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.