The police arrived first, at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. About 20 of them stood at 19th and Dolores. More were at 18th and Dolores and 20th and Dolores. Three or four patrol cars began circling Dolores Park. On hipster hill, the area of the park south of the tennis courts, officers on dirt bikes rode in circles on the grass.
Also there: four television crews. Many, many photographers. At least a dozen journalists, in all. They stood near the entrance of the park, at 19th and Dolores, waiting.
At around 5:30 p.m., the protesters showed up, trickling into the park in small groups. A few of them carried a huge banner — black, with white lettering. It read “They Can’t Shoot Us All” in big letters, a reference to two recent shootings — one at Civic Center BART and one in the Bayview.
In smaller letters, in the lower left corner, was something else. It read, “— the Police.”
The protesters began to move around 6 p.m. They chanted “—- the Police.” They chanted “How do you spell murder? SFPD. How do you spell racism? SFPD!” The line of protesters was flanked by police on both sides. At the head of the march, police on bikes. At the very end, two SUVs silently following. In the passenger seat of one was Mission Police Chief Greg Corrales.
The group moved seemingly without a clear sense of direction. At every intersection, police stopped traffic until the crowd had passed. They walked up 18th to Castro, where part of the group split off and marched down inside the Castro Muni station ahead of the police brigade. Once they were inside, someone threw a smoke bomb and the crowd rushed out in a panic, as police rushed inside. Back in the open air, the group turned down 18th and walked back toward the Mission.
When the protesters reached Valencia, they hung a left and stopped in front of the Mission Police Station. Someone threw a blue smoke bomb. Someone else threw a flare. It landed on a police officer’s foot, and he stamped it out. Someone else threw what appeared to be black paint — it hit the greenish glass doors of the station and oozed down.
The police standing in front of the door ducked but made no other moves. A hammer flew out of the crowd, hit the door and bounced off, with no apparent damage to the door. One police officer leaned down, picked up the hammer and passed it to another officer, who passed it to another officer, at which point it disappeared from sight.
“Keep moving! Keep moving!” yelled people in the crowd. The crowd began to move again. It went down Valencia to 16th, hung a left on Mission, and turned right when it reached Market. The group waxed and waned — numbering between 50 and 100, not counting the journalists and flanked by police the whole time.
When the march reached Van Ness, a smaller group turned and began moving toward City Hall. “Don’t go!” shouted the other protesters. “You’re asking for trouble.” The smaller group turned back and rejoined the larger group. They continued down Market.
At 7:45 p.m., the group reached Market and 7th. A voice came over a megaphone. It was Corrales. “Move to the sidewalk,” he said. “I am ordering you to obey all traffic laws. Anyone who doesn’t move to the sidewalk will be arrested for jaywalking.”
The protesters ignored him and kept walking. At Powell Street they began to turn and walk uphill.
When the police realized the crowd was headed up Powell, they raced up the street, shouting at the stores to lock their doors. Tourists scattered, screaming and yelling to one another in a multiplicity of languages. Behind the glass doors of the Powell Street storefronts — the Sephora, the Burger King — tourists peered out anxiously.
Corrales’ voice came over the megaphone again. “You’re becoming a public hazard. You’re going to be arrested.”
The riot police wove in between the protesters, separating them into groups, until finally there was one group of several dozen protesters surrounded by several dozen police officers standing around them in a tight circle, about a foot apart from each other. The police unwound the plastic handcuffs looped to their belts and began putting them on the protesters, one by one, before walking them to the police van. They took their time.
Inside, the protesters sat down and waited to be arrested. It was an hour before it was over.
According to SFPD Officer Albie Esparza, the department made approximately 43 arrests at the protest, all for failure to disperse after unlawful assembly was declared. Two other arrests were made earlier in the evening: one in connection with an assault that occurred in the Castro, and one related to the assault of a camera operator filming the scene.
UPDATE: According to new information from the SFPD, the actual number of people arrested is 43. Seventeen were San Francisco residents. Twenty-six were from out of the county and one was from out of state.
They were all cited for failure to obey a lawful order by a traffic/law enforcement officer and for being pedestrians off the sidewalk and in a roadway.