Dozens of San Francisco police officers, after declaring an unlawful assembly at midnight, rushed and dispersed a large crowd gathered to celebrate July 4 on 25th Street near Garfield Park.
Clad in riot helmets and bearing batons, the officers advanced in a line toward the crowd, which had been setting off fireworks and holding sideshows, shouting at those assembled to leave the area.
After five minutes of dispersal orders, the officers charged. The crowd immediately scattered, people running in all directions, screaming. Officers aimed rubber-ball rifles and yelled at people to leave the area.
“Go! Get out of here!” officers shouted, as glass bottles rained down on them. “Move! Move!”
The officers seized the corner and blocked off each entrance in a square formation, continuing to give dispersal orders. People gathered half a block away from the officers, taunting and filming them.
“I like how my taxpayer money is spent!” shouted one. “How much you guys getting paid tonight?” asked another.
Mission Station Captain Thomas Harvey said he did not immediately know if police had arrested anyone.
SFPD has rushed the crowd assembled at 25th & Harrison, aiming rubber ball rifles at the crowd, which quickly dispersed— Joe Rivano Barros (@jrivanob) July 5, 2023
The corner has for years hosted July 4th fireworks
SFPD for hours had a strong presence on 24th Street for the night & suited up in riot gear at midnight pic.twitter.com/D6kGQV9kWi
One woman, running from the line of police, said she had been pushed by an officer. She approached this reporter, crying, and told others to run because the officers would injure them, too.
“They’re going to hurt y’all,” she said, pushing others along as the officers advanced.
Sizable crowds had gathered on 25th at the intersections with Harrison Street and Treat Avenue, lighting fireworks and holding sideshows. For hours after dark, a couple hundred people stood on the corners, skating, drinking and celebrating July 4.
The crowd was rowdy, but largely peaceful, before the police intervention. A scuffle broke out between two woman, but they were quickly pulled apart. An informal boxing match, set up by two shirtless men wearing gloves, drew a crowd.
Most people stood by, beers or phones in hand, watching and filming the fireworks.
The intersections have, for years, been popular gathering spots for the holiday. Last year, the police also dispersed a crowd after a large bonfire was set in the middle of the intersection at 24th and Harrison streets. SFPD said the revelers threw glass bottles and aimed fireworks in their direction.
On Tuesday, SFPD officers had assembled nearby on 24th Street earlier in the night, milling about and chatting to passers-by. The police assembly was larger than in past years, perhaps influenced by the recent mass shooting on the corner of 24th and Treat streets, in which nine people were wounded.
Police Chief Bill Scott had promised a larger police presence in the Mission following the shooting.
Shortly before midnight, the officers gathered on 24th donned riot helmets and blocked people from entering Harrison. They were joined by vans of other officers, and Captain Harvey announced an unlawful assembly just before 12 a.m.
“I am Captain Harvey, a police officer of San Francisco,” he shouted through a police siren. “I hereby declare this an unlawful assembly.”
Captain Harvey gave several warnings but, despite the bullhorn, they were largely inaudible where the main crowd was gathered, setting off rockets, cherry bombs, and other loud explosives.
The officers first advanced down the block, and then rushed the crowd. The captain continued to give dispersal orders throughout.
“All right, everyone, it’s time to leave the area,” the police announced over the siren. “You’ve been warned.”
The police seized corner after corner, moving from 25th and Harrison west to Folsom Street. At each intersection, the officers would slowly advance down the block, give dispersal orders, and then run to hold a corner. Officers lined up in a square pattern to hold each corner, blocking the crossings and shouting at pedestrians and drivers to turn back.
The initial crowd disbanded after the police first charged. As the night wore on, smaller groups congregated outside liquor stores and some corners.
Squad cars patrolled the nearby streets, and at least 13 motorcycle officers rode around the area.
After moving south on Folsom to 26th Street and dispersing a crowd gathered outside Rubins Market, the officers largely left the scene. At least 14 police SUVs and vans, packed full, drove away from Folsom shortly after 1 a.m.
A group of skateboarders, huddled outside the W-K Market on 24th, were the last to leave.
One man in that crowd, Jerry, who declined to give a last name, said he was on the corner of 24th and Folsom when an officer’s baton hit him in the knee.
“I was just chilling, minding my own business, on the phone with my pops, when a cop walking behind me said, ‘Stop! Stop!'” he said. “But I’m on the phone, and then I get a baton in the back of my knee.”
“They threw that shit,” he added, saying he had just gotten ACL surgery on that knee seven months ago. “That’s San Francisco police for you.”
The officers had told the skateboarders to leave the area. Once the police drove off, the group of a dozen or so skaters went back into the street, lighting off the last of their fireworks. A white car, parked nearby, revved up its engine, drove into the intersection to do a donut, and then sped off.
After about an hour, the bulk of the officers left in at least 14 SFPD SUVs and vans— Joe Rivano Barros (@jrivanob) July 5, 2023
Each car was packed full with officers pic.twitter.com/4e8LRnzZ6E