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12:30 PM (Bay City News): A group of protesters upset over recent police shootings disrupted San Francisco Municipal Railway service this morning.

Shortly before 7 a.m., protesters gathered at Church and Duboce streets, blocking N-Judah and J-Church light-rail vehicles from entering and exiting the tunnel system, SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said.

Shuttle buses substituted for the N and J lines until 7:30 a.m. when the protesters were cleared from the Church and Duboce intersection, Rose said.

The protesters marched to the SFMTA headquarters at 1 S. Van Ness Ave. where they continued their protest.

They held signs, including some reading, “They Shoot Us Down, We Shut It Down” and “Stop the Brutality.”

The protest came one year after the death of Kenneth Harding, Jr., 19, who was shot after a Muni fare inspection by San Francisco police.

Police initially said Harding was shot after an exchange of gunfire with officers after he tried to avoid paying Muni fare. However, investigators later said that bullet that killed Harding appeared to have been fired from Harding’s gun, not a police weapon.

When no gun was found on Harding’s body and videos began to circulate showing the teen bleeding to death on the ground, many community members were outraged.

Police contended that amateur video shows someone removing Harding’s gun from the scene, and that that weapon was eventually recovered.

Marco Scott, Harding’s uncle, was among those who participated in today’s protest. He said today’s attempt to shut down Muni is meant to be a peaceful protest against police aggression.

“We want to honor (Harding) and our other fallen children that have been killed by police brutality–we’re here to make a statement,” Scott said.

Scott said he and other protesters today want to alert Muni riders to what he calls “the profiling of inner-city kids.”

Protester Charles DuBois, 59, said he has been fighting against police brutality since the 1960s and said the police have the “same tired excuses from police. ‘They thought they had a gun.’”

“Every working-class person that is out of a job is being taken advantage of by the system,” DuBois said. “They’re squeezing us. This action is designed to be an educational example.”

Thomas J. Medina-Jimenez, 25, joined the protest after waking up near Church and Duboce and seeing the demonstrators. He said he had spent six months in jail and that he was beaten while in custody.

“There was three cops on one person, me,” he said. “You just take it and that’s not cool. We’re just taking it.”

Today’s protest was organized by groups including the Oscar Grant Foundation, an organization created after the BART police killing of Oscar Grant to foster better communication between police and the community.

Other organizers included Labor Black and Brown and Grant’s uncle, Cephus Johnson.
Flyers calling for the Muni shutdown also cited the June 5 shooting of 15-year-old Derrick Gaines by South San Francisco police.

Protesters will reconvene at 5 p.m. to hold a vigil for Harding at Third Street and Palou Avenue.

8:20 AM: According to the SFMTA, N Judah and J Church service has resumed after protests blocked the intersection of Church and Duboce for nearly an hour.

Organizer Marco Scott said he and other protesters hope to shut down Muni service throughout the day to commemorate the death of 19-year-old Kenneth Harding, Jr., who died July 16, 2011 after an encounter with police conducting Muni fare inspections.

As of 7 a.m., protesters were still arriving at 14th and Market Street, with a noticeable police presence to monitor the protest, said Scott, who is Harding’s uncle.

Meanwhile, several dozen more protesters marched in the area of Duboce Avenue and Church Street to disrupt Muni service there, according to police.

According to Mission Local, Muni bus lines 49 and 47 were also briefly blocked at Van Ness and Hayes St. The Octavia and Market ramp to 101 was also blocked for a brief time.

As of 8:05 AM, a small number of protestors were marching in front of the SFMTA building at Van Ness and Market. They were not disrupting traffic.

According to organizers, several dozen more protesters have gathered in San Francisco’s Financial and Mission districts this morning with plans to shut down Muni. However, as of 8:20 AM, there was no sign of those demonstrations.

Scott said today’s attempt to shut down Muni is meant to be a peaceful protest against police brutality.

“We want to honor (Harding) and our other fallen children that have been killed by police brutality – we’re here to make a statement,” Scott said.

Police said they would be on hand today to facilitate protesters’ first amendment rights, provide traffic control and monitor the scene.

Muni officials did not immediately return calls for comment this morning, but a Muni spokeswoman Friday said they were aware of the event and planned to take it into consideration as they managed service today.

Scott said he and other protesters today want to alert Muni riders to what he calls “the profiling of inner-city kids.”

He said protesters plan to hold a memorial for Harding at Third and Palou streets around noon.

Police initially said Harding was shot after an exchange of gunfire with officers after he tried to avoid paying Muni fare. However, investigators later said that the gun that fired the fatal shot did not belong to police and that Harding appeared to have shot himself.

When no gun was found on Harding’s body and videos began to circulate showing the 19-year-old slowly bleeding to death on the ground, many community members were outraged.

Police contended that amateur video shows someone removing Harding’s gun from him, and that that weapon was eventually recovered.

“We want free transit for all youth,” organizers said in a written statement. “No youth should have to worry about losing his or her life for not having a $2 transit fare.”

Protesters say they are also seeking federal charges against the officers involved in Harding’s shooting.

Flyers calling for the Muni shutdown also cited the June 5 shooting of 15-year-old Derrick Gaines by South San Francisco police.

Laura Dixon and Sara Gaiser of Bay City News contributed to this report

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the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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