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Event honoring victims of police violence turns to shouting match

April Green, aunt to Keita O'Neil, interrupts event speakers at a memorial event for Tyre Nichols on Feb. 1, 2023. | Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the speaker who was shouted down. It was Phelicia Jones.

Dozens gathered on the steps of San Francisco City Hall on Wednesday to honor the life of Tyre Nichols, a recent victim of police violence in Memphis whose body was then being laid to rest.

Intended as a show of solidarity, “Kneeling for Tyre” turned out to be far from harmonious.

A shouting match broke out over how the city should prosecute San Francisco Police Department officers involved in deadly shootings. Protesters heckled Mayor London Breed and event organizers.

Leading the protests was April Green, the aunt of Keita O’Neil, a man who was fatally shot by SFPD Officer Christopher Samayoa in 2017 during a police pursuit.

Event organizer Phelicia Jones, the founder of activist group Wealth and Disparities, engaged in a heated exchange with Green, whose sharpest criticisms were directed at Breed.

“You’re not even taking care of your own city,” Green shouted, addressing Breed as Jones attempted to speak over her. “You’re not even holding your own police accountable.”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks at a memorial event for Tyre Nichols at City Hall on Feb. 1, 2023. Nichols died last month from injuries he sustained after Memphis officers beat him following a traffic stop. | Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Green and a small group of allies eventually left, citing safety concerns of their own.

Text messages between Green and Jones, obtained from Green by The Standard, show Jones telling Green she could not speak at the event because she's an opponent of SF District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. Jones confirmed the text messages.

“It was disrespectful," said Jones of the disruption.

“I had a feeling in my gut not to let her speak because she wanted to come and bash Brooke Jenkins and prop up Chesa [Boudin]. That’s not what this event is about.”

Besides Breed, Supervisor Shamann Walton also spoke, honoring the life of Tyre Nichols, who grew up in Sacramento and later moved to Tennessee.

On Jan. 7, Nichols was pulled over by Memphis police for a traffic stop, an incident that led to five officers beating and pepper-spraying him. He succumbed to his injuries three days later. He was 29 years old and had a 4-year-old son.

All five Memphis police officers, who have since been fired from the Memphis Police Department, were charged in connection with the case on counts of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. 

It was found that two of the involved officers—Desmond Mills Jr. and Demetrius Haley—have a history of using excessive physical force in making arrests, during respective 2019 and 2021 incidents, according to The New York Times.

Tyre Nichols’ Memphis funeral was held Wednesday, with a eulogy by the Rev. Al Sharpton and Vice President Kamala Harris in attendance.

Morgan Ellis can be reached at