Episodes of police force used against protesters across the country have been documented across social media — spurring debate, outrage, and dialogue on the subject. Though not as common as in other U.S. metros, Bay Area police were seen using tear gas and firing rubber bullets at nonviolent protesters Saturday night.
The video of an NYPD vehicle intentionally driving through a crowd of protesters Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn is a sight many — including myself — still can't shake loose. In Dallas, a woman, who allegedly was not involved in the city's protests yesterday, was shot in the face by a rubber bullet; reporters in Los Angeles were hit with tear gas canisters — fired directly at them. What were thought to be undercover police officers allegedly destroyed milk cartons and stole water bottles away from nonviolent protesters in Louisville. And while bouts of excessive police force and intrusion appeared less prevalent in the Bay Area than in other parts of the country, they, nevertheless, occurred yesterday evening.
Photojournalist Linda Tirado was shot in the eye by a rubber bullet while covering an anti-police brutality protest in Minneapolis — one of more than two dozen incidents of journalists experiencing violence while covering the recent demonstrations. https://t.co/o7aMYQa6fX— Vox (@voxdotcom) May 31, 2020
Saturday's demonstration in San Francisco against police brutality and the killing of George Floyd began peacefully (and even in a socially distant fashion) at the UN Plaza near City Hall. During the marches that later ensued, SFPD officers were seen, more or less, just holding lines and deterring people from entering highways. But as the nightfall fell and protesters descended at Westfield Mall, on-site police were witnessed using coercion to push back demonstrators; one individual shoved by an SFPD officer had his hands in the air while being forcefully knocked backward.
San Francisco, Westfield Mall. SFPD officer gets aggressive with/rushes a protester, other officer pulls them back. This accountability among police units is the bare minimum, but more like this can make an instrumental difference. #GeorgeFloydProtests #BlackLivesMatter https://t.co/HJpHKU5nmS— Monica Alicia (@ohgeezthatone) May 31, 2020
Earlier in the day too, San Francisco Sheriff's deputies in riot gear held a line at City Hall with some wearing "Thin Blue Line" pins* — a symbol used by white nationalist groups to stand in support of police and in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. The like-symboled masks were banned by SFPD Chief of Police Bill Scott when they were used earlier in May.
Last night’s protests in Oakland were far more subdued than they were Friday evening when thousands — some riding cavalry — thronged downtown. The Chronicle reports tear gas was used in Oakland on protesters yesterday around 11 p.m. after a relatively calm start. (This is a bit of situational, albeit removed, déjà vu for me. I was caught in a thin cloud of tear gas Friday evening in Oakland that enveloped a group of nonviolent demonstrators near Oakland City Hall.)
But possibly the most poignant instance of excessive police force used by Bay Area law enforcement Saturday was documented on Twitter by a Bay Area-based community reporter who, while wearing a visible media badge and not engaging in any sort of violent behavior, was shot in the upper thigh with a rubber bullet by a Contra Costa County officer.
Ill post the video below again for you to watch for the exact moment I was shot. pic.twitter.com/7MZUTQdnyN— Sarah Belle Lin (@SarahBelleLin) May 31, 2020
"I'm a fucking journalist! I'm a fucking journalist," said Sarah Belle Lin — who's work has been featured in Berkeleyside and Oakland Magazine, among other local outlets — while falling to the ground.
Lin later took to Twitter to express her concern about the situation and inform people she was fine... though visibly bruised and shaken by the incident.
Oh, and here’s the bruise. Courtesy of Contra Costa County Sheriffs. pic.twitter.com/8n03RXghCc— Sarah Belle Lin (@SarahBelleLin) May 31, 2020
In the days — weeks, months, seasons — to come, let this weekend's demonstrations usher in introspection on the notion of majority privilege; the injustices created from living in a racially unbalanced society; the ability to have the option to side with comfort and silence while others in this country are subjected to insidious malice and scapegoating.
This is what I was talking about in my interview this story must be told for this is fueling the vary injustice the protest are against. Happening in every city @abc7newsbayarea @KPIXtv @kron4news @LuzPenaABC7 @KTVU @KCBSRadio @OaklandPostNews @EastBayExpress @SFGate @sfexaminer pic.twitter.com/RMWmHeQbdt— shonda scott (@ShondaScott360) May 31, 2020
Reflect, empathetically. React, consciously. Respond, justifiably.
Get about the business of figuring out what you can do — in whatever capacity — to better our collective relationship with race and support our black and brown and any-other-color-than-white communities in the march toward true equality.
And universal safety.
Below, you'll find contact information for the Oakland and San Francisco police departments where you can (maturely and constructively) address your concerns about these events.
- San Francisco Police Department’s Community Feedback Portal; read the posted officer policies for context.
- Oakland Police Department's Police Misconduct Portal; read the posted officer policies for context.
Alas, I leave you with an evergreen nugget of wisdom from political activist and UC Santa Cruz professor Angela Davis that I hope will buoy your actions and words for some time: “In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
Image: Twitter via @tonester524
*This post has been corrected to show that the individual wearing a "Thin Blue Line" pin was a member of the Sheriff's Department, not the SFPD.