SEIU 1021

Labor and community coalition hold candlelight vigil and rally demanding police stop brutalizing and killing Black and other people of color in San Francisco and across the United States


On Thursday, February 16, 2023, a coalition of labor unions and community social justice organizations held a candlelight vigil outside of San Francisco City Hall to demand an end to police brutality and denounce racially motivated violence. The coalition, led by SEIU Local 1021, protested San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins’ decision to drop manslaughter charges against a San Francisco Police Department officer charged in the 2017 shooting of Keita O’Neil, an unarmed Black suspect in a carjacking. The indictment was the first time a San Francisco police officer had been charged with a crime related to an on-duty shooting. The rally and candlelight vigil was held on the eve of the arraignment of the Memphis Police Department officers who killed Tyre Deandre Nichols, an unarmed Black man who died from injuries sustained as a result of a beating by five Memphis police officers after a traffic stop.

“The members of SEIU 1021 are outraged by yet another killing of an unarmed person of color at the hands of police,” said Theresa Rutherford, the president of SEIU Local 1021. “Our most heartfelt condolences go out to the family of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who succumbed to his injuries three days after a brutal beating by five Memphis police officers at a traffic stop. While the five officers responsible for Tyre’s death have been charged with murder, we are no closer to justice in America. My union siblings and I see politicians offering condolences, but what we don’t see is action by Congress or other officials at any level of government. We don’t see national police reform. We don’t see the demilitarization of local police forces. We don’t see enhanced background checks and screening in hiring. We don’t see better police training. We don’t see a shift to investment in mental health services and other de-escalation tools. We encourage our leaders in government to spare us their thoughts and prayers for Tyre’s family. If you want to honor Tyre’s memory, do your jobs and legislate and administer solutions. That is the justice we demand.”

“We need to reform our police department, but we also need to make sure that we have district attorneys willing to hold them accountable when they do wrong,” said April Green, the aunt of Keita O’Neil. “If we do not have district attorneys ready to prosecute police officers and hold them accountable, we will never see justice for our Black and Brown men. San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins has dropped the charges against the officer who killed my nephew Kieta O’Neil. While she calls for justice for Tyre Nichols, she sits by and lets the cop who killed my nephew walk free. We must have district attorneys willing to hold the police to the same laws that the rest of us follow. They cannot be exceptions to the rule.”

Many groups came together for the Thursday night vigil and rally, including the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21, the Oakland Education Association, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Northern California District Council, along with the San Francisco Labor Council, the Contra Costa Labor Council, the San Mateo Labor Council, the San Mateo Labor Council, the South Bay Labor Council, the Alameda Labor Council, San Francisco Rising, Jobs with Justice, the Anti Police-Terror Project, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, and a choir from the Jones Memorial United Methodist Church singing gospel music.

Along with holding a candlelight vigil, workers from different labor unions and members of social-justice community organizations gave speeches addressing the need for public safety. Demands include passing the federal George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and ensuring cities, counties, municipalities, and California invest in vital resources such as mental health care, substance abuse programs, and other social services. Specific to San Francisco, the coalition demands San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins charge the San Francisco Police Department officers involved in the killings of Sean Moore and Keita O’Neil. Labor unions and social-justice community organizations also request that the district attorney bring charges against the police officers who killed Luis Gongora Pat, building off the investigative work done by the previous administration. Other demands include moving police officers out of traffic enforcement, pushing police out of responding to mental illness or houselessness-related calls, demilitarizing the police by removing military weapons from the department, and ending consent searches by police, which encourages police to engage in fishing expeditions – to treat people as suspects and subject them to searches that they would otherwise have no lawful basis to conduct.