A strange confrontation broke out and, abruptly, ended Sunday, involving a San Francisco park ranger and a group of bike mechanics doing free work on JFK Drive and donating all tips to abortion-rights charities.
Members of the group Tune-Ups For a Cause tell Mission Local that San Francisco park rangers told them that, if their colleague Roger Horn showed up, they should expect extreme scrutiny. And that happened.
Both the bike mechanics and passers-by took issue with Horn’s demeanor; eyewitness Olivia Ware said his behavior was “super gnarly, not professional and the worst stereotype of a cop.”
She said she heard him clearly speak into his communication device that he had called the police department to put the man he identified as “the leader” of the bike mechanics “into a mental institution or jail.”
At issue was that one mechanic, Joey Shemuel, declined to give Horn an ID when asked for it — and that his group did not have the necessary permitting. It’s not clear if Horn approached Shemuel because of his group’s focus on bikes or abortion rights, but Shemuel says he did not notice other vendors being approached by rangers for IDs or permits.
Shemuel and others on-site say that Horn indicated to them that this refusal to produce an ID was what led to him moving to write them a citation.
If so, that would be odd: Rangers are code-enforcement officers, so they can ask members of the public for an ID. But they are not law-enforcement officers, meaning that members of the public are not required to provide that ID.
“You can’t impose your will on people,” confirmed former ranger Mike Horan. “People don’t have to give their identification to a sworn officer on the streets unless they can show probable cause. And that’s law enforcement. Rangers are not law enforcement.”
Shemuel admitted to Mission Local that his group does not have a permit. But he provided an email chain indicating efforts to obtain one, and said that the Recreation and Parks Department permitting office has failed to return his inquiries since August.
“The permitting office could’ve responded, and I could’ve been expected to follow whatever procedures they set, “Shemuel said. “Or, in the absence of a response, my good-faith effort should’ve been taken into account.”
Video captures Horn lecturing Shemuel on the necessity of providing an ID and getting permits as Shemuel packs up his equipment in preparation to leave.
As the confrontation was ongoing, Mission Local called Recreation and Parks spokeswoman Tamara Barak Aparton for comment. Aparton then called Chief Park Ranger David Murphy.
Murphy today confirmed that he phoned Horn on the scene on Sunday and “de-escalated” it: “Everything is back to quasi-normal. As normal as Golden Gate Park can be.”
The Chief Ranger said he asked his deputy, “‘Do we really want to move forward with this?’ We came to the conclusion that these guys are breaking down their bike stands and packing up their stuff. They’re complying. We don’t need to push this any further.”
Murphy told Mission Local that he is happy to provide what assistance he can in getting the bike mechanics their proper permits and situating them in a more appropriate location, and urged them to contact him. Shemuel said he appreciated the gesture and will take Murphy up on the offer.
“Hindsight being 20/20, we probably should’ve just offered to work with them on this on Monday and getting them the permits they need,” Murphy said. “Did we handle this perfectly? No. Can we use this as a learning tool? Absolutely.”
Murphy said he has not yet fully reviewed Horn’s bodycam footage and cannot speak to the appropriateness of his behavior.
Shemuel said he’ll renew his quest for permitting today. “My guess is, because of the calls that were made, maybe this will sort of percolate down into the permitting office,” he said. “We weren’t blocking traffic. We didn’t have amplified sound. We’re just raising money for charity.”