SF still reeling from Brown killing

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday May 17, 2023
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Banko Brown lies on the sidewalk after he was shot by a Walgreens security guard April 27. Photo: SF DA's Office
Banko Brown lies on the sidewalk after he was shot by a Walgreens security guard April 27. Photo: SF DA's Office

The Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club held an emotional meeting Tuesday night, just hours after San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin introduced a resolution asking the California and federal justice departments to investigate the killing of Banko Brown, the 24-year-old unarmed Black trans man gunned down by a security guard at a Market Street Walgreens.

District Attorney Brooke Jenkins' decision not to file charges against the security guard, Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, 33, has been a political lightning rod in the city. Jenkins released the store video and other materials related to the killing Monday, leading to fresh calls that she mismanaged the case.

"This is not who we are," Peskin said at the supervisors' meeting. "In the 23 years since I was first elected, I haven't experienced anything like this. This is ... what we see on TV in states like Georgia, not in cities like San Francisco."

The resolution was co-sponsored by District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen and District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton. It will be voted on by the board May 23.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta and United States Attorney for the Northern District of California Ismail J. "Izzy" Ramsey have not publicly commented on the Brown case. The federal justice department can get involved if there's evidence of a hate crime or civil rights violation. The state justice department investigates all police shootings of unarmed civilians. In this case, Brown's killer is not a sworn law enforcement officer.

The attorney general can get involved in cases involving a conflict of interest, but Bonta did not do so last year when Jenkins asked that two cases — one involving the mayor's brother, and another involving the alleged killers of a cousin of Jenkins' husband — be transferred.

The attorney general's office referred questions to the DA's office. The federal justice department declined comment.

The Milk club meeting, held at the Milk cafe in the Mission neighborhood, was to feature Brown's father Terry, but he canceled at the last minute, according to club President Jeffery Kwong.

However, a friend of Brown's who worked with him at the Young Women's Freedom Center, Juju Pikes-Prince, did show up. When asked what would bring justice, Pikes-Prince began to sob.

"Housing for my people," Pikes-Prince said. "Holding this man accountable, people in office that look like us supporting us. It just hurts. It is all of this. That's all I want for my community."

Meanwhile, Mayor London Breed defended Jenkins' decision. At a news conference near Union Square, announcing a new $6 million investment in the area which has seen high-profile store departures pick up in recent weeks, Breed said, according to KGO-TV, "It's a real tragedy but, at the end of the day, I think that the district attorney did everything she could to look at the evidence and make a decision based on what the evidence demonstrated."

Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), a former deputy city attorney who backed Jenkins in last November's election, disagreed.

"I've repeatedly watched the video and reviewed the other released evidence, and I honestly cannot see a justification for this shooting," Wiener stated Tuesday. "While shoplifting is a problem in San Francisco that needs to be addressed, shooting someone for shoplifting is truly horrific and must never be tolerated. I respect the criminal process in San Francisco, and I respect the district attorney and the difficult choices she has to make every day. But a lack of any criminal responsibility for this shooting makes no sense to me."

Honey Mahogany, second from left, speaks at a May 16 forum hosted by the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club about the death of Banko Brown, a Black trans man killed by a Walgreens security guard. She was joined by Oakland Trans March co-founder Xavier Dave  

SF 'doesn't seem to care'
The Milk club's panel also featured Honey Mahogany, a queer trans person who's the chair of the city's Democratic Party and a legislative aide to Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco); Geoffrea Morris, a straight ally who's an organizer and Black community leader; Socorro Cori Moreland, a Black trans man who's the founder and CEO of Brotherhood510; Xavier Davenport, a Black trans man who's one of the founders of the Oakland Trans March; and Peter Calloway, a straight man who's a deputy public defender.

Kwong put the killing in the context of the increasingly restrictive environment for LGBTQ youth in other states. As the B.A.R. has also reported, the head of a trans youth organization in Maine said last week that her organization is providing microgrants to families fleeing states like Texas and Florida as they pass laws restricting youth transitioning and discussion of homosexuality in schools. (See related story.)

"Kids are running away from violence and transphobic laws," Kwong, who is gay, told the B.A.R. "They're seeking refuge in San Francisco like so many LGBTQ folks in the past — looking for home and shelter — and yet they're met with violence and intolerance. It's not OK to say we march against anti-trans laws when a Black trans teenager named Banko Brown gets shot in cold blood."

Mahogany echoed a similar sentiment.

"People continue to come to San Francisco thinking it's a safe space for LGBTQ people, and it's not," Mahogany said. "Sure, we celebrate gay holidays, but if you don't have the money to play, San Francisco doesn't seem to care."

The panelists and club members decried the influence of money and political corruption in the city, and questioned why more people haven't shown up in protest.

"San Francisco is fighting for its humanity," Morris said, adding that Jenkins will be up for election in November 2024. "You don't like Chesa?" she asked, referring to the DA ousted before Jenkins' appointment, "We don't like Brooke."

Panelist calls out trans district
Moreland said during the panel discussion, "I need the San Francisco Transgender District to do things." When asked afterward, he and Davenport said that the district — which covers six blocks of the Tenderloin and two south of Market Street — "used trans masculine people for access to funding, and then centered trans femme folks," as Moreland put it.

"We actually started out working with the Transgender District, me and Xavier," Moreland told the B.A.R. "It became a solely trans femme organization, which left trans masculine folks without access to resources."

The two said that they stopped their involvement with the district after cuts put trans men "at a disadvantage" to getting housing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Moreland said, adding that the district needs to do a better job treating trans masculine people equally.

Aria Sa'id, a trans woman who is the Transgender District's outgoing president and chief strategist, told the B.A.R. in response, "I don't recall that. We haven't defunded any programs."

Sa'id added that the district worked with Moreland and Davenport in 2020 "to help amplify Black trans masculine voices" but "after months with no outcomes and deliverables not being met, we dissolved our partnership with them."

"All of our programs are designed and created to benefit trans people — all trans and nonbinary people. A quick peek at our impact reports, social media and programs will reflect that trans folks of all expressions have been an integral part of our framework," she stated. "Our energy should be devoted to solving [the] complex problems that have been a result of the rich making this city their playground, exacerbating the social issues we know and see every day to a place where it almost feels unfixable."

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