From the steps of Mission High School in San Francisco, 17-year-old Simone Jacques addressed thousands of protesters in a crowd that stretched for blocks along Dolores Avenue and spilled across Dolores Park.
Jacques and her friends organized the demonstration through an Instagram group called
NoJusticeNoPeaceSF that now has nearly 10,000 followers.
“My name is Simone,” said Jacques, her voice booming through a microphone as she welcomed the mass of people holding signs and wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Black Lives Matter.”
“I’m black and proud,” she went on. “I’m Afrochicana and proud.”
About: Jacques (pictured top) went on to say she was the primary organizer of this youth-led protest along with her friends, her “homies and homeboys.” “This entire time, people have been asking us, ‘Are you under an org?'” she said. “They want to know, ‘Who is it?’ We’re just youth who grew up in the city. We’re just people who care and love each other, and love each other enough to take care of each other.”
Amy Graff / SFGATE KCBS Radio estimated a crowd of over 10,000 people, while KTVU said it could be as large as 12,000 to 16,000. Reporter Leonardo Castañeda with the San Jose Mercury News and East Bay Times guessed 30,000. Demonstrations have spread across the Bay Area in recent days, protesting the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and KTVU reported this one was “perhaps the largest Bay Area gathering since the protests have made their presence locally.” The crowd was diverse, and teenagers and families made a strong showing, with many parents towing small children. Ananda Nelson, 17, of San Bruno is the president of her high school’s Black Student Union and she said, “It would be messed up if I didn’t come. I want to see equality happen. Everyone should be supportive right now. We need everyone.” The day was hot and sweltering with temperatures in the 80s and many passed out free snacks and water. San Francisco resident Sara Sawyer was parked at the top of Dolores Park with a huge pile of bottled water. “This is important to me, because I want to show support for the kids,” Sawyer said. “We’re here to make the movement move forward.”
Amy Graff / SFGATE The original protest invitation posted on Instagram stated the event would start at Mission High School and end at the Mission Police Department on Valencia. But after the event got started, Jacques announced the plan had changed and everyone would march to San Francisco County Jail at 850 Bryant. A post also went up on Instagram with the new route.
Amy Graff / SFGATE Jacques is currently a junior at a local high school, and her mother, Maria Padilla, said she has been balancing finals and the end of the school year with organizing a major event. “She’s amazing. I’m in awe of her power and her intelligence. She’s so articulate and she’s sensitive. She’s very well-balanced.” Padilla said her daughter is passionate about her community and has sensitivity to the issues that impact it. “It’s just born out of her,” her mother said. “It’s just in her. She’s kind. She’s a good kid. Very well-balanced.” Jacques’ father is from Haiti and her mother was born in Mexico and moved to the Mission District in the 1960s. Padilla said her family owned a meat market on 24th Street and were involved in the Carnavale parade and the nonprofit arts group Galeria de la Raza. “Our family has always been very community oriented and active in the Mission District,” Padilla said.
Amy Graff / SFGATE With a massive mural of George Floyd’s face by her side, Jacques delivered a thoughtful and passionate speech to a cheering crowd. “We are here to acknowledge the black people who built this country against their will,” she said. “The black women who birthed this country. The reparations we still have yet to take, not receive. And all the brown and especially black bodies who have been murdered at the hands of police and white supremacy. The names we know and the names we will never know.” She added, “We call on your spirits to protect us and propel us through this march and the beginning of this revolution.” Many others spoke including Sabrina McFarland, 19, who read a poem about her cousin who had been killed by a police officer when she was 10 years old. Michael Houston (pictured) of Brooklyn said, “We need to fight together.”