A San Francisco supervisor and one of the city’s top political clubs have condemned the police action taken against a crowd of unruly teenage skateboarders in Dolores Park yesterday, which resulted in 113 arrests and dozens of children, zip-tied and confined, waiting hours to be released to their parents.
Supervisor Dean Preston tweeted a rebuke of the operation, writing that he was “at a loss to explain this abuse of power, waste of money, and trauma inflicted on our young people.”
“I’m ashamed of our City leadership for this type of militarization of our streets and attack on our youth,” he wrote. “People deserve answers.”
Reached by phone, Preston said he would “certainly” be seeking more information from the San Francisco Police Department about last night’s events. The department said the action was an attempt to control a “riot.”
The Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, one of San Francisco’s oldest Democratic political clubs and a power center for the Castro, issued a similarly strong condemnation, writing that its leadership was “outraged by the large scale show of force by police in military gear against teenagers at Dolores Park” and calling the operation “one of the most violent police actions in recent memory.”
“We demand an immediate and comprehensive independent investigation into the arrests,” the club wrote, adding that it would seek a review of the use of restraints, batons, and less-lethal rifles, as well as the conditions of those arrested.
“The treatment of juveniles left detained until 3 a.m., shivering in the cold and forced to endure degrading circumstances, including urinating on themselves, must be thoroughly examined.”
Mission Local reported one teenager’s account of girls wetting themselves while waiting to be transferred off a bus into a police station. Another teenager arrested recounted being zip-tied so tightly his hands swelled up, and several others mentioned tight restraints.
Jeffrey Kwong, the club’s president, called footage of the action “shocking” and said his group was working with youth groups across the city to put forward a unified response.
“You have police in riot gear, in military-grade outfits, facing unarmed teenagers on skateboards,” he said, adding that the stand-off was “reminiscent of past police actions in this city, whether it’s cracking down on gay bars or police brutality leading up to Black Lives Matter.”
District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the Dolores Park area, tweeted that the hill bomb was “safer than last year…or 2020.”
“The hill bomb has been a problematic event for years,” he said via text message. “In comparison to recent years, the city’s response seems to have reduced damage to people and property this year, but plainly there’s more work to be done.”
A man was stabbed and a fight broke out at the hill bomb last year, and in 2020 a young cyclist was killed when he collided with a skateboarder. The police have shut down the event in the past, too: In 2017, an officer shoved a skateboarder into a squad car, causing him to break his ankle. The skateboarder filed a civil suit against the city that settled for $275,000.
The skateboarding event is held in the Mission every year, drawing skaters from across the Bay Area who zip down Dolores Street at high, and potentially lethal, speeds, cheered on by crowds of onlookers.
“Mission District Riot”
The San Francisco Police Department has strongly defended its actions, issuing a lengthy statement Sunday morning outlining the reasons for the operation: Officers were out in force early in the evening to stop skateboarders from cruising down Dolores Street. By 6:15 p.m., the statement said, they had witnessed several fireworks going off in the area.
One sergeant was spat upon by a 16-year-old boy, the statement said. When he attempted an arrest, he was interrupted by a 15-year-old female. In the scuffle, the officer was wounded with lacerations to the face and sent to the hospital, according to the police department’s statement. The 16-year-old male suspect who resisted arrest was treated at the hospital for non-life threatening injuries and was later booked on charges of assault and resisting arrest, police said.
Captain Thomas Harvey, the Mission District’s new police captain, then made the call to declare an unlawful assembly, and officers began charging into the crows, moving corner to corner and chasing skateboarders.
The skaters moved around Dolores Park and adjacent blocks, throwing glass bottles at the officers and lighting off fireworks in their direction, according to the police, witnesses and video from the scene. Muni trams were graffitied, and there were unconfirmed reports of gunshots, the police said.
Shortly after 8 p.m., a large group of some 200 people began dismantling police barricades, the police wrote.. At 8:35 p.m., the police trapped that group and decided to arrest everyone en masse.
Police Chief Bill Scott called the behavior by skateboarders “dangerous and unlawful” and said it would “not be tolerated in our city.”
“I thank our officers for taking action to hold those accountable who brazenly engaged in reckless and dangerous behavior and violated the law,” he added.
SFPD tweeted a graphic calling the actions by skateboarders a “Mission District riot,” noting that a police sergeant was hospitalized from cuts to the face. The department, for its part, said its “policies in dealing with juveniles were followed.”
Several parents, waiting for hours in the cold for their children yesterday, pledged to take legal action against the Police Department. They were largely incredulous at the response by the police, saying they wanted to be reunited with their children and calling the detainment a violation of minors’ rights.
“It’s totally against civil rights to do this to children,” one mother said.