By Lee Hubbard
It was supposed to be a question and answer forum with the Bay View Hunters Point community and San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr at the Bay View Opera House. The forum was called to deal with the recent shooting death of Kenneth Harding, a 19-year old from Seattle, who allegedly shot at police officers, before being killed by police officers on Third and Oakdale Streets in front of the Joseph Lee gym.But the community forum at the Opera House became a dramatic, emotion-packed venting session, as members from the community expressed their anger about the implementation of police policy in San Francisco’s black community. As Suhr spoke to over 300 people in the room, the tension increased.
“After asking him for identification, (Harding) became anxious jumped off the plaza and ran through a crowded Mendell Plaza,” said Chief Suhr. “I cannot tell you how badly I feel. I served the police department as captain of this station for two years. I love the Bay View Community.”
As he continued speaking he was interrupted by Boos and shouts.
“Put their names (the officers who shot Harding) in the paper,” said a bystander in the crowd. “Put who they are.”
The audience responses got so loud that they interrupted Chief Suhr for two minutes. He then walked away from the podium and stood in the center of the room, flanked to his left and right by six police officers, as he began to answer questions from the crowd.
According to police, Harding had a prior conviction in Washington State for pimping. He was also wanted in connection of a shooting in Seattle last week that left a 19-year-old woman dead.
Chief Suhr’s question and answer forum turned into a rowdy shouting session, as people in the Opera House ranted against the police department.
Supervisor Malia Cohen of District 10, which encompasses Bay View, was on hand and was not surprised.
She said, “The only time Bay View Hunters Point gets attention is when a crime is mentioned or happens. These people are voicing their concerns on how decisions are made and how they feel, so this venting is good in a sense. This is part of the democratic process.”
Board of Supervisors President David Chiu was also on hand and could see the anger in the room.
“There is a tremendous anger and frustration taking place in communities in the Southeastern part of the city,” said Chiu. “There is a lack of resources and communication taking place.”
Chiu said the San Francisco police department needs to “build trust and a real relationship between communities of color and law enforcement.”
Angela Mahan, a community activist called the press conference by Police Chief Suhr “ridiculous,” and said it showed insensitivity for it to be held so close to the shooting and so soon after the shooting.
“There is a lot of anger in the community,” said Mahan. “So people brought up their own personal issues with the police instead of what happened to that young man.”
She said she became “angrier after the forum, than before I walked into the room.”
“I did not hear anything being addressed,” continued Mahan.
As he walked out of the Opera House, Chief Suhr was booed and a man yelled at him to “stop having the police shoot black people in the back.”
While most of their questions remained unanswered, some activists said that something still may happen as a result of the death of Harding.