Community members went into a panic on Wednesday after rumors spread that agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, were raiding various locations in the Mission and Bayview.
John O’Connell High School locked its doors and posted security outside, according to a source.
But the rumors turned out to be false alarms. Members of the San Francisco Rapid Response Network, a coalition of advocacy organizations, visited the sites and verified that immigration agents were not making arrests. The 24-hour hotline for suspected raids in San Francisco is 415-200-1548.
“We couldn’t verify that ICE officers were detaining anyone in the Mission today,” said Ana Herrera, a lawyer with Dolores Street Community Services who works with the Rapid Response Network.
It’s unclear where the rumors began, but the sites were 24th and Mission, Foods Co. on 15th and Folsom, Marshall Elementary, and a Foods Co. in the Bayview.
Members of the network asked people at the various sites if they saw ICE agents, Herrera said, and confirmed agents were not present.
“It spread like a wildfire,” Herrera said, referring to the high volume of calls from community members wanting to make sure the response network knew about the suspected raids.
On hearing the rumors, John O’Connell High locked its doors at around 1:30 p.m. and put its security guards outside, said a source familiar with the school’s operations.
The source said on Wednesday afternoon the school received a memo from the San Francisco Unified School District, spelling out exactly what to do if an ICE agent arrives at the campus.
The memo instructs staff to escort the agent to the front office and only allow that agent to speak to an administrator. It says staff should not provide any information about students and not let the officer leave the front office. Lastly, it instructs the administrator to call the district’s legal team.
It’s unclear if Marshall Elementary took similar actions. SFUSD did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.
If rumors are being spread about ICE, Herrera said the community should remain calm and not spread panic.
“If you’re unsure then call the hotline to verify, and they will verify,” she said. “That’s what we’re here to do. Don’t spread rumors just because you hear it from someone second hand.”
“From what I understand there was a lot of fear during time people were spreading the rumors,” she added.
Nevertheless, Herrera said her organization is preparing for a sweeping raid in which ICE agents are expected to arrest some 1,500 people in Northern California, including San Francisco.
“We’re still preparing for the big raid,” she said. “We’re making sure we have a good communication system in place, the protocols in place, if a raid like we’re afraid of does happen.”
But, she said, “We’re remaining calm.”
The rumors were spread by Mission Local on its Facebook page. Cmon Mission Local! Please follow basic journalistic standards when reporting something like this. You have a responsibility to report but you must report with responsibility to the truth, not rumor.