BLM: Activism in SF

Photo+Credit%3A+Emerald+Staff+Photographer

Photo Credit: Emerald Staff Photographer

Prompted by the awful, unjust, and recorded murder of George Floyd, people around the United States, and the world, have rallied together to fight for the incarceration of police officers responsible for the deaths of countless African Americans. But this one man has become a symbol for all of the brutal, unnecessary murders before his own, based solely on skin color. The Black Lives Matter movement and the fight for equality that has been growing since the origins of segregation in the Americas seemed to suddenly explode in the midst of the pandemic, causing hundreds of thousands of people to participate in demonstrations against police brutality, the lack of justice for wrongfully killed people of color, the militarization of police, and a host of other issues that come with racism. Here in San Francisco, locals are finding creative and impactful ways to show solidarity to the cause. 

The protests are not limited to marches. People jump into vehicles with their family or don masks and drive around with friends, honking with signs plastered to their doors, or leaning out windows and sunroofs. Near the Port of Oakland, over 5,000 cars converged, along with many bicyclists. In San Francisco, protesters marched and biked, meeting at City Hall to kneel for George Floyd. Skateboarders flooded the Embarcadero to meet by the Ferry building and listen to speakers in the black community. On the Bernal Hill rock, Kseniya Makarova and some friends painted and repainted raised fists and memorials to people of color who have died because of police brutality, inspiring students to paint their own smaller stones to show their support for the movement.

“Black Lives Matter” by Dale Cruse

The protests are not limited to marches. People jump into vehicles with their family or don masks and drive around with friends, honking with signs plastered to their doors, or leaning out windows and sunroofs. Near the Port of Oakland, over 5,000 cars converged, along with many bicyclists. In San Francisco, protesters marched and biked, meeting at City Hall to kneel for George Floyd. Skateboarders flooded the Embarcadero to meet by the Ferry building and listen to speakers in the black community. On the Bernal Hill rock, Kseniya Makarova and some friends painted and repainted raised fists and memorials to people of color who have died because of police brutality, inspiring students to paint their own smaller stones to show their support for the movement.

Pullquote Photo

No one came to start a riot — they intended to exercise their first amendment right and stand and support the BLM Movement.”

— Emily Jones '21

SHC students who attended the San Francisco protests in person have attested to the positive, unified atmosphere that they experienced. Alumnus Eliana Ertsey ‘20 said “the turnout for the BLM protest in SF on June 3rd was over 30,000 people, all of which were masked and adamant for change. It was empowering to walk with thousands of others, each one of us with the same goal in mind. You could feel the tension and power resting in the air, just pushing each one of us to fight harder and louder.” Emily Jones ‘21 went to the June 3rd protest. She mentions the respect protesters showed. “While I was there it was very peaceful and safe. No one came to start a riot — they intended to exercise their first amendment right and stand and support the BLM Movement. I found the speeches from the young leaders and the energy from everyone who participated to be very positive and uplifting. Even with the coronavirus outbreak going on it didn’t stop thousands of people from participating in the protest. Everyone wore a mask.” 

SF protests by Emerald staff photographer

Regardless of the minority of people who use the protests as a chance to be violent, the protests inspired many across America. According to the Washington Post, 69% of Americans now believe Black people face inequalities in the criminal justice system, up 15% from 2014. 

Many students, especially high schoolers, have been taking to Instagram and other social media platforms, calling out peers who have made racist comments and sharing stories of their own experiences with racism. Many students have also created anonymous accounts, sharing biased statements others have made and gathering large followings in a matter of days. These callouts include screenshots of inappropriate texts from peers, quoted statements, videos, and more, allowing the offenders to realize their mistakes (learn more here and find more direct examples here.) In addition, June 2nd’s “Blackout Tuesday” started out as being a pause in the music industry and of white voices, but quickly spread to the cancellation of online arts classes, and led social media to be flooded with posts of black squares as influencers demonstrated their solidarity to the BLM movement. However, there is controversy as many argue that it was a time to speak up, not be silent. A current 10th grader who participated in the social media postings mentioned that “Despite the controversy behind Blackout Tuesday, it was an effective way to educate yourself and others about the Black Lives Matter movement. It was a great way to just take time out of your day to learn more about the movement, who it affects, and why it’s extremely important to address in our world right now.”

Black Lives Matter Mural San Francisco (Photo Credit: Christopher Michel)

Other demonstrations of solidarity in the Bay Area have included the 49ers flying a Black Lives Matter flag, a skateboarder “Hill Bomb” in Twin Peaks, the bright yellow block-letter mural painted on Fulton Street leading to City Hall, virtual conventions, and so many more. The sudden increase in awareness regarding this movement, the renewed strength of the activism, and the overall sense of unity are relatively unique. With the unfortunate Shooting of Jacob Blake, we can expect this to continue until true change is enacted.

One can consider that perhaps, despite the onslaught of difficult, unexpected events that 2020 has dragged us all through, it’s also helped us realize our resilience and how much we are willing to fight for what we believe in.