramatic cellphone videos that quickly went viral.

Since police killed Woods, there have been numerous protests and calls for Suhr’s termination.

Among other complaints, the Milk committee’s letter says Suhr “and other leadership have continued to execute policies and support personnel that allow racism, homophobia, transphobia, and homeless persecution to proliferate within the force … Far too many black and brown folks, people with mental and physical disabilities, and members of the LGBT community and homeless residents have suffered at the hands of the SFPD.”

The committee added, “Current leadership has proven that it either cannot or will not take action to stop the excessive use of force, abuse of power, and bigotry that is causing unjust pain and suffering in our communities.”

In an email exchange with the Bay Area Reporter, Peter Gallotta, the Milk club’s president, said among other things he found troubling about Woods’ shooting was “The fact that Mario was shot and killed by a firing squad of officers in cold blood with impunity,” and “the fact that it was filmed and we were able to see the absolute horror of the moment, and the reality that this was absolutely use of excessive force and need not have happened.”

Asked for recent, specific examples of the SFPD’s racism, homophobia, and transphobia, Gallotta pointed to text messages exchanged by police officers in 2011 and 2012. The messages included use of the words “fag” and the N-word.

Suhr has sought to have several of the officers involved fired, but Gallotta said the messages were “a major indication of what goes on behind the scenes at the department” and show “that there are real biases that exist in this police force which manifest in police behavior and practices, and often go unchecked by those in power.”

He also said, “black people in San Francisco are 7.1 times as likely as white people to be arrested, and account for 40 percent of arrestees in the city,” even though they make up only a small percentage of the population.

Gallotta said nobody’s responded to the club’s letter.

Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, said in response to an email from the B.A.R. about the letter that, “The public has the right to protest/say what they would like freedom of speech protected under the first amendment of the USA.”

Monday, January 18, Black.Seed, a black, queer liberation group, marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day by shutting down part of the Oakland Bay Bridge and joining those demanding that Suhr, along with other officials, be fired.

In a news release that mentioned Woods’ and other killings, Black.Seed said the protest was “a show of resistance to a system that continues to oppress black, queer, brown, indigenous, and other marginalized people throughout the Bay Area.”

Twenty-five people were arrested but quickly released, according to media reports.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, January 20, 2016 @ 2:48 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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