In addition, the former mayor of San Francisco, Mark Farrell, also opposes this memorial and was the sole dissent on the Board of Supervisors to the ordinance establishing the memorial. Farrell said that this memorial sends a bad message to police officers, for whom there is no recognition when they have been killed in their line of duty. The POA also opposed the establishment of a “day of remembrance” for Mario Woods, another victim of police violence in December 2015. The Board of Supervisors said that they would not be intimidated by the “bullying behavior” of the POA, according to a statement given at City Hall in January 2016. Despite the opposition from the POA and the division within the Board of Supervisors, the memorial was still approved by the Recreation and Park Department in April of 2019. This memorial has been regarded as extremely significant because it is the first memorial in California’s history that is dedicated to someone who was killed by the police. It is a groundbreaking memorial, spearheading the movement for police accountability and justice for everyone who has died unjustly at the hands of the police.
Since before the civil rights movement, police brutality against Black and Brown Americans has been a topic of conversation amongst revolutionaries, celebrities and politicians alike. From the death of Emmett Till in the summer of 1955, a movement against police brutality emerged with the goal of officer accountability. This goal has still not been achieved today. After the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in 2014, the Black Lives Matter movement, more often referred to as BLM, emerged in full force and has been fighting since then for the officers involved in their deaths to be held accountable. Christopher Lebron, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University, said that, “while police brutality is not a new phenomenon, it was a particularly fresh topic of discussion and reflection for Americans.” For this reason, Lebron says, the movement has not been widely accepted by Americans.
Americans are relatively closed off to the idea that the issue surrounding police brutality is not just “a few bad apples”, but a systemic issue with how police officers are trained to fear minorities disproportionately more than they are trained to fear white people. The way that officers are trained to shoot before asking questions and give in to their implicit biases is what got Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Antwon Rose, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark and so many others killed when they were not a threat to the officer(s) that shot them. According to the Mapping Police Violence Project, the police departments in some of America’s biggest cities disproportionately killed black people, as they made up 41% of the victims despite being only 20% of the population in the cities. This is not a case of a few police officers disproportionately committing acts of violence against black and brown Americans, it is a nationwide epidemic that needs to be addressed by changing the way that police officers are trained to interact with the people they serve. If these issues had been addressed earlier, there might be a possibility that these men and women who were killed by the police could be alive and still with their families. This memorial is significant to the Black Lives Matter movement and the broader movement for police accountability because it is the first monument in California to someone who died at the hands of the police. There are not many monuments to black and brown people in America, and a monument of this significance is an extremely important step towards accountability.