Updated: Jan 28, 2021
Photo Source: Halsey F. B. Williamson
Today in San Francisco an estimated 10,000+ people marched peacefully to protest systemic racism and its most recent manifestation in the death of George Floyd during a police arrest. As the protestors arrived at their rendezvous point in the Mission District of San Francisco this afternoon, former President Barack Obama conducted an online roundtable extolling the level of unity and shared purpose that characterize the past week of protests which continue to unfold across the United States.
The marchers gathered first at Mission High School where the student organizers of the protest had assembled indigenous peoples who read poetry and interacted with the crowd by providing snacks and water. The presentations were intensely moving and eye-opening, even for a Bay Area audience which is better sensitized than most to the brutal history of the genocide of indigenous peoples throughout our continent. Before departing on the march, the organizers emphasized the importance of everyone wearing masks and keeping hydrated.
The pre-march atmosphere was one of caring and calm despite the youthful exuberance of its coordinators. One of the students I interviewed related that the calm organization at the starting point made her feel that she was part of an engaged, benevolent community. Her refreshment sightings included Fig Newtons, Welch's fruit snacks, granola, and non-alcoholic cold drinks, all thoughtfully distributed by the indigenous peoples' group to the marchers to bolster them for their long walk on what was, for San Francisco, a sunny, hot afternoon. Lastly, before launching the march, the organizers discussed the crucial importance of mutually supporting one another to make sure that everyone registers to vote and goes to the polls in November 2020, in order to successfully further the common cause of this community protest.
The march then snaked through the Mission District and skirted SoMa, returning finally to the main Mission Police Station at 17th and Valencia. Police officers took a knee at the police station terminus point to show their respect and solidarity for the message of the marchers, who were calling for systemic social, policy and legislative change after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota last week. Our contingent of 20 students left promptly just after 7:00 pm to ensure that all would be home to respect the 8:00 pm citywide San Francisco curfew put in place by Mayor London Breed.
Source: Halsey Frances Bousquet Williamson
If only the mutual respect shown today between protestors and police in the city of San Francisco were replicated in our nation's capital. Reports from Washington, DC reflect a military encampment at Lafayette Park that could do justice to a banana republic's despot.. As former Secretary of Defense for the Trump Administration, General James Mattis who resigned from his position in December 2019, stated powerfully today:
“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.” Source: The Atlantic
The esteemed Marine General Mattis' words invoke the essence and foundation of today's San Francisco protest. Our city's protest was indeed only one of the myriad of subgroups around our nation of 'tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.'
I, for one, am personally grateful for the multitudes of protestors and their heartfelt humanism. Their idealism renews my faith in myself and my fellow Americans. That renewal has been a long time coming.
Published on DebUnbound.com on June 3, 2020