(05-02) 12:22 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — Hundreds marched through the Mission District on Thursday evening to commemorate May Day, a date originally meant to honor the struggles of working people that has evolved into a worldwide event to advocate for human rights.
The event began with a rally at 24th and Mission streets, where about 75 people gathered just after 4 p.m. to hear speeches from activists representing a variety of causes and movements.
The event ended hours later with the arrests of a small group of protesters. A police spokesman said 11 people were arrested for impeding traffic and disobeying a traffic officer.
Aztec dancers in traditional garb got the crowd fired up early before the first of nearly a dozen speakers started speaking.
“We are here to remember our ancestors who fought for the dignity of our communities today,” said Jason Wallach from the Center for Political Education. “We’re here because people are being forcibly displaced from this neighborhood and it’s time we called on the city administration for a response.”
Wallach said the death of Alejandro Nieto, a 23-year-old City College of San Francisco student who was shot and killed by police on Bernal Hill a month ago after officers mistook the Taser he was carrying for a handgun, had sent a shockwave through the community.
“Mayday! Mayday!” Benjamin Bac Sierra shouted to onlookers. “It’s a distress signal because we are in an emergency right now.”
After the last of the speakers wrapped up, the crowd, which had swelled to about 200, began marching north on Mission Street, with a police escort shutting down both northbound lanes to accommodate the marchers.
Chants of “Justice for Alex!” boomed from a portable sound system and workers from businesses along Mission Street came out to witness the commotion.
The peaceful march concluded at 16th and Mission streets, where Supervisor David Campos made a brief appearance to cheer the crowd on, leading a chant of “Si se puede.”
About 6:30 p.m., a group of roughly 35 people, some from Food Not Bombs, an advocacy group dedicated to fighting hunger, briefly took over the intersection and set up a table to serve food.
Police ordered the group back to the sidewalk. Some complied, but others stayed in the street and were quickly surrounded by officers carrying batons.
When two of the protesters tried to break through the line of police surrounding them, they were tackled by officers and loaded into waiting police vans.