SF city officials defend police response, mass arrests at Dolores Hill Bomb skateboarding event

Skateboarders in San Francisco are still angry and questioning police tactics after officers arrested dozens of adults and children attending an annual daring skateboard event known as a hill bomb.

San Francisco Police Department say they took necessary action to stop a dangerous event and to protect themselves. Skateboarders are saying the police over-reacted, but officers are saying this wasn't the police versus skateboarders, they say this was police versus a rowdy mob.

Videos of the skating event and police response went viral over the weekend. Saturday night, hundreds of adults and teens took to the streets around Dolores Park ready for the annual hill bombing event, racing down Dolores Street.

Police Chief Bill Scott said officers were ready this year with barricades and officers to stop what can be a dangerous event. A deadly collision happened at the event three years ago. "It's caused injuries in the past, it's caused a death in the past," said Chief Scott. "We've had a number of criminal type-activity that has surrounded this event in the past."

News outlets have reported how in 2017, an SFPD officer shoved a skateboarder into a police car, injuring him. That led to the city settling a civil suit for $275,000, money taxpayers would foot the bill for. 

Skateboarders say this year it was the officers who antagonized the skaters, provoking them into escalating behavior. "The police action is more what caused the vandalism then the vandalism in the first place," said skateboarder Finn Deuss. "I doubt if half this sh*t would have happened if the police weren't like harassing kids."

Parents of some of the teens taken into custody have told KTVU that the minors were unlawfully detained, kept out in the cold weather for hours and were not allowed to contact their families.

Skaters say they were targeted. "It was just weird to see the f*cking police like chasing around a bunch of f*cking kids shouting like, 'this is an unlawful protest,'" said Deuss.

San Francisco police say as the situation escalated, they issued dispersal orders; and in the end San Francisco police took more than 30 adults into custody and cited and or detained more than 80 minors.

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SFPD respond to an unsanctioned skateboard event near Dolores Park. 

Police Chief Scott said his officers were repeatedly subjected to dangerous assaults including fireworks launched at them. "We're talking about mortar type fireworks, M80s, that landed at officers feet," said Chief Scott. "We had one of our sergeants that was spat on, by a juvenile of all things, and then another juvenile that with this person, punched this officer with a sharp object causing injury to his face."

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said this wasn't about the city versus skaters, rather it was trying to keep order on the streets. The mayor saying she's open to the idea of working with skateboarders to recreate the hill bombing event with some new guidelines. I" think that there's definitely room to explore this in a way that will ensure safety, I think that that's the biggest issue for us," said Mayor Breed.

Police say the juveniles have all been released, and most, if not all, the adults as well. A few are facing more serious charges such as assaulting a police officer.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the neighborhood, said the 'Hill Bomb' event should be shut down altogether. He said the police response was appropriate. 

"Unless we can figure out a way to make this a safe event that does not attract folks who have turned it into a destructive event, I don't think this should continue," he said. 

Mandelman said anyone who believes that police overstepped their authority, can take up that issue in venues such as the San Francisco Police Department of Accountability. 

San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju condemned the SFPD's tactics calling the "militarized police response" a "tremendous overreach that escalated tensions, endangered young people and onlookers, and violated people's rights." 

Raju called the response a misguided use of resources. 

"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. 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 to inform them of their rights. It is unclear whether those youth were questioned or Mirandized," Raju's statement read. 

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SFPD respond to an unsanctioned skateboard event near Dolores Park. 


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