SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — This summer’s “Dolores Hill Bomb,” an unsanctioned event where skateboarders take over a steep city street, escalated into a riot and mass arrest of more than 100 people.
The counter-culture skateboarding event turned ugly. And in the wake of Saturday evening’s melee, city leaders are sparring over who escalated the event into chaos.
Mayor London Breed is backing police, stating, “No one at this event was arrested for skateboarding.”
Breed added, “This was an unpermitted event that has led to serious problems in the past, including property destruction and physical injury. The last time it was held, someone died.”
The San Francisco Police Department’s chief and union are strongly defending tactics used by officers. Police officers had to take action to protect fearful residents in the Mission District neighborhood, according to SFPD, the chief, and the union.
The San Francisco Police Officers Association wrote, “The violence and chaos on our streets had nothing to do with skateboarding. Residents asked for police escorts to their front doors. MUNI trains were stopped and attacked by graffiti vandals. Fireworks, bottles, and smoke bombs were launched indiscriminately in the neighborhood.”
The union praised officers for doing their jobs with restraint, and criticized skateboarders for “dangerous and selfish behavior.”
During the unsanctioned event, countless thrill-seekers “bombed” down a hill near Dolores Park on skateboards and bicycles. A big crowd watched and recorded videos of the spectacle.
Residents requested police escorts to their homes, police said. “Nothing stopped this group from getting permits, and no one forced them to hold a neighborhood hostage. How would you feel if you lived here?” the union wrote.
The event apparently began to escalate around 7 p.m. after a 16-year-old boy spit on a police sergeant’s face. As the sergeant attempted to detain the boy, a 15-year-old girl interfered, and the sergeant was assaulted, police said. When the two teenagers were being arrested, the crowd grew hostile and began throwing fireworks, smoke bombs, glass bottles and metal cans at officers, police said.
“We’re not talking about firecrackers. We’re talking about M-80’S. We’re talking about mortar styled fireworks,” Police Chief Bill Scott told KRON4.
At 7:15 p.m., officers made announcements over a loudspeaker in an attempt to disperse the crowd for unlawful assembly. “Officers continued to give dispersal orders throughout the area, but the crowds remained moving around Dolores Park,” SFPD wrote.
Around 8:12 p.m., a group of about 200 people with skateboards started breaking through and removing police barricades at 18th and Dolores streets. Multiple MUNI light rail vehicles were immobilized by the crowd and covered with graffiti.
Mayor Breed wrote, “In San Francisco, we welcome public events that are conducted safely. This event was not that. People assaulted police officers, set fires, and vandalized property, including Muni vehicles. Individuals on Saturday were arrested over an hour after they were ordered to disperse by the police and as people continued to destroy property.”
According to SFPD, 81 juveniles were cited and released for inciting a riot, unlawful assembly, remaining present at an unlawful assembly, and conspiracy. Thirty-two adults were arrested and booked into jail on suspicion of the same charges.
Police Chief Bill Scott thanked his officers for ending the riot.
Scott wrote, “This dangerous and unlawful behavior put members of the public and our officers at risk of serious injury or worse. This behavior will not be tolerated in our city and I thank our officers for taking action to hold those accountable who brazenly engaged in reckless and dangerous behavior and violated the law. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries.”
San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju condemned SFPD’s tactics and blasted officers for detaining youth by using “militarized” tactics.
“The militarized police response to a youth-led skateboarding event was a tremendous overreach that escalated tensions, endangered young people and onlookers, and violated people’s rights. Showing up in riot gear, pointing their weapons at people, kettling children, and detaining them on the street or at the police station for several hours, is emblematic of the SFPD’s misguided use of resources and their willingness to criminalize youth,” Raju wrote in a statement on Monday.
“Our Youth Defense unit was notified in real time that police had detained approximately ninety youth, but never got a call back to provide legal advisories to any of them so they are informed of their rights,” Raju wrote. “We are very concerned that the SFPD may have failed to follow protocol that requires a defense attorney to speak with any youth before they are read their Miranda rights and questioned by police.”
“We have heard from several parents whose children were detained for up to four hours, and some were taken to SF General Hospital for unknown reasons before being released to their parents. We do know that at least two youth were booked into jail, and we believe up to eighty others were cited or charged with misdemeanors for undisclosed reasons,” Raju wrote.
The Public Defender’s Office is calling for a thorough investigation into the SFPD’s tactics and swift remedial action for any findings of misconduct.