Morning Muni shutdown commemorates death of Kenneth Harding, Jr.

Pub date July 16, 2012
WriterYael Chanoff
SectionPolitics Blog

More than 50 protesters disrupted Muni service for about an hour this morning before peacefully leaving to march down Market, in commemoration of the death of Kenneth Harding, Jr., on July 16, 2011.

After gathering at 14th and Market, the group marched to the intersection of Duboce and Church, where Muni trains headed outbound exit the tunnel. Soon, at least four outbound trains and two inbound trains were backed up.

Buses replaced their service.

Some passengers were angered, while most took literature from protesters on their way to catch another train. A few joined in the picket line. Drivers, meanwhile, were mostly nonchalant. “I’m just enjoying the show,” said one driver.

“They shoot us down, we shut it down,” protesters chanted. They also mentioned the names of Raheim Brown Jr., Derrick Gaines, Oscar Grant, and other young African American Bay Area men killed by police.

As a police line closed in, one protester shouted at cops, “you are all complicit!” The group left the intersection around 7:30 without much confrontation with police.

Denika Chatman, Harding’s mother, has been organizing a movement demanding that the police who shot him be charged with murder since his death.

Harding, 19, was stopped by police last year as part of a ticket check while exiting the T train at third and Palou. He ran, and police shot at him. He fell and bled for about thirty minutes, while police surrounded him, before he was taken to a hospital.

Police say Harding pulled a gun out as he ran and shot at them, and that the fatal bullet in his neck was his own. They say that, since the bullet that killed him was from a .380-caliber handgun and police carry .40 caliber guns, Harding shot himself. No gun was found on Harding, but police acquired a gun a week after the shooting that they believe Harding used.

Police have pointed to a video which they say shows a man picking up the gun at the scene, while Harding’s family members and supporters say the object is a cell phone.

By no accounts did police know Harding’s identity before shooting.

Officers Richard Hastings and Matthew Lopez have recieved medals of valor for their handling of the incident.

Dorian Maxwell, a whistleblower former Muni driver who refused to operate his bus and made noise about unsafe conditions on Muni, attended the protest as well. He said Labor Black and Brown, one of the organizations who planned the protest, supported him after he risked his job.

“Your life is in danger if you’re riding the Muni,” Maxwell told the crowd, pointing out what he identified as partially flat tires on a nearby 22 Fillmore.

“We wanted to combine the brutality of the police with the workers getting victimized,” said protest organizer Charles Du Bois.

Chatman has also connected her demonstrations to the movement for free Muni tickets for youth.

“I wanted to organize a Muni shutdown, and it just started growing from there,” Chatman said. It was in honor of Kenny, and to unite the community as well. Because a lot of them witness these horrible murders and I wanted to do something to give back to a community that has supported me since this happened.”

After marching down Market stopping traffic every few blocks, the group ended with a speak-out in front of SFMTA headquarters. There were no arrests. A vigil is planned for 5pm at Third and Palou, in Mendell Plaza, the spot when Harding died. Supporters call the plaza Kenny’s Plaza in Harding’s honor.