Emotions ran high Thursday at the funeral of Banko Brown, the transgender man killed last month by a Walgreens security guard in Downtown San Francisco, as a fight broke out among family members during a sermon decrying racism against Black people.
Relatives shouted and shoved one another for over five minutes in the aisles and amid the pews at Third Baptist Church of San Francisco. Family members told The Standard the conflict was about who should be referred to as Brown’s mother, as his stepmother was also present.
Despite the interruption, the overarching theme of the day was justice for Brown.
Brown, 24, was shot dead by security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony after an altercation over alleged shoplifting on April 27.
The funeral came just a day before John Burris, a civil rights attorney representing Brown’s family, is scheduled to announce a wrongful death lawsuit against Walgreens, Anthony and his employer, Kingdom Group Protective Services.
“He pursued him. He beat him up. And then when [Brown] tried to leave, he shot him unlawfully,” Burris told The Standard outside the funeral. “It’s criminal. It should be prosecuted.”
Earlier in May, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced she would not be seeking murder charges against Anthony.
Jenkins released videos of the incident on May 15, which spurred protests and calls for Anthony to be charged. City officials have since called on federal prosecutors or state Attorney General Rob Bonta to get involved. Bonta said Tuesday his office will review the case.
“That DA—she’s out of line,” said Nicole Davis, Brown’s aunt. “We want justice! Security officers are supposed to observe and report, not put [their] hands on my nephew!”
As Brown’s family members and friends assembled Thursday morning in front of Third Baptist Church, the atmosphere alternated between somber and celebratory.
People enthusiastically greeted one another and embraced. Some shared photos of Brown.
Many were dressed in white and red clothing, adorned with messages commemorating Brown.
A group of six pallbearers dressed in white suits and red ties carried Brown’s white casket up the steps into the church.
But shortly after the service began, when the Rev. Amos Brown referred to a woman in the crowd as Banko Brown’s mother, a fight erupted and the church descended into pandemonium.
For over five minutes, mourners shouted and shoved one another as Brown—a noted civil rights activist who is not a relative of the slain man—struggled to regain control of the church.
“Let’s be respectful for Banko,” he cried out. Some mourners responded with Brown’s deadname.
“We are here for Banko Brown,” a woman shouted from the stage. “If you guys love him, if you guys want to honor him, we need you to calm down.”
Police officers briefly entered the church, but then exited as the altercation ended.
After the crowd calmed, Brown delivered a sermon invoking the novel Lord of the Flies, which tells the story of a group of British schoolboys who become stranded on a deserted island.
“What did they do?” Brown asked. “These privileged British boys devolved and went down to become savages and destroyed themselves.”
“This is what America has done to you,” he continued. “You are not ignorant. You are not immoral. [...] You were made in the image of God. But America has defiled you.”
In a fiery speech, Brown called for the Board of Supervisors to pay reparations to Black San Franciscans and for mourners to help create a future where all people get their fair share of wealth.
“Though this is a sorrowful time, though this is a sad time, let us stay in the struggle,” Brown said. “And Banko attempted to be in the struggle.”
Throughout the service, mourners alternately referred to Brown using both he/him and she/her pronouns.
Toward the end of the service, someone shouted that some mourners present would like to refer to Brown using their deadname. Brown accepted the request.
After the service concluded, Brown’s casket was wheeled out of the sanctuary.
On the sidewalk outside, a woman was plaintively wailing, “Banko’s gone.” Two men embraced her.
Family members said they wanted the authorities to do right by Brown.
“I want justice for my great–grandbaby,” said Louise Jordan, Brown’s great-grandmother.
Devon Hamilton, Brown’s cousin, said he had not watched the Walgreens surveillance footage, so he didn’t know whether Brown had, as alleged, been trying to shoplift $14 of candy or had behaved aggressively. But he said Brown’s killing was “not right.”
“Fourteen dollars is not worth somebody’s life,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the fight during the funeral was nothing more than strong emotions.
“That’s called love,” he said. “I would love for people to act like this at my church, at my funeral because that lets me know that I meant a whole lot to these people.”
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