A night shot of teenagers with hands up, officers, vans after the 2023 Dolores Park hill bomb
Dolores Park, Saturday night as officers arrested teenagers. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros. July 8, 2023.

While the San Francisco Police Department has repeatedly defended its actions in cracking down on a crowd of young people and arresting 117 at Saturday’s skateboarding hill bomb, several parents said their children were walking home or riding scooters through the area when the police trapped them between lines of officers.

Several teenagers said they were injured by the police: Struck with batons, pelted with rifle-shot bean-bags, or cut by their restraints. The Police Department said an officer’s cut to the forehead instigated the call to disperse. Teenagers also set off fireworks and threw glass bottles at the officers.

Disgruntled parents said their children ran into various lines of officers in the blocks surrounding the park, told to move one way and then the next by police. Eventually, they had no further escape routes and were kettled in the middle of a block.

“My son said that [the police] said, ‘Go that way, go this way,’ and pointed, but it was straight into the cops that were coming,” said Lisa, the mother of a 15-year-old boy who said her son was riding a scooter across the Mission to get to a friend’s house when he was caught in the melee. 

She provided screenshots showing her son’s scooter route through the area at the time the police kettled the children, saying he was not there to hear the earlier dispersal orders.

“It was complete entrapment,” she said, adding that her son has been “numb” in the days after. 

“He’s just a different person now, on how he’s going to think about cops.”

Cristina Galvan said her 16-year old daughter, Giselle, was in the Mission with a friend to watch the hill bomb and grab a bite to eat.

As they tried to leave the area, the pair ran into police at every turn, she said. 

“They’re saying that they told the kids to leave, but my daughter said she was trapped, that everywhere she went, there were already cops,” Galvan said. Her daughter, she said, is “a little traumatized.”

Several parents said the same Saturday night: Their children were walking home, or on their way to another part of the city, when they came upon a group of skaters being corralled by the police, and were, in short order, corralled themselves.

The triggering incident

The hill bomb is an annual loosely-organized tradition where skaters “bomb” Dolores Street by going as fast as possible downhill. The event has lead to serious injury and one death, and police have in the past also responded in force.

On Saturday, officers declared several unlawful assemblies in the blocks around Dolores Park before the arrests, moving corner to corner and charging to clear an intersection before moving onto the next.

The operation scattered the crowds across several blocks surrounding the park, leaving groups of teenagers, some dozens strong, spread out over a wide area. 

Those on one side of the park, or down one street, may not have heard the dispersal orders. Others may have stumbled upon the group transiting elsewhere, as several parents and teenagers said.

All of those arrested Saturday were cited with inciting a riot, unlawful assembly, and conspiracy. The juveniles were released to their parents after hours-long processing times; the last child was released at 4:15 a.m. Sunday.

YouTube video
Compilation of footage, sourced from social media, of the Dolores “hill bomb” and the police response. Video by Sid Goldfader-Dufty.

In the SFPD version of Saturday night, the department refers to the teenage crowd as a “riot.” Several firearms were recovered, the department said. One 22-year-old man was booked that night for carrying a concealed firearm in a car, according to jail booking logs.

The Police Department pointed to documented vandalism of a Muni light rail vehicle in the hours before the arrests, as well as fireworks and glass bottles launched at the officers, to justify the operation. The vandalism of the J-Church train, however, occurred after officers had moved on the crowd of skaters on Dolores Street — and, according to witnesses, in response to police actions.

It is unclear, however, how many of those arrested were involved in the vandalism or assaults.

Police sergeant ‘lacerations,’ a cut to forehead

Police reported that a sergeant attempting an arrest “suffered lacerations to the face,” prompting a full-court press by officers in riot gear against the teenage skaters.

Pictures of the sergeant shared on social media Monday by the San Francisco police union show an inch-long gash to the left side of the man’s forehead, allegedly caused by a blade. 

The sergeant was attempting to arrest a 16-year-old boy who allegedly spit at him, according to the police. A 15-year-old girl then allegedly attempted to stop the arrest, and the sergeant was cut in the altercation. Both teenagers were arrested.

The officer was taken to the hospital, police said. It was unclear whether he was wearing a helmet or what treatment, if any, he received for the cut. 

An inch-long to the forehead cut with a trail of blood
The cut suffered by a police sergeant during the 2023 Dolores Park hill bomb, described as “lacerations to the face” and prompting the police riot response. Photo from the San Francisco Police Officers Association.

The San Francisco Police Department declined to comment and did not clarify whether a weapon was found at the scene.

Several children were, themselves, injured by the police. Teenagers who broke through the lines of officers barricading the group were hit with batons, according to the teenagers and their parents. One teen was seemingly hit with a bean bag from a police rifle, lifting his shirt to show a witness an orange-and-purple bruise on his chest. 

“He had a huge bruise on his chest,” said Dimitry Yakoushkin, who filmed the detention of the teenagers for hours. “It was already nasty and swollen, it was orange and purple, it looked pretty recent.”

At 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, a 15-year-old boy exited the Mission police station and showed this reporter a small, bleeding cut on his hand, received when an officer zip-tied him, he said. 

When he asked an officer to loosen his restraints, the officer responded, “I’m not going to help,” the teen said.

Of 117 arrested, 83 were juveniles

A total of 117 people, including 83 juveniles, were arrested Saturday, most of them encircled by police officers purposefully attempting a mass arrest. They were held for hours outside in the cold, forced to sit on the pavement or stand up against building walls. 

The District Attorney’s Office said that each case would be investigated to “ensure there is appropriate accountability.”

Those arrested described the night as traumatic. The bulk of those kettled by police were teenagers. Many went without food or water for hours, urinated on themselves, and hyperventilated in panic, those arrested said. 

The Police Department said it followed all procedures for dealing with juveniles, which notes that only in extraordinary circumstances should juveniles not be released from the field. On Saturday, starting at 10 p.m. and for several hours, parents demanded immediate release of their children but were refused. 

The hill bomb police operation has prompted condemnation from several city officials and political groups, complaining about an excessive use of police force and resources from an understaffed police force. The crackdown elicited silence or praise from others, including Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the area.

Several parents said they have contacted Supervisor Mandelman but received no response. Mandelman has not responded to requests for comment.

Supervisor Dean Preston blasted the response, saying his office is writing a letter to the Police Commission asking it to investigate the matter. Public Defender Mano Raju similarly criticized the “militarized police response” and said his office is concerned juveniles were not afforded their legal rights. 

Residents living nearby had mixed views of the event, which has devolved into chaos in years past and led to injuries among participants, and even the death of a cyclist in 2020

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the total number of arrested. There were 117 arrested that day, not 113.

More on the Dolores Hill bomb

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Joe was born in Sweden, where half of his family received asylum after fleeing Pinochet, and spent his early childhood in Chile; he moved to Oakland when he was eight. He attended Stanford University for political science and worked at Mission Local as a reporter after graduating. He then spent time in advocacy as a partner for the strategic communications firm The Worker Agency. He rejoined Mission Local as an editor in 2023.

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  1. These parents that are complaining about their babies being attacked do they know what their little angels were doing because they have no respect towards authorities I’m sure that’s how they are with you

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  2. Don’t worry little skateboarders. Daddy will bail you out so you can go to your room and play x-box. Tony Hawk anyone?

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  3. I and most residents of the Dolores Park neighborhood are in full support of the police action in response to the illegal and very unsafe Dolores Hill Bomb event. To hear moms crying that their children were caught in the crowd that was arrested ignores the fact that the police gave multiple warnings to disperse. Several participants or spectators set off a few cherry bombs in the middle of the crowd. People fled in fear. Much of the crowd then re-congregated at 18th and Church, where they rioted and obliterated a Muni bus with graffiti and tried to do a sideshow. They then ran away again and re-congregated at 17th and Dolores. There many in the crowd started tagging public property, including some very young people, probably not more than 14. I was there, and I can tell you that they were brazen and knew what was going on. Anyone who found themselves in this final hardcore group that would not leave was among those finally arrested. Supervisor Dean Preston’s nonsense about “traumatizing our young people” is just that: nonsense. It has been our neighborhood that has been traumatized by the skateboarders who insist on having their “fun” at our expense. Last year, Hill Bomb was followed by a very destructive sideshow. Enough of this lawlessness. Thank you SFPD!!

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  4. A lot of red herrings being tossed out. SFPD can’t tie the egregious actions to those arrested in the roundup, but they are trying. The way information has been released makes it too easy for some to claim “they” did this, “they” did that.

    It would be interesting to see bodycam video of the alleged “blade” incident. Not sure where it came from, but that’s a dubious descriptor.

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  5. “death of a cyclist” makes it sound like it was just someone passing by. I think “death of a participant on a bicycle” would be clearer.

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  6. You all are so pathetic and soft. This is a whole lot of nothing. Don’t want to be arrested? Then don’t attack or provoke the police, or be in the immediate vicinity of people who are. It’s that simple. This is nothing compared to the treatment they would have received by LAPD or LA County Sheriffs in the 80s and 90s. People here don’t even realize how conflict avoidant and passive SFPD is.

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  7. Nice work, losers. I’m sure they weren’t too injured to bill massive overtime for their little baton party.

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