San Francisco is more than 2,000 miles from Ferguson, Mo., the small town where a police shooting set off protests and fueled the Black Lives Matter movement around the nation in 2014. But the events of Ferguson seem closer than ever to the Bay Area after Mario Woods, a young black man, was fatally shot by police in early December.
Activists and city leaders in San Francisco say it’s a mistake to think progressive liberalism has shielded this city from racial tensions causing an uproar from the South to the Midwest. “I know that Ferguson is in Missouri and we’re on the Bay, but in terms of attitudes, practices and the treatment of the black community, Ferguson is in San Francisco,” says local NAACP chapter president Amos Brown. The shooting “happened because of racism,” he adds. “It happened because of a culture of neglect when it comes to black folks. That’s what’s coming home to haunt us.”
On Wednesday, members of San Francisco’s black community planned to memorialize 26-year-old Woods. Three investigations into Woods’ death are underway, and local lawmakers, black community leaders and Woods’ family are calling for major policing reforms.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has met the criticism by asking police to ensure that lethal force is a last resort, and by drawing a distinction between San Francisco and other cities that have been roiled by police shootings of young black men. “This country has seen far too many incidents where conflicts between police and young men of color result in the death of a young person,” he said at a press conference. “In San Francisco, we’re not this kind of city. That’s not our values.”
A ‘wrongful’ shooting
The events leading to Woods’ death began on Dec. 2 when a man was injured in a non-fatal stabbing in the city’s Bayview neighborhood. Later that afternoon, at least five police officers approached Woods, responding to reports of a man who matched the description of the stabbing suspect. What followed is still being determined by investigators, but videos taken on cellphones show at least part of the events.
Police have said Woods was brandishing a 6- to 8-in. kitchen knife and therefore endangering the officers. At a community meeting held two days after the shooting, Police Chief Greg Suhr produced a blown-up still from a video in an attempt to show that Woods’ arm was outstretched with a weapon. The officers first tried to disarm Woods using pepper spray and bean bags, police said, but they were unsuccessful. So when one of them stepped into Woods’ path as he tried to walk away from the officers—and toward bystanders—that officer fired his gun. At least 15 shots from police followed, and Woods was killed. One of the police officers was African-American.
Read the full story in the Time News – The Shooting of Mario Woods Brings Ferguson to San Francisco, Activists Say