A march on Friday night in solidarity with teachers in the Mexican state of Oaxaca ended with three arrests after protesters and police clashed outside the Mission District police station on Valencia Street.
Police have confirmed that the protesters were arrested for battery and for resisting arrest near Mission police station at 17th and Valencia streets. According to police reports, a camera crew was taking video near the station sometime around 9:30 p.m. when “several protesters confronted the crew,” demanding that they not be filmed. Police report that a “confrontation ensued” during which the camera crew was assaulted.
Interviews with multiple protesters and bystanders tell a narrative in which a scuffle ensued between a cameraman and another unidentified man.
“People were yelling ‘Fuck KTVU,'” said Raquel Rodriguez, who had been marching in the protest that started at 24th Street and proceeded to 18th and Shotwell streets to the site were Luis Gongora, a homeless man, was shot and killed by police on April 7 this year.
Near the police station, Rodriguez said she witnessed the cameraman being “pushed against the crowd” by the other man. “That’s how the fight started. I thought [the two men] were together. I didn’t get it.”
After that, police “stormed in” and started macing several protesters, including a “small girl” who was “pushed to the ground by police,” said Rodriguez. Numerous protesters reported being pepper-sprayed by police following the scuffle.
A patron sitting on the sidewalk patio of Blondie’s Bar at 540 Valencia St., said that he also witnessed “a man with a bicycle” and another man, whom he identified as “about 6 foot 5 inches tall,” pushing each other along Valencia street before police intervened.
“That’s when cops flooded the area,” said the bar-goer who requested anonymity, adding that the unidentified man started the scuffle. “[The two men] were pushing each other with the bike between them for about 10 to 15 feet [along Valencia Street].”
Amanda Antunes, a former reporter in Brazil, was also sitting on the patio when she witnessed police arrest a female protester, and said she was disturbed by what she saw.
“The police officers said to the girl, ‘Do you want to go to jail tonight?’ She was doing nothing,” said Antunes. “I’m usually on the side of the police, but what I saw today changed my mind.”
Antunes described police officers “grabbing the girl” and hearing her scream. “I grabbed my boyfriend and went to the back of the bar, because I thought they would start shooting. I didn’t feel safe.”
Police excessive force towards protestors on Valencia Street… pic.twitter.com/OJevno2Evv
— The Secret Alley (@TheSecretAlley) July 16, 2016
Protester Xenia Mejia also said she witnessed the confrontation between a “camera man with a bicycle” and another man.
“The guy from the street was like, ‘Oh, you ran me over,’ and started grabbing the other man’s bike,” said Mejia. “I went to go help him, but then the cameraman turned around and started protecting [the man who shoved him].”
Mejia said she tried to intervene and was maced by the agitator in the process.
“When the police showed up and started building a barricade between us and that guy, I kept yelling at them that he had pepper sprayed me,” said Mejia. “They didn’t do anything.”
Mejia said that after briefly questioning the man with the pepper spray, police let him pass without arrest and instead “singled out” bystanding protesters.
Like the bar patrons, Mejia said she witnessed a female protester “being thrown to the ground.”
“She wasn’t doing anything, just standing on the curb, and they just slammed her to the ground,” Mejia about the arrested protester.
Ike Pinkston, a member of the “Frisco Five,” a group of five activists who staged a 17-hunger strike to protest police brutality in April, said that he was walking in the bicycle lane on Valencia Street when he witnessed the man with the bicycle being “shoved” by the unidentified agitator.
“The dude shoves the dude with the bicycle and then sprays [another female protester] with pepper spray,” said Pinkston. “All hell broke lose.”
Pinkston said he and others tried to break up the fight but intended to stay “peaceful.” He said that things escalated when police intervened and “tried to protect” the unknown agitator. “Next thing I know they are grabbing on everybody.”
Pinkston said he attempted to cover a “young lady” who was being subdued by police, and was “kicked and punched in the ribs.” Pinkston said he then moved to the sidewalk and began filming with his cellphone, when another officer shoved him to the ground.
“He came out of nowhere,” said Pinkston. “I have scrapes on my knees and elbows.”
By 10 p.m., dozens of protesters were lined up against police officers on motorcycles, who declared an illegal assembly and threatened the crowd with arrest.
Police report that the protesters “threw garbage into the street and lit the garbage,” after which dispersal orders were given and as “officers moved in to make arrests, those protestors remaining took off running.”
In a line formation, the police officers on motorcycles encroached on the remaining protesters, some revving their engines. One protester remained in the middle of the street to continue filming, but quickly moved to the sidewalk when the officers showed no sign of stopping.
“I don’t want to get killed tonight,” he said in passing. As the officers reached the intersection of 16th and Valencia streets, most of the protesters had dispersed. Police officers then used fire extinguishers to put out the fire.
Police report that no officers were injured in the confrontation. Following the release of one of the arrested protesters, the man posted a picture of an injury he sustained from being “beaten with a baton” during his arrest.
— Edwin Lindo (@EdwinLindo) July 16, 2016
The crowd had reportedly marched from 24th Street toward 16th Street. The march was in solidarity with the teachers’ movement in Oaxaca, where thousands of students and teachers have marched against the government in response to controversial education reforms. Late last month, nine people were killed and about 100 wounded by police forces after violent clashes in the Mexican state.
“We are not here to be violent” said protester Xenia Mejia. The protest is not affiliated with Black Lives Matter. pic.twitter.com/GHDVEQVSrf
— Mission Local (@MLNow) July 16, 2016
— Dolores Clean (@DPClean) July 16, 2016