Gunned down SF Black trans activist remembered at vigil

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Monday May 1, 2023
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Xavier Davenport, center holding microphone, helped lead a community vigil for Banko Brown, who was allegedly killed by a Walgreens security guard April 27 in San Francisco. Photo: John Ferrannini
Xavier Davenport, center holding microphone, helped lead a community vigil for Banko Brown, who was allegedly killed by a Walgreens security guard April 27 in San Francisco. Photo: John Ferrannini

The pain of a community mourning a young Black trans man who was gunned down outside of a San Francisco Walgreens made itself known Monday — with a hundred people showing up at a vigil to remember him.

Banko Brown, 24, was fatally shot the evening of April 27 as he walked out of the Walgreens at 875 Market Street, according to media reports. The suspect, security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, 33, was arrested and charged on suspicion of one count of homicide. His arraignment had been scheduled for May 2 at 1 p.m. at the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant Street.

However, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins opted not to prosecute Anthony, citing self-defense. Jenkins stated late Monday, "We reviewed witness statements, statements from the suspect, and video footage of the incident and it does not meet the People's burden to be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that the suspect is guilty of a crime. The evidence clearly shows that the suspect believed he was in mortal danger and acted in self-defense."

The sidewalk on Market Street between Fourth and Fifth streets, near the Westfield Mall, was blocked by the May 1 vigil.

Krea Gomez told the crowd that was intentional.

"When people's lives are taken from us, our lives are disrupted," Gomez said. "It's hard for us to get on with our day. What we ask you to understand is a life was lost here and at this moment, for the next two hours, we're gonna be holding space."

The Walgreens was closed.

"This is actually a good thing they closed — Walgreens should be ashamed of themselves," said Julia Arroyo, the co-executive director of the Young Women's Freedom Center, which hosted the event. "We're not going to stop till Walgreens is held accountable for Brown's death,"

In a statement Tuesday, a Walgreens spokesperson stated, "We are offering condolences to the victim's family during this difficult time. The safety of our patients, customers, and team members is our top priority, and violence of any kind will not be tolerated in our stores. We take this matter seriously and are cooperating with local authorities."

Walgreens did not answer a question about which private security company was used at this location.

BART board member and congressional candidate Lateefah Simon, center in glasses, leads a prayer for Banko Brown at a May 1 vigil outside the Walgreens where he was killed. Photo by John Ferrannini  

Lateefah Simon, a straight ally who is on the BART board of directors and is running for Congress in the East Bay to replace Congressmember Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who is running for U.S. Senate, led the vigil in prayer.

"Creator, I ask you to hold this man who was shot because of what he looked like and who we are," said Simon, who is also Black.

For two hours, speakers remembered Brown. Arroyo told the Bay Area Reporter he'd been involved with the Young Women's Freedom Center since he was 12.

"Everybody just completely failed Banko," Arroyo said. "Banko would come in and have this bright smile all the time and, even with the hard things, have moments of joy and spread his good energy.

"He was shy," she continued. "He was a person of few words, but he always had small children surrounding him. He was always with women and children, he was always a protector, he was the kind of person who would give you the shirt off his own back. That's the character he came with. He was amazing and I just so deeply am hurt by this. He could've been a board of supervisor or anything because he had so many people surrounding him."

Arroyo said that Banko had been struggling financially in recent weeks. Multiple speakers speculated that Brown may have tried to take food from the Walgreens, or that he was racially profiled by the security guard. They were adamant he should not have been "killed over a fucking sandwich," as one person put it.

Arroyo said Brown did a lot of "street-based outreach" and helped others get connected to housing and nonprofit organizations.

"Banko worked to advocate for some of the rights for housing but he actually talked about there not being safe housing for trans people," Arroyo said. "The housing solutions available for young people in San Francisco were either men's or women's housing and he was not safe in either. He also advocated for the closure of juvenile hall and he also did participatory action research, collecting data from the community and assessing the needs of young people and asking what they actually needed in that time."

After finding out Jenkins is not charging Anthony, Arroyo stated to the B.A.R. that she is "not at all surprised."

"We are not under the impression that incarcerating the security guard is the answer," Arroyo stated. "He is no more culpable than Walgreens and the city itself. But we are deeply disappointed at the total lack of accountability. It should go without saying that Banko should still be alive. Being poor should not be a crime and, certainly, should not be a cause for murder."

Arroyo said she also wants the security camera tapes released so that the community can see "the proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the DA's office has."

Banko also advocated for changes in restitution and probation law, Arroyo said.

Another person who spoke was Brown's pastor, the Reverend Amos C. Brown of Third Baptist Church in the Western Addition. The Reverend Brown, a former San Francisco supervisor, said that Brown was a regular.

"One thing he heard was the Lord's Prayer, where it says 'give us this day our daily bread,'" Reverend Brown said. "We must stand up and say let's get rid of all these bastard guns and have a peaceful society."

Banko Brown's father, Terry, was there, but did not speak.

Xavier Davenport, a Black trans man, said San Francisco failed Brown, criticizing both Mayor London Breed — who has committed to ending homelessness in the trans community — and the city's LGBTQ establishment.

"Look at this young man," Davenport said, gesturing to a picture of Brown behind him. "He's dark skinned. The reason he couldn't get what he needed is because he is a young Black trans boy. ... They have moved us out of the Castro because they only allow white people to dominate that space and they have continued to move us down the line for housing. These organizations need to be held accountable. London Breed needs to be held accountable. San Francisco needs to be held accountable. I want you to remember this boy's smile, and remember that."

Jeff Cretan, Breed's spokesperson, stated to the B.A.R. that "San Francisco is deeply committed to our trans communities who experience much higher rates of poverty, violence, and discrimination."

"Last year, Mayor Breed announced a goal of ending trans homelessness, and the city has created programs to support trans communities through the Our Trans Home SF Coalition, the Taimon Booton Navigation Center, guaranteed income programs, and the Dream Keeper Initiative," Cretan stated.

"This work is being done in partnership with the community and through multiple city departments, including the Office of Transgender Initiatives and the Human Rights Commission," Cretan added. "... Through this work, San Francisco strives to be a national leader in supporting trans communities and helping people on the path to housing and stability in a country where too often the basic rights and safety of trans people are under attack."

Gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who represents the district Brown was killed in, offered his "condolences to Banko Brown's family members" in a statement to the B.A.R.

"Although I didn't know Banko personally, I've read enough about his work as an activist and organizer to know that last Thursday's homicide in my district was a terribly painful loss to a community that loved him very much," Dorsey stated. "I'm grateful the suspect is in custody, and I hope justice will be done in a manner that brings closure and peace to all who knew him."

After the news of the DA's decision to dismiss the murder charge against Anthony due to insufficient evidence was reported, Dorsey texted, "While I'm sure that outcome won't feel like justice to some who knew Banko, I pray that time and God's grace can heal the trauma of this tragedy for all involved."

Davenport declined to state on the record to the B.A.R. which LGBTQ organizations he was referring to, but Socorro Moreland, another Black trans man who also spoke, referred to the San Francisco Equality Awards dinner, held by Equality California on Saturday at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, featuring Congressmember Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco). Tickets to the swanky affair started at $250, the B.A.R. previously reported (

"All these organizations came together. People brought dresses, and drank champagne and pontificated," Moreland said. "Over here, Banko is being memorialized. ... As a Black trans man I never really see people in my corner."

Equality California did not respond to a request for comment for this report as of press time.

The Young Women's Freedom Center has a list of demands and intends to advocate for them at San Francisco City Hall after Tuesday's arraignment.

These include Walgreens ending contracting with armed security, San Francisco taking responsibility for Brown's death, and funding for "safe community-based housing that responds to what young people want for themselves" because "shelter and short-term housing options have historically not been safe spaces for trans youth."

Updated 5/1/23: This article has been updated with information that the suspect will not face charges.

Updated 5/2/23: This article has been updated with comment from Supervisor Matt Dorsey and a statement from Walgreens.

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