Police commissioners joined dozens of parents and advocates in criticizing San Francisco police for their mass arrest of teenagers last Saturday after the annual Dolors Park hill bomb skateboarding event, speaking at the Police Commission hearing on Wednesday.
And two teenagers who were themselves arrested said they were never read their rights during their hours-long detention — a violation of policy, if true.
“I saw cops in riot gear, I saw rifles pointed at us, for the simple act of skating,” 16-year-old Eriberto told the Police Commission Wednesday night. “I was arrested that night and kept there for five hours, sat on the ground, not being told what I was detained for, not being told that I was arrested. I was not read my rights when I was taken and zip-tied and kept against the wall.”
A total of 117 people, 83 of them juveniles, were arrested Saturday evening after police shut down the annual Dolores Park skating event, where skaters “bomb” Dolores Street by going fast downhill.
Police dispersed unruly crowds that threw glass bottles and launched fireworks at officers. Teens were detained for hours and released to their parents late into the night.
The teenagers, joined by a handful of parents and dozens of advocates at the Police Commission hearing, spoke out against their treatment at the hands of San Francisco police officers and called the response heavy-handed.
Another teen, 15-year-old Rocco, said he was told to go one way and then the other by police officers that night. When he tried to go down a street to catch Muni, “that’s when I get trapped,” he said.
“A bunch of police trapped us down that street, and never told us why we got detained,” he added, saying he was kept outside for hours waiting to be boarded onto a bus to drive them two blocks away to Mission Station.
“They could’ve just marched us half a block down to the station,” he said. “We were waiting out there forever.”
When his two-minute limit for public comment was up and a bell rang out, the audience insisted he continue.
“Let him talk!” audience members shouted. “Let him speak! Say your peace!”
One audience member asked: “Were you even Mirandized?”
“No,” Rocco responded.
“Were you read your rights?” another shouted.
“No,” he responded.
Nick Pernia, Rocco’s father, then shouted from the back of the room: “Were you fingerprinted?” Yes, Rocco said. “Was your mugshot taken?” Yes again.
The crowd jeered. “How about that, Chief?” Pernia shouted, addressing Police Chief Bill Scott.
The police department’s policy on dealing with juveniles requires Miranda rights be read within a half-hour of taking a juvenile into custody.
SFPD to give full report next week
Around a dozen parents were joined by some two dozen advocates in addressing the Police Commission, which oversees the San Francisco Police Department and can investigate its operations.
The Police Commission opened the meeting by saying the Dolores Park arrests were not on the agenda this week, but would be discussed at next week’s meeting.
Members of the public were still welcome — and very much present — to comment, commissioners said.
“They were sitting on that cold, cold ground. We were waiting for hours,” said one mother of an arrested teen.
One mother complained that her son had been arrested despite not intending to participate in the hill bomb. After his arrest, she wasn’t notified of his location until 3 a.m.
The teens were cited for rioting, failure to disperse, and conspiracy. Some received additional charges.
Commissioners Kevin Benedicto and Jesus Yañez both criticized the police response, calling for an internal investigation and accountability.
“I’m embarrassed for our city,” Yañez said. “I’m embarrassed at the actions this department took to criminalize an outlet for young people.”
“This is a failure of everything we represent as a city,” added Benedicto, calling it a “failure of de-escalation.”
Police Chief Bill Scott did not address the comments, but said body-camera footage from the arrests and a full report would be made available at next week’s commission hearing.
The chief has previously defended his officers’ actions, pointing to vandalism of a Muni tram by skaters, glass bottles and fireworks used against officers, and a sergeant who suffered a small cut on the forehead.
All of those acts occurred after the police moved to shut down the hill bomb, however.
Crowd rallies on City Hall steps
Before the meeting on Wednesday, a small crowd gathered outside to rally.
“We’re here today because of the young people, because of the young people’s rights that were violated,” Kevin Ortiz, President of the San Francisco Latinx Democratic Club said, which has criticized the police response and connected it to an earlier police operation during July 4.
The crowd was riled up, heckling the commissioners and breaking out into chants of “Defund the police” and “No justice, no peace.” Among those who stood to speak were parents of arrested children, teachers, skating and youth advocates, and the arrested teens themselves.
Rachel Lederman, a civil rights lawyer, said she has contacted more than two dozen parents about a possible civil rights suit.
“You can’t simply sweep people up off the street as if they’re garbage,” Lederman said.
Many, including multiple older skaters, called for better safety planning of the event.
“We knew this fire was going to happen,” said Ryen Motzek, skate shop owner and president of the Mission Merchants Association. “Why let the fire happen just so you can put it out?”
After public comment ended, the crowd broke out into chanting.
Police Commissioner Larry Yee responded to the chants, saying “Si se puede, right, we get it,” referring to a popular protest chant. The crowd jeered. “This is the problem, there’s no respect!” one shouted.
As people filed out, they were invited by the commissioners to speak with Steve Ball, investigator with the Department of Police Accountability, which oversees police misconduct. He sat in the room and followed parents and teenagers outside, to hear complaints about the actions of officers.
A live blog of the Police Commission hearing is below. Video of the meeting will be available in full here.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the total number of arrested. There were 117 arrested that day, not 113.
A representative of the police department says they will wait until next week to discuss the Dolores Park arrests. That ends the discussion of the arrests for this meeting.
The Commission has moved on from Public Comment. They’ve moved for a five-minute recess before the Chief’s Report, which may include more information on the Dolores Park arrests. The room has mostly emptied.
Despite some argument from the crowd, Walker says she supports events like the hill bomb contnuing safely.
“These events, when they’re done with community input and done right, are the best thing for our city.”
“As a former educator myself, I can’t imagine what the educators and youth have gone through.”
He calls on speakers to return next week, once the item is added to the agenda.
“This is a failure of everything we represent as a city.”
“This events needs to be safe, but this is not how it make this event safer.
Commissioner Yañez admits the arrests were a failure of de-escalation.
“I’m embarrassed at the actions this department took to criminalize young people.”
He demands an internal affairs investigation into the matter.
“We understand your frustration–” Police Chief Bill Scott says.
“No you don’t!” People say.
“Drop the charges!”
Scott promises a full accounting next week – including body-worn camera footage.
“No justice, no peace!” the crowd chants.
“Si se puede, we get it,” Larry Yee says. “We sat through everyone’s comment.”
The Police Chief is now speaking on the matter.
A skater and teacher — who has taught skating to “200 people,” many of whom kids — shows a picture of a bump strip he says was placed on Dolores ahead of the bomb, without warning.
“You were going to hurt them.”
As the mic went out, he continued to shout to the room.
“You are disenfranchising the public! Because you are anti-skateboarding!”
Speaker complains of an incident in which a skater killed a biker. He seems to think the force was warranted, though its hard to hear him over the booing.
“If this is a worst thing [the arrested teens] have experienced so far, these kids are fine.”
The next speaker stood up and took over the mic as soon as was possible.
A mother says skating was a way for her autistic son to connect with others.
“It was a change” for him, she said. “He was welcomed into the skating world.”
He was arrested on Saturday.
“I don’t know how they came up with the charges. Conspiracy?
We had to come down from a Giants game.”
The secretary of United Educators of San Francisco, representing over 6000 educators in San Francisco says “the harm that was inflicted upon our young people is deep and profound in ways it’s hard to explain… every single time something like this happens in reverberates.”
She invites the commission to visit schools and meet kids.
“We keep saying defund the police… you’re going to defund yourself with lawsuits.”
“These kids aren’t dangerous but they sure as hell are powerful. Look how scared of them you are.”
“Furthermore, to the fullest extent you are able to investigate the involvement of District Supervisor Rafael Mandelman… if he gave any consent to the police prior to what happened in these districts, you must be held accountable.”
Chris Martinez, skate advocate and skate shop owner.
“I’ve never seen the police take care of what they to take care of on Sixth street. But you go after out kids?”
“I’m doing your job… I’m protecting the youth.”
“When you showed up with riot gear, you made the weather.”
“You know what would make this event safer? Haybales would make this event safer.”
“No child is deserving of treatment of this for any reason.”
She says one of her students wanted to give her three year old little sister a skateboard, so they could skate together.
“I shudder to think what they now have to look forward to.”
Activist says that a billion dollars for the police is too much. She city money isn’t being used for the people.
“Since when did a child holding a piece of wood and wheels require a police holding a gun in their face?”
“The DP hill bomb, and skating in general, is a beloved San Francisco tradition. It will go on for years.”
“Skaters love this city. I don’t know why this city can’t love them back.”
“I saw rifles in our face.”
Teen says he was not told his rights.
“If you were really worried about the kids, you would’ve had people there to help them.”
He claims he knows people shot with rubber bullets.
A woman insists the police allow room for joy.
“We want you gone.”
An activist says they will come back until something changes.
“‘The bus was gonna come.’ They said that for six hours straight. But I looked it up, the station was half a block down.”
He recalls being zip-tied on the street for an hour. He says he wasn’t read his Miranda rights. He says he was fingerprinted and mugshotted.
The audience is now chanting ‘Defund SFPD.
Ryen Motzek, president of Mission Merchant’s Association, says skaters are criminalized. Police should have prepared to let skaters to participate safely, instead of arresting them.
“We knew this fire was going to happen. Why let the fire happen just so you can put it out?”
Motzek complains that police gave kids no safe place to skate.
“There could’ve been outreach.”
“Did you ask the kids if they felt safer than last year?”
One mother says her kid has “never been in a situation like that.”
“He was really scared.”
“They were sitting on that cold cold ground. We were waiting for hours.”
She says some kids were released without any supervision to see whether their parents were there to get them. She saw a brawl break out, says the cops there refused to help.
One of the commissioners says that Steve Ball, senior investigator with the Department of Police Accountability, is outside to hear complaints about the actions of officers.
One speaker, a long-time skater and security professional, says he sees both sides of the issue. But he urges cops to take this appraoch: “we’re in San Francisco, if this is what you want to do, we’ll make it safe.”
“If you can’t compromise, then you should learn to deescalate.”
One speaker: “People say these are good kids. But this shouldn’t happen to any kids!”
A woman begs the police to investigate her son’s murder. She says she comes every Wednesday.
“Nobody wants to do this.”
A doctor from UCSF speaks: “Shooting rubber bullets at children. Really? I have taken care of patients hit by rubber bullets…one patient had his face blown off, unable to eat.”
She speaks to possible trauma suffered by the teenagers.
“I am so devastated at how San Francisco is becoming a police city.”
Representative of Ukrainian community: some of our teens are “dealing with war trauma.”
“What happened in Dolores park contradicts everything I am telling my [Ukrainian refugee] community” about life in the United States.
She urges the community not to underestimate the threat of police action on youth.
One speaker: “What happened last Saturday was excessive, it was abusive, it was traumatic.”
Lisa, a parent, says her son was detained by police after being directed into a row of riot cops by police. She says he was arrested after only 15 minutes outside, not intending to participate the event, instead riding a scooter to his friend’s house.
“I was frantic, not knowing where he was.”
She didn’t hear from him until 3 a.m.
One speaker, an elder activist says they are “restarting [their] ‘defund the police’ campaign.” She wants to throw a public skating event.
Rachel Lederman, attorney and Mission resident, snipes that she “thought the Mission police knew better when they were allowed to arrest people.”
She claims arrested teens were arbitrarily arrested by police.
“You can’t simply sweep people up off the street as if they’re garbage.”
The mic turns off after two minutes, and another audience member offers Lederman her time.
“That’s not how it works,” said a commissioner.
Mission resident says he wants “to see an immediate end to the kettling practices,” says they are “unjustified and gross.”
“There are real negative consequences, ban this practice now.”
Member of ANSWER coalition: “What the hell was going on that night… who made the decision to do that?” Applause from the room.
Parents and others have lined up, beginning general comment. More than a dozen are in line.
Dimitry Yakoushkin is the first to speak, saying he saw “torture and people presumed guilty” that night.
He filmed the detention of children for hours, saying the teens were kept standing for over an hours, zip-tied behind their backs at times.
Jeffery Hwang, pres of Harvey Milk LBTGQ Democratic club: “If there is anyone who deserves the use of police deescalation techniques, its children.”
Commissioner Kevin Benedicto notes that the agenda will not discuss the Dolores Park arrests outside of the General Public Comment and the chief’s comment, since it was too late to add to the agenda.
It will be an item on the agenda next week, however, as the commission received a letter from a supervisor, presumably Supervisor Dean Preston, who pledged to ask them for an investigation.
There are probably over a hundred people in the room.
Kevin Ortiz, President of SF’s Latinx Democratic Club weighed in on the pattern of SFPD interference on community events.
“We’re here today because of the young people, because of the young people’s rights that were violated,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz made a connection between these arrests and the new leadership at the SFPD Mission station.
“This is a disturbing trend that has happened now twice in the span of a week, particularly with the Mission police station under new leadership.”
The General Public Comment has begun. Anyone who wishes may speak for up to two minutes, though the commission is not required to respond. Much of the room has stood up to speak.
The Police Commission meeting has begun with a warning against general disruption, saying the meeting may be cleared if anyone fails to obey their allotted speaking times or otherwise interfere with the hearing.
The commission knows parents and teens are in the audience planning to testify.
The meeting has begun. The auditorium is over half full, and people are still filing in. There’s a TV film crew, probably in anticipation of the General Public Comment and response.
Five of the seven commissioners are present, alongside Police Chief Bill Scott.
Yakoushkin described that although skaters and attendees of the hill bomb have been “categorized as thugs or vandals, what you didn’t see is that for two hours before that, police escalating, and pushing, and pushing, and escalating, and inciting a riot.”
He followed up by saying, “I know they were good kids.”
Dimitry Yakoushkin, an eyewitness to the scene who filmed the teenagers’ detention for hours, said he disagreed with the characterizations of some, including the police, calling the crowd a “riot.”
He said he saw a crowd of teenagers skating and enjoying the day—including at one point helping a little girl scoot down the hill.
Then, he said, the police came in riot gear and brown up a crowd.
“Who conspired to commit a riot?” he asked, meaning the police.
The crowd cheered.
The rally outside the Police Commission in protest of the mass arrests Saturday following the Dolores Park “hill bomb” has begun.
Rachel Lederman, a civil rights attorney who was spoken with dozens of parents interested in suing San Francisco and its police department, has taken the mic.
She says there were “massive civil rights violations against primarily children on Saturday night.”
A small crowd has gathered on the front steps of City Hall, awaiting the meeting.