Sunday, March 16, 2003

Police in S.F.

Reader P.J. writes in:

Today in San Francisco there was an anti-war rally. I didn't go; I was at work.

Aftermy grueling Saturday shift, I was wandering around aimlessly downtown trying to de-stress. This was at around 4:00 PM, I had assumed the anti-war rally was over.

It wasn't. There was a sudden commotion around me, and I turned around to see gang of rebel protesters running down the middle of a busy street. (Fourth St between Mission and Market). I didn't know they were anti-war protesters at first. But there were maybe six, maybe eight of them, and they were being chased by no less than twenty police officers on motorcycles.

The protesters ran out of breath at the corner and I watched as the cops stopped their motorcycles, got out their batons and proceeded to attack the protesters. The protesters didn't make the first move, though they may have said something snide or somesuch, they were far enough away that I couldn't hear them. But the point is they didn't resist. They didn't resist and the cops beat them down with their batons.

I didn't know what to do. One of the protesters made it farther than the others and was standing right next me. "Christ, what did you guys do?" I asked.

"Nothing," he said. "We just deviated from the designated route or whatever."

I suppose running down the middle of a busy street is disruptive, but it's a valid act of civil disobedience as far as I'm concerned. In fact it's a valid act of civil disobedience as far as the damn police are concerned. There's a group here called Critical Mass, they're bicyclists, once a month or so they completely shut down all automobile traffic on Market Street, because there's a thousand cyclists in the group and they ride down Market Street as a single unit. The cops do not chase them down and knock them off their bikes.

There's another group, I forget what it's called, but there's a hundredor more rollerbladers who do a long, twisted route all over San Francisco EVERY FRIDAY NIGHT. This disrupts traffic left and right and the cops hate them and will yell at them to quit it already, but they don't trip them and beat them.

Furthermore, there are parts of Market St that are temporarily disabled on a daily basis, dozens of times per day. There's a trend among homeless people to wait for traffic lights to turn green before walking out in front of oncoming traffic. (Um, meaning that the homeless wait for the same light that the traffic was waiting for). The police harass the homeless on a regular basis but they don't tackle them in the middle of the street and club them.

So it's only when you disrupt traffic in the name of peace that you get physically assaulted by the public defenders.