Four hours in Mendell Plaza

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Dewayne Isaacs serving food

Everyone stops what they were doing and ducks behind the plastic tables set up on the sidewalk. Flyers and  packaging rustle in the wind. There's no yelling or chaos, but three police cars speed onto the scene from three different directions. 

I had been at Feed the People Day all of thirty seconds before gunshots were fired.

Feed the People Day, an international effort in which people get together to share food in black and poor communities from Australia to South Africa, was on its fourth year, and organizers from Bayview were joining in. 

A few minutes after the gunshots, we all get up from behind the table. “God is good,” one volunteer says. “That could have been us.”

The volunteers get back to serving food.

"It's a typical day in the life," says Jameel Patterson, one of the volunteers serving food. "Not every day. But every so often."

They chose to set up at Mendell Plaza. It’s full of people, a common place to spend free time. It’s next to the Bayview Opera House, which holds frequent events, as well as a complex that includes a gym, elementary schools, a playground, and a 300-person auditorium. Those buildings don’t hold many events, though—they’re mainly used for storage by the school district.

Mendell Plaza is directly off the T train, whose installation was supposed to bring prosperity and foot traffic to Bayview. But most of the businesses on the few blocks surrounding the plaza are still boarded up. And this T stop has become well known for a different reason: it was here that Kenneth Harding, Jr, exited the train July 16, ran away after police asked for his transfer, got shot in the back and died.

And it was in Mendell Plaza that police stood around the bleeding Harding for 30 minutes, allegedly denying him medical care, before he died.

Tracey Bell-Borden, one of the organizers of Bayview’s Feed the People Day, wants to rename the spot Kenneth Harding Jr. Plaza. 

Fly Benzo, a musician and college student who has become well known after speaking out for Harding and a subsequent arrest--again at Mendell Plaza-- while filming police, was a block away when the shots were fired. He was trying to take a young girl that he was looking after inside the gym to play. It was, inexplicably for a Sunday afternoon, locked.

“It’s never open,” said Benzo. “Where are we supposed to take our kids so they can be inside?”

The police, whose lightning-quick response time implies that they had a tip—according Patterson, it generally takes them 15 to 17 minutes to respond to gunshots-- haven’t found a gun yet. Most of them are standing around three teenagers who, bystanders insist, were on the sidewalk doing nothing when the gunshots went off. The police run their IDs and take them to jail; probably on a gang injunction. 

20 minutes have gone by before a cop drives up to the tables. “What organization are you with?” he asks.

Bell-Borden replies, “the Kenneth Harding Foundation.” Denika Chatman, Harding’s mother who moved to San Francisco after his death to try and find out more details surrounding its circumstances, asks “do you have a contribution?” the cop gets back in his car and speeds off. 

“They didn’t want to know, is anyone here hurt? Are you guys OK?” says Patterson.

One man says he saw the smoke when the shots went off, directly behind him. The police rolled right past.

Patterson tells a story of the past Friday night, when lots of people had been out in Mendell Plaza. When one teenager who was playing with a remote control car accidentally steered it onto the street, a police officer pulled up and ran his ID.

Despite some dangers, neighbors continue to congregate in Mendell Plaza, and Bell-Borden says she is planning on turning Feed the People Day into a monthly event; the next date will be April 15.

Dewayne Isaacs, a community organizer who grew up in the Fillmore and Haight-Ashbury and had several Black Panther relatives killed in the 70s, says he, for one, will keep coming back for it.

“It’s us Bay Area natives,” says Isaacs. “We always fight back.”

Comments

"Mendell Plaza is directly off the T train, whose installation was supposed to bring prosperity and foot traffic to Bayview. But most of the businesses on the few blocks surrounding the plaza are still boarded up. And this T stop has become well known for a different reason: it was here that Kenneth Harding, Jr, exited the train July 16, ran away after police asked for his transfer, got shot in the back and died.

And it was in Mendell Plaza that police stood around the bleeding Harding for 30 minutes, allegedly denying him medical care, before he died."

Tracey Bell-Borden, one of the organizers of Bayview’s Feed the People Day, wants to rename the spot Kenneth Harding Jr. Plaza.

----------------

let's be clear on a couple of things here.

1. the autopsy on mr. harding had him dying of a self inflicted gunshot wound to his neck/head. as far as i know, no one has challenged the results of that autopsy.

2. mr. allegedly was the first one to fire his weapon while fleeing. again, i don't think that's been refuted.

3. there's plenty of gruesome video out there showing mr. harding "bleeding out" as the cops stood over him. it all took just a few minutes, not a half hour.

4. from all the mainly unrefuted facts here, mr. harding is a terrible martyr for police brutality. he did not deserve to die for fare evasion but when you shoot at the cops (not very well i may add) and are a parollee wanted for questioning in another killing then you aren't exactly someone worth renaming a public space for.

Posted by aml on Mar. 28, 2012 @ 2:16 pm

Thank you for clarifying a just few oversights in the article. where's the editor on this one, by the way?

Posted by ---- on Mar. 28, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

Harding was killed with his own gun. It was a suicide. It's all on Youtube.

He was a convicted felon. He once shot a convenience store owner who wouldn't empty the cash register fast enough.

Would anybody want to name a plaza after a such a man?

In my opnion, he is not worthy.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 29, 2012 @ 6:43 am

For you people to leave such ignorant comments is a shame. Let's just set the record straight here. First of all Kenneth was my son and you are spreading lies more propaganda to take the truth from the fore front. My son did not stick up no store and he was not wanted for another murder. All these are public facts and all you had to do was look it up before allowing everyone else to acknowledge your ignorance. There has been two people in custody since the day after the young lady's murder, who have been charged for it. And my son's record is a public record and you could have looked it up and saw that there is no armed robbery. My son did not kill his self he did not fire at the police. The police said he had a gun and it was a cell phone. You are the kind of people that would believe anything any one told you when the truth is on you tube. You could have watched the video your self and made an informed opinion. Karma is a bitch and the fact that you will sit and judge the murder of someone's teenage son instead of seeing the injustice that was done to him says a lot about you as a person but it will catch back up to you and soon you will be facing your own injustice and people will feed off of what was said instead of what the truth is. Remember that cause it's coming your way.

Posted by Guest Denika Chatman on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballistics

[edit] Gun ballistics

Gun ballistics is the work of projectiles from the time of shooting to the time of impact with the target. Gun ballistics is often broken down into the following four categories, which contain detailed information on each category:[1]

Internal ballistics (sometimes called interior ballistics): the study of the processes originally accelerating the projectile, for example the passage of a bullet through the barrel of a rifle.[2][3]
Transition ballistics (sometimes called intermediate ballistics): the study of the projectile's behavior when it leaves the barrel and the pressure behind the projectile is equalized.[4]
External ballistics (sometimes called exterior ballistics): the study of the passage of the projectile through a medium, most commonly earth's atmosphere.[5]
Terminal ballistics: the study of the interaction of a projectile with its target, whether that be flesh (for a hunting bullet), steel (for an anti-tank round), or even furnace slag (for an industrial slag disruptor).[6]

[edit]

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 3:43 pm

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