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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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News + PoliticsSupes reject police union, urge memorial for Mario Woods

Supes reject police union, urge memorial for Mario Woods

Unanimous vote shows how badly the police union has damaged itself and how irrelevant it is becoming

There could hardly have been a better setting for the supes to pass a resolution declaring a memorial day for Mario Woods – and denouncing the bullying tactics of the Police Officers Association.

Clarence Jones, an advisor to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., tells the supes that police abuse is an issue for our time
Clarence Jones, an advisor to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., tells the supes that police abuse is an issue for our time

The resolution by Sup. David Campos came up shortly after the board, as usual, set aside business to issue commemorations. One of those, sponsored by Sups. Eric Mar and Malia Cohen, went to Clarence Jones, who teaches at USF, has been a mentor to countless young people of color – and was a close associate and speechwriter for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

I didn’t know all of this history until Mar and Cohen brought it up. Jones worked on early drafts of the “I Have a Dream” speech. He was King’s lawyer and advisor in the early-to-mid 1960s. He went on to success in both law and finance; he was the first African American to be an associate member of the New York Stock Exchange.

Now he writes and teaches, and to celebrate his 85th birthday, the board issued him a certificate of honor – and more important, gave him a chance to speak.

After the normal round of humility and thanks, he told us all that King would have been 87 this year, and that we should all thing about what the legendary civil rights leader would be saying if he were alive today.

“He would be asking,” Jones said, “how is it possible that in the richest nation in history, that in the streets of Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Pittsburgh, people are sleeping on the sidewalk. Whenever we talk about morality and ethics, we need a new definition, because this is obscene and immoral.”

He went on:

“There is an issue that is trapping us, and it’s effective and fair use of police power. … Police are delegated with the power to the state to protect us and protect our children. How is it possible that in the exercise of power the choice of lethal force is always the first choice?”

The room was packed with Justice for Mario Woods supporters, and they rose and cheered Jones’ speech.

And right after he was done, the clerk called the Campos measure declaring a memorial day for the young man who was shot by police in what some have described as a “firing squad.”

Gwen Woods, whose son was shot by SFPD, speaks to the board
Gwen Woods, whose son was shot by SFPD, speaks to the board

Board President London Breed asked Woods’ mom, Gwen Woods, to say a few words. She was emotional and eloquent.

“If I have to live my life without him,” she said, “they can have a day for my baby.”

She described running into to young African American men while she was putting flowers on her son’s memorial. “And I realized we have to make these streets safer for them to walk down.”

Campos noted that his resolution is not just about Woods, but about all of the young men of color who have been victims of police shootings, including Alex Nieto and Amilcar Peres Lopez. He addressed the POA directly, saying that instead of recognizing that the city has a problem, the police union is “trying to pit families against one another.”

Breed said that the supes “shouldn’t be intimidated by the POA.”

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the POA has damaged its own credibility to the point where I suspect a lot of the people seeking office in the fall will decline to seek or accept the union’s endorsement. Which means its political power is almost zero.

The measure passed unanimously. “The POA couldn’t get a single vote,” Campos told me. “That’s how badly they damaged their credibility.”



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Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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