To ‘Protect and Serve’ Whom? Violence by Police Continues

In the United States, we know that law enforcement agencies that were put in place to “protect and serve” have done nothing of the sort. After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, community activists, organizers and allies came together across the country to protest and to hold law enforcement agencies accountable to the violence that they cause marginalized communites. Two years after one of the biggest movements began to halt police violence, few true solutions, if any, have been deployed by law enforcement agencies across the country. 

The community has not absolved the San Francisco Police Department of committing violent acts without first using proper de-escalation tactics against some of those marginalized folks they are supposed to “protect and serve.” On May 19 around 8 p.m., two unhoused community members, Michael MacFhionghain and Rafael Mendoza, were involved in an altercation with each other in the Dogpatch/Mission Bay area. Law enforcement was dispatched after a caller reported it and officers arrived on the scene while the fight was still in progress. Reports state that Mendoza was trying to stop an attempted stabbing against him by MacFhionghain who refused to comply even after the arrival of four SFPD officers. Body-camera footage later released by the department shows officers ordering MacFhionghain to drop the knife and stop the attack on Mendoza, then unloading their weapons on both men who would later die from their gunshot wounds. Eleven bullet casings were recovered from the scene. 

After three months, questions remain: Why didn’t these officers de-escalate situations? If only one man was the victim of an attempted stabbing, why were both shot and killed, especially when no officers were ever in immediate danger according to Chief William Scott? The use of deadly force before exhausting all non-lethal methods while someone is being attacked is an act of continual violence against members of the community, and it must stop.