A grassroots group held a small rally Wednesday in support of Colin Kaepernick, two days after the San Francisco Police Officers Association demanded that the 49ers quarterback apologize for his comments about police training and use of force when explaining his motivation for sitting during the national anthem.
About 50 people, including high-profile Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris and San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, came to the "Stand With Kaepernick" event in front of the police union at 800 Bryant St., organized by the Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition.
"You can disagree with what he did," said San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Mark Jacobs, speaking through a megaphone. "But if you think this is unpatriotic, that's where you're wrong."
As he spoke, many in the mostly African-American crowd, uttered murmurs of approval and "Amens."
"We will stand and we will not surrender in standing for justice," said Felicia Jones of the Service Employees International Union.
The group came out to publicly support Kaepernick's Friday decision at a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers to sit during the national anthem. Members of the Mario Woods group said they were there "in protest of the state violence enacted on people by this country on a daily basis, in the form of police brutality."
"What he did was in line with San Francisco values," Adachi said.
After the Friday game, Kaepernick sparked a national firestorm by first telling NFL Media: "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street, and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
The Justice 4 Mario Woods group was formed in December 2015 after the 26-year-old Woods was shot more than 20 times by San Francisco police officers after they say he had had refused to drop his knife and had stabbed someone earlier.
Kaepernick, who is biracial, has garnered much praise for his controversial decision, including on Tuesday night from NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabar, speaking at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club. The hashtag #VeteransforKaepernick also was the top trend on Twitter Tuesday night.
But he has also drawn much scorn and criticism. Football fans burned his jersey. Former 49er and Hall of Famer Jerry Rice said it's not right to disrespect the flag. And on Monday, the San Francisco police union wrote a letter to the National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell and 49ers CEO Jed York, requesting an apology from Kaepernick - hence, the decision to stage the protest at union headquarters.
"Not only does he show an incredible lack of knowledge regarding our profession and officer-involved shootings, but also shows a naivety and total lack of sensitivity toward police officers," SFPOA President Martin Halloran wrote in the letter. "Ironically, it is those officers who on numerous occasions have protected Mr. Kaepernick."
The police union was closed during the rally, as members shut the doors for the day.