In a hastily-organized rally, some 70 people gathered at Clarion Alley on Sunday evening, protesting last night’s police operation that arrested 117 skaters and spectators at the annual Dolores Park “hill bomb.”
“To go after teenagers — it is immoral, it is wrong, and there needs to be accountability,” said Kevin Ortiz, the co-president of the San Francisco Latinx Democratic Club
Ortiz said the police action should not be seen in isolation. He pointed to a similar enforcement earlier this week in the Mission on July 4, in which SFPD officers rushed crowds setting off fireworks at 25th and Harrison streets.
“This is one of two incidents in the span of a week,” Ortiz said, adding that he would call on the new Mission Station Captain Thomas Harvey, who took the reins in April, to meet with Latinx leaders at the next meeting of the Latinx Club. Ortiz wants to dissect what happened each evening.
Jeffrey Kwong, the president of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, said that if any group should be on the receiving end of the police force’s de-escalation tactics, it’s teenagers. Earlier on Sunday, the club and Supervisor Dean Preston denounced the police enforcement.
“We want answers for the families of these children,” Kwong said Sunday evening.
The hill bomb is an annual event where skaters from across the Bay Area come into the Mission to “bomb” Dolores Street, skating fast downhill. It has led to serious injury and one death in the past, and police are often present at the event, albeit in much smaller numbers than this year.
Several protesters at Clarion Alley took aim at the District 8 Supervisor, Rafael Mandelman, who defended the action, saying there was room for improvement, but that it prevented the injuries and death of past years.
“Fuck Rafael Mandelman,” chanted the crowd.
The San Francisco Police Department has defended its actions, calling the assembly of skaters and spectators a “riot” that involved violence against officers and destruction of property.
The crowd initially gathered in Clarion Alley, a mid-block passageway filled with political murals, but quickly moved across Valencia Street to Mission Station, where 81 juveniles who were part of the group arrested Saturday night were held before being released to their parents.
That process on Saturday took hours, the teens with their hands zip-tied behind their backs and initially left to sit on the street before being moved by bus into the station. One girl who was arrested at the hill bomb said the police did not allow them to immediately use the bathroom, and that several girls wet themselves on the bus and hyperventilated.
Once outside the police station, the speakers and crowd targeted police conduct in various ways: Criticizing the Police Department’s budget, which is $780 million and increased 9 percent from last year, and leading “Quit your job” chants at cops standing behind the station’s glass doors.
The officers gave exaggerated guffaws or made peace signs.
“Let the kids have fun, you miserable losers!” said one speaker, taking the bullhorn and standing in the middle of Valencia Street, in the road’s center bike lane.
Nearby Residents react
At one point, Denhi Donis, a 66-year-old woman known as San Francisco’s “Flower Lady,” took her walker to the middle of the road and began shouting, “Fuck the police!”
Ortiz quickly put the bullhorn to her lips and let her speak.
“They are using my funds for this? They are using our resources for this? That is fucked up,” she said.
Denhi Donis, “the Flower Lady,” comes out of nowhere and takes up the incomplete Valencia bike lane, leading a change of “fuck the police”— Joe Rivano Barros (@jrivanob) July 10, 2023
She is quickly given a megaphone and begins speaking
“I was expecting to see 1,000 people here—what the fuck is this?” pic.twitter.com/fJV6QfMS0I
The protest was loosely organized — no group took command, and the bullhorn was handed off the anyone who wished to speak in the crowd.
Speakers chanted the names of various victims of police shootings, like Alex Nieto and Sean Moore. They chanted the name of Banko Brown, the young transgender man shot and killed by a Walgreens security guard in April, and blamed the district attorney for her decision not to charge the guard.
“Fuck the DA. Recall Brooke Jenkins.”
At one point, Chris Arvin, a local transit advocate, led a chant of “Buses are not jails,” a critique of the use of Muni buses to transport the arrested teens to the police station.
The protest petered out by 7:30 p.m., when a few dozen people moved back to Clarion Alley to play music and skate. SFPD officers watched from the station across the street, and the traffic resumed.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the total number of arrested. There were 117 arrested that day, not 113.