Protesters target police, Muni on anniversary of Kenneth Harding Jr.'s death 

Family and supporters of Kenneth Harding Jr. disrupted Muni service at Church and Duboce streets during the morning commute Monday, highlighting what they called the police brutality and racism that led to his 2011 death.

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The N-Judah and J-Church lines were halted for a time, said spokesman Paul Rose of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni.

The circumstances of Harding’s death have been debated, but police have said he accidentally fatally shot himself in the neck after tripping while fleeing from cops.

Harding, who was visiting The City from Seattle in July 2011, was stopped by police at Third Street and Palou Avenue in the Bayview district for allegedly failing to pay his Muni fare.

Police say the bullet in Harding’s neck came from a .38-caliber handgun, which SFPD officers do not carry. Police also said gunshot residue was discovered on Harding’s hand and a .38-caliber bullet was in his pocket.

At the time of his death, Harding was wanted in Seattle in connection with the homicide of a pregnant woman and also was on parole for pimping a 14-year-old girl.

The shooting has been compared to incidents involving Oscar Grant III and Rodney King. Grant was killed by a BART police officer in January 2009. King was brutally beaten by Los Angeles police in 1991 in an incident that eventually led to deadly riots.

“[The Harding shooting] makes the people of this community scared that police are going to kill first and ask questions later,” said Emani Bey, a community activist. “As a mother, it’s important for me to make sure these injustices are highlighted.”

Harding’s family and friends said they chose to target Muni because they believe the transit system is partially at fault for his death. They organized the shutdown as a way to persuade transit officials to alter the Clipper card system, claiming the only reason Harding didn’t buy a ticket that day was because he didn’t know how to do so. His family said that if he had known how to purchase a pass, police would not have used that as an excuse to stop him.

“I know Muni didn’t kill my son,” said Denika Chatman, Harding’s mother. “SFPD killed my son. But Muni has responsibility within this as well and they need to be held accountable for that.”

A vigil was held for Harding early Monday evening at the location where he was shot.

ccopeland@sfexaminer.com

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