CeX, an electronics store near the 24th Street BART Plaza, remained closed on Saturday until 12:30 p.m. out of safety concerns caused by a broken window. Photo by Andra Cernavskis

The Mission businesses hit in a Friday night protest – the third following the Grand Jury’s decision in Ferguson against indicting a white police officer for shooting and killing an 18-year-old African American – spent Saturday cleaning up glass, repairing shattered windows and turning customers away in the early parts of the day.

At RadioShack on Mission Street near 23rd street, a young employee vacuumed up glass and debris scattered around the front of the store and re-directed the clientele to the company’s Portrero Hill location.

She said she wasn’t allowed to talk to the media about what had happened. Another employee said they would not be able to open the store until it was safe.

“There’s still glass everywhere,” she said. “We can’t have people walking around.”

Nearby at 23rd and Valencia, Brooke Mclaughlin, the hostess at Beretta, said that they were still cleaning shards of glass from a front window smashed by a lone man wearing a bandana around his face. He used a bike’s u-lock to shatter the window Friday around 10:30 p.m. while the restaurant was still open.

“People were crying. You can imagine,” Mclaughlin said of Friday night, adding that half of the restaurant immediately left following the incident while other patrons had to be relocated to the back.

Although guests were seated next to the window, no one was seriously injured. Mclaughlin, who was working in the back and ran out as soon as she heard the commotion, said that the impact caused glass from the window to travel about 15 feet into the restaurant.

Friday’s protest was the latest in the Bay Area in reaction to the Ferguson decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. It took on a distinctly San Francisco flavor in connecting local shootings to displacement and inequality, according to Andrew Szeto, the acting director of the San Francisco Tenants’ Union.

“I was part of the protest because as someone who works in the Mission and does anti-displacement work…the violence against black people is directly related to the eviction problem,” he said, explaining that many of the city’s black residents have been forced out of their homes in recent years.

“The spirit of the protest last night was in that vein. People aren’t oblivious to what is happening in the city right now with gentrification and inequality and the tech industry,” he continued.

Along with chants of “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace,” which have marked the Ferguson protests around the country, San Francisco activists could also be heard chanting the names of Alex Nieto and Andy Lopez, two local Latino men who police officers have recently shot and killed.

Nieto was killed on March 21, 2014 when officers said they mistook his Taser for a gun. And Lopez was killed on October 22, 2013 when Sonoma police officers thought his replica AK-47 pellet gun was a real rifle. No one has been dismissed in either case.

“The protest was in solidarity with Michael Brown but recognizing that there is a lot of injustice here in San Francisco,” Szeto said.

The protest started around 6 p.m. near Union Square. It eventually moved down Market Street and into the Mission, where activists continued to shout “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace” until 9:30 p.m. or so when police began to make arrests near 21st and Valencia. During the roughly four hours of the protest, the SFPD reported that two officers were injured, one by a brick to the chest and another by broken glass that cut the officer’s face. Both the 16th and 24th Street BART stations were temporarily closed, and a flare was thrown into a KPIX Channel 5 news van while a crew was reporting on the scene.

John Nguyen was in the middle of closing down CeX, an electronics and video game store near the 24th Street BART plaza around 9 p.m., when he heard glass shatter in the front of the store as the protest passed by.

“I think they were taking advantage of the situation to loot. We do sell high end electronics,” he said.

The small group that smashed the window ran away when he and a few of his employees ran to the front of the store. Nothing was stolen. The same people then hit RadioShack and the Bank of America at 23rd and Mission, according to Nguyen, who estimated the cost of repairing the window will be close to $1,500.

CeX opened at 12:30 p.m. today, two and a half hours later than the store’s normal Saturday opening time, because the window had to be adequately covered before customers could be allowed to shop. RadioShack wasn’t able to open until 2:30 p.m., five and a half hours after its normal opening. No one who was working at RadioShack on Saturday could confirm reports of alleged looting to the media.

After the damage was done, Nguyen said a group of protesters came to apologize and said those who had done the damage were not part of their movement.

Szeto said that every store seemed to be targeted strategically.

“It wasn’t a smash every window,” he said “It was the corporate chain stores. It was the banks and RadioShack…People aren’t dumb. They aren’t going to smash the mom and pop barber shop because that’s their people.”

Mclaughlin felt like Beretta was targeted because of the restaurant’s upscale clientele. Szeto agreed.

“A lot of these small businesses play a real part in gentrification. They serve food or have these products that are catered to wealthy customers, and people in the neighborhood feel alienated by all this stuff,” he said.

The San Francisco Police Department said it will release official numbers of arrests and property damage on Monday.

Andra Cernavskis

Andra Cernavskis is a student at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. She is Canadian by birth but grew up in New Jersey and then San Francisco's Miraloma neighborhood. She has also spent time...

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33 Comments

  1. Did the director of the Tenants’ Union imply that neighborhood small businesses are legitimate targets of violence and vandalism if they cater to the “wealthy”?

    1. No. Explaining why a business might be a target is not endorsing such actions. Why the scare quotes around wealthy?

    2. Yes. it’s a stunning leap of logic t go from an incident in Missouri to generic envy about nice restaurants.

      It’s almost as if there are a small group of trouble-makers who piggyback on whatever the issue is to do what they really want to do – smash and steal.

      It woud have been great if a diner in that restaurant has been carrying a gun and shot dead the punk who smashed the window. Then the whiners would have something more local and personal to whine about.

      Meanwhile why aren’t the “official” protesters disowning these thugs? Can’t they see that this is exactly the kind of behavior that causes the police to become more aggressive?

      1. “Acting director” doesn’t mean leader, Jessica. The SF Tenant’s Union is a collective – they don’t make top-down decisions. Top-down is only necessary for people who can’t think for themselves.

        1. Oh yeah, real individualists in the STFU (sic)…..follow Ted! What does Ted say. Follow Ted! Whoops, Ted is dead honey. Ohhhh….

          1. Spoken like a true six-year-old (and one who obviously neve talked to anyone from the Tenant’s Union).

          2. Grow up minion. I know a lot about them and they are a lot more than just pro tenant, but also aggressively anti landlord. Kapish?

    3. Hey, no. He’s guessing about what happened and why. I was out there too. The vast majority of us were not smashing windows. I’m not gonna excuse property damage either—Szeto’s just saying look, this isn’t just wanton destruction. People smashing windows have politics too, even if you and I don’t like how they express them.

      There were specific calls from anti-eviction organizers to join this protest, in solidarity with those protesting for Mike Brown, in solidarity with those protesting for Alex Nieto, and for those trying to keep living in San Francisco. It’s not crazy for him to link this to anti-eviction protests and the decades long decline of SF’s black population.

  2. Bert, you sound seriously ill. What anyone should expect is that with all the cameras and police presence the police can actually do their jobs, find out who did it – be sure it wasn’t provocators – and take legal action. You make it sound like 1840 – taking a gun out and shooting someone! For gosh sakes, get a handle on yourself. Talk about leaps of logic! You sound like one of those types who believes no one can have an opinion. Why don’t you wait for the law to do its job! You act like you are some law and order type in comparison?

  3. Szeto is a real piece of work. First, with absurd logic he ties his personal grievances to a much more important and profound question — I wonder what African American leaders think about his hijacking their movement? Second, he implies that violence (including potentially injuring neighborhood residents) is justified because somehow justified based on a loose tie to gentrification (Really, tenants don’t use banks or shop at electronics stores?). The guy is clearly just a dangerous trouble maker. Furthermore he undercuts his cause. If he and his organization advocate for this type of thuggery and are intent on creating a community where it is unsafe to go out to dinner, then maybe gentrification should be accelerated. Certainly I don’t want to live with violent, unstable people like Szeto as my neighbor.
    I would be interested in hearing what other members of the Tenants Union thing about his support for violence.

    1. Woah, property damage is not violence. These places have insurance. Everything is going to be OK. Worst case someone lost a little money.

      Andrew is not condoning property damage, and he’s certainly not condoning violence. The most violent group on Friday was the police. From having worked with the Tenant’s Union, they’re honest people with outspoken politics. If you disagree with the politics fine. Just don’t go smearing them over things they haven’t said or supported.

      1. @Gilbert: Whoa, property damage IS absolutely violence in any sense of the word. It is a form of threat and intimidation. You know that and certainly the people who own those businesses know that. As the article notes, after the window was broken at Beretta, half the people left. That is because that act was violent and had the potential to do great bodily harm.
        Saying that people have insurance or just lost a “little” money is a pathetic excuse. If you really believe that, please post your address so that those who disagree with you can come damage your property.
        Andrew, just like you, was clearly condoning violence; he called the protesters smart and strategic and expressed no disapproval of their actions. That is condoning violence.
        It is absurd to say that the police (who were acting lawfully and trying to protect the Mission) were violent. If anything they showed too much restraint when confronted with a mob that was acting unlawfully.
        People like you and Andrew who support rampaging mobs are a danger to this community. If you think that you have to use violence and intimidation to garner support for your politics, then your positions must be weak and unpopular. Or, maybe, you just have a totalitarian mindset and want to impose your opinions on the community.

    2. I suspect that Ted would have had more guile and judgement than to have made such an ill-considered remark.

      That said, it’s hardly a secret that it’s the same hardcore minority of trouble-makers who show up for every protest, be it housing, race or whatever. And the fact that Erin McElvoy now thinks that it is productive use of her time to produce a map of police shootings as well as evictions perhaps indicates that SFTU is now a generic catch-all for anything left-wing and excessive in this city.

      Fortunately they are losing. And it’s perhaps significant here that even the “usual suspect” lefties are keeping quiet, rather than seeking to rationalize such violent and destructive behavior.

  4. As someone who was there, it really wasnt much, kind of a 2.2 earthquake, as opposed to the giants celebration which was more like a 5.2…1000 x more broken widows….perspective people…

    1. Not true. (Not that the Giant “celebration was appropriate, but a feel much more threatened by mobs out to injure those who they disagree with)

      1. LW: Were you wearing a Royals cap in SF that week? No? Try it and see if Giants fans are as non-threatening as you so confidently assert.

        1. They may have been idiots, but at least they are not political idiots. There is a difference between wanton destruction and willful destruction.

          1. Coming out in defense of random destruction, SFrentier? Why, that’s brilliant! I’m tingling in anticipation of reading more of your posts so that I may soak up additional potent golden nuggets of cogent analysis.

          2. Huh? My point was that destruction for political ends is worse beacuse it is premeditated and intentional, whereas the Giants thing was more stupid drunken randomness.

  5. Unless I missed it, I don’t see where Szeto advocates vandalism or fingers upscale eateries as “legitimate” targets. As I read this report he is merely stating his opinion as to why some stores/restaurants were hit by vandals and not others. That may or may not be the case. I don’t know anyone who smashed any windows in this series of protests and have not seen responsibility taken etc. etc. I can’t see where Szeto’s opinion as to the vandals’ “political” motivations is an endorsement of vandalism. I also don’t think it’s really much of a stretch to connect people protesting eviction with other people protesting police brutality. Because most of the people who suffer from those maladies are the same people. Like the people who protested Walmarts this past weekend, and those agitating for a living wage. Remember the good old days of class politics? Probably not. It ain’t beanbag, much less adolescent vandalism. Welcome to the 19th, I mean the 21st century.

  6. Andy Lopez wasn’t a “man.” He was a child. 13 years old.

    When white children are murdered, media and politicians and the general public demand justice. Life is disrupted and the people are expected to be distressed. But when the same tragedy strikes people of color, the establishment slanders the dead and cajoles the guilty.

    People with common sense know that the murder of any child demands disruption and distress in public life. People with any conscious mourn when children are murdered. And people with any heart are indignant when a murdered child’s memory is insulted, their family’s right to see their baby’s killer brought to justice mocked.

    Kids are being murdered. That’s the violence here. How can you be worried about broken windows at a time like this?

  7. hopefully the mass arrests at the end of the protest swept up most of the hard-core loosers behind this. Keep them in jail for a long long time please.

  8. Sounds like most of the commenters here care more about the financial well-being of corporate CEOs and gentrifying businesses than a human life. Very telling.

    1. Actually, most people are concerned about living in a safe community. It is odd that those who ostensibly care about violence are so quick to resort to it themselves. That is telling.

  9. “the violence against black people is directly related to the eviction problem.” Wow, that is so wrong. The Director of the Tenants Union is either really ignorant, or thinks others are ignorant.

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