35 Arrested in protest against police shootings; attacks on bank and police station — San Francisco, CA

San Francisco police made approximately 35 arrests Tuesday night during protests over an officer-involved shooting in the Bayview district on Saturday. The protest began in Dolores Park at around 5 p.m. and the march toward the Castro area began around 6 p.m.

The fatal police shooting of 19-year-old Kenneth Harding Jr., who allegedly ran from police and fired shots after officers attempted to detain him while conducting a fare enforcement at a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency light-rail stop in the Bayview, occured Saturday and has garnered public reaction.

The crowd, estimated at 150, marched up to the Castro, where protesters vandalized a Bank of America at 18th and Castro streets. The group went on to the Castro Muni station, where protesters vandalized and threw smoke bombs into the underground station.

At one point during the protest, a group walked past Mission Police Station and someone threw a hammer at officers. The attempt failed to cause any damage and no officers were struck or injured.

The crowd proceeded down Market Street, distrupting Muni service and on-street traffic. The corridor was blocked by a combination of protesters and police. Cops diverted traffic at Fourth and Market streets, only allowing Muni vehicles through.

The Police Department declared an unlawful assembly at approximately 7:45 pm.

During the course of the protest, a news media camera operator was assaulted and an arrest was made in the incident.

All Muni stations have reopened.


What I’ve always quite liked about America is how unabashed they are in ignoring the tenets of liberalism.  One of the fundamental first generation human rights, the right to freedom of assembly, is not only broken (as you’d expect in any bourgeois state) but America has gone whole hog.  Not only does the law admit and label the right it contravenes, it goes so far as to then paint the people who exercise such a right as criminals (“unlawful assembly”).

It’s sadly not that amazing that this doesn’t cause more of a stir.

Umm…what? No one has a right to break windows or disrupt public transit; that’s why it’s called “civil disobedience”.

The assembly was declared “unlawful” because it’s main purpose was to destroy property and attack police (this is not an establishment media characterization of the goals of the protest, it’s their own description of the protest’s intent). There has been no liberal society, at any time in history, that would view a gathering that’s main purpose was mayhem and destruction as a lawful assembly. In a liberal society, a lawful assembly is synonymous with a peaceful one.

Now let me be clear, pointing out the unlawful nature of this protest does not delegitimize it. “When injustice becomes law rebellion becomes duty” as the saying goes. But to claim that the declaration of this demonstration as “unlawful” reveals some hypocrisy is absurd. It categorically does not, and claiming it does is a distortion and corruption of reason.

My point was more regarding the naming of it as “unlawful assembly”, rather than a comment on this specific demonstration (it was a musing that came from the article rather than specifically being about the article in itself, I just impulsively reblogged the article and rambled absent-mindedly).  In the UK the law is the Public Order Act and riots are terms as “public disorder”.  While this specific protest was out with the intent of causing damage, plenty that get labelled as unlawful assembly will be because a tiny amount of disruption has been caused at a small point of the protest (especially poignant with the prevalence of agent provocateurs, at least in the UK).  The state then uses the legality to delegitimise the entire protest, and thus all who support the purpose of the protest are painted with the same stick by the media as unlawful and violent.

It’s a tool of the state to alienate the wider public from a movement, to manipulate media discourse and to delegitimise the aims, intents and/or purpose of the movement.  The use of the word “assembly” in the legal status, rather than using other nomenclature such as public disorder as we’d use in the UK, creates a connection to the lawful assembly which further dissuades people from connecting to and getting involved in protest action, reinforcing a parochial attitude to political participation.

That is, of course, without getting into the discussion of laws protecting property being to protect bourgeois interests, and the general non-existence of rights.  But hopefully it’s clearer that I wasn’t being specific to this particular event but going off on a tangent and attaching it to what had made me think of it.

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