Video: 5 cops wounded, 79 arrested in SF Ferguson protest
Several windows were broken and objects, including a traffic sign, were thrown at police during violent downtown protests in San Francisco on Friday
By Vivian Ho and Kale Williams
San Francisco Chronicle
SAN FRANCISCO — Seventy-nine people, including six juveniles, were arrested and five police officers were injured during the violent downtown protests in San Francisco on Friday night, Police Chief Greg Suhr said at a Monday news conference.
Of those arrested in the demonstration — which sought to oppose Black Friday shopping and express outrage over the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. — 23 people were San Francisco residents, Suhr said, with 56 coming from other California cities or from out of state.
Four people were booked into San Francisco County Jail — one on suspicion of assaulting an officer, two over outstanding warrants, and one on suspicion of possessing goods that police said were taken from a looted RadioShack.
Hundreds took to the streets to march in solidarity with protesters in Ferguson and around the country who believe a grand jury should have indicted Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed Brown, an unarmed black teenager, on Aug. 9. Wilson said he acted in self-defense after he was attacked.
The San Francisco protest started peacefully Friday, with about 30 people gathering in Union Square around 5 p.m. with plans to march through the downtown area, which was full of Black Friday shoppers.
The crowd had grown to a few hundred as a group that had marched from the Ferry Building joined those at Union Square. Shopkeepers lowered entry gates to avoid vandalism and families scurried behind police lines.
Suhr said officers had set up barricades to keep the protesters from an annual Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, but that the demonstrators broke through.
"At this point in time, breaking through the barricades, this was no longer a First Amendment march," Suhr said Monday. "This march, if it ever was a First Amendment march, was hijacked by a criminal fringe element bent on destruction and criminal conduct. Were it not for the efforts of the officers and the leadership on the ground, it could have been far worse."
Several windows were broken and objects, including a traffic sign, were thrown at police. The event was captured on video. A female sergeant who was struck by the sign — as well as a male lieutenant who came to her aid — were two of the five officers wounded in the protest, Suhr said.
Three more officers were wounded after the march continued downtown along Market Street and into the Mission District. Suhr said rocks and bottles were thrown at officers at 24th and Alabama streets.
An officer responding to reports of vandals breaking windows at 24th and Mission streets was injured, Suhr said, when a person threw a Tequila bottle through his car window, hitting him in the face.
"Only time will tell if this officer is permanently disfigured or requires further surgery to put him back to the way that he was," Suhr said. "His partner was struck with a large rock and also suffered abrasions. Both officers are recovering."
The majority of arrests took place on Liberty Street between Mission and Valencia streets, Suhr said. Freelance reporter Ryan Heuser, 28, was one of the people cited for failing to obey an officer and being in the street. He asked Suhr about the arrests at the news conference, and he said some officers ordered the crowd to get off the roadway while others ordered them to get off the sidewalk.
"I think that the cops used an illegal trick to get us off the street," he said. "We were given conflicting orders and then arrested when we didn't comply."
Suhr invited Heuser to speak to him in his office after the news conference.
"Are you going to help me identify who hit my cop in the face with a bottle?" Suhr asked him.
Heuser told him he didn't know who threw the bottle, but he further asserted that the group on Liberty Street was nonviolent and people were arrested after police gave them conflicting orders.
"I'm not going to argue with you," Suhr said. "You traveled with that group for hours. You're going to have a position as to what happened on Liberty Street.
"By my officers, who went through a lot that night, everybody on Liberty Street, as far as I'm concerned, were engaged in criminal conduct because that was what was relayed to me," Suhr continued. "I'm not trying to make you a bad guy or anything. I'm just saying it is what it is."
Heuser then asked, "Don't you think a conflicting order is impossible to comply with?"
Suhr responded: "You're making a very lucid defense, but I'm wearing the wrong outfit — you got to get someone wearing the robes (in court)," he said. "I will tell you in the future that if people are smashing police officers and windows and committing burglaries and they all run to Liberty Street, that may be a good group not to be with."
When Suhr was pressed on the possibility that his officers issued conflicting orders, he said, "There's a whole jail upstairs of people saying it was all a mistake."
"My officers were doing the best they could," he told Heuser. "And I think you were too."
Copyright 2014 the San Francisco Chronicle