The brick Armory building that is home to Kink.com at 14th and Mission streets held one of many parties last weekend during Pride festivities.
But unlike at many parties and events, the building was the site of a protest by a group of queer activists.
The problem was the party's theme — prison — which angered the protesters. They argued that it trivialized the experience of many who have been victimized by the criminal justice system, and it was held during an event, Pride, that has historically been about fighting oppression.
By the end of the night, seven of the very protesters who had marched on Kink.com opposing its prison party had been arrested at the 16th Street BART station.
Three remained in jail as of Monday afternoon. The group that backed the protest, Gay Shame San Francisco, and the National Lawyers Guild say police overreached and brutalized protesters for no reason.
“We condemn the actions of SFPD that evening,” said Carlos Villarreal, executive director of the local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, whose legal observer was among those arrested. “We think the people who are still in jail should be released.”
The Police Department would not comment on the brutality allegations Monday, and the District Attorney's Office would not comment on the charges.
“Prisoners of Love,” billed as a prison-themed Pride party at Kink's headquarters, asked participants to “fall in love in the shower” and to “plan your jailbreak with your mates.”
This and other aspects of the party angered a group of LGBT activists enough that they wrote an open letter calling on Kink to cancel the event before it was held.
“It's not that we don't love sex, sex parties, sex workers, and kink. It's that we love it as much as we love justice, and are appalled by the casual use of the Prison Industrial Complex, which destroys the lives of millions of people and kills thousands every year, as a party theme,” noted the letter, which was signed by a number of local groups and individuals and was posted on the Gay Shame website.
In response, Peter Acworth, founder of the largest fetish porn company in the world, wrote his own open letter saying he understands the perspective of the protesters but people have the right to express themselves.
“I believe that if a group wants to organize a particular kind of party, they should be free to do so without shame,” Acworth wrote. “The purpose of this event is a celebration. It was certainly never intended to 'trivialize incarceration' nor 'normalize oppression', and I do not believe that a fantasy party could ever trivialize or normalize events in the larger world.”
Still, Kink does not plan to hold the party again.
Hundreds of protesters marched to Kink's headquarters around 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Lacey Johnson of Gay Shame said. The protest, Johnson said, was nonviolent and ended when the marchers made their way to the 16th Street BART station.
“I was there,” Johnson said. “We had a peaceful action in front of the Armory.”
But Kink spokesman Mike Stabile said protesters managed to shut down the event for a time and threw things, including vegetables and fruit. And, he said, a security guard was assaulted.
That assertion is disputed by Johnson.
Police did not arrive until the march was over and the crowd was at the BART station, she said. When officers arrived on the scene, they did not tell anyone in the crowd what to do, said Johnson, who saw cops cordon off the plaza and then begin pulling people out of the crowd.
“The police swooped in and used excessive force and brutality,” she said.
Witnesses saw a security guard from the Kink event point out people in the crowd for police, according to the National Lawyers Guild.
“It's ironic,” said Villarreal, and “troubling that people were there to oppose being in this criminal justice-themed event … and then the criminal justice system cracked down.”
Protesters' focus has shifted to the seven people arrested after the march, Johnson said.
Three — Prisca Carpenter, Rebecca Ruiz Lichter and Sarai Robles-Mendez — remained in jail Monday afternoon. The other four arrested were cited and released Saturday night.
Carpenter, whose bail is $78,000, was arrested on suspicion of committing two felonies — taking a prisoner from police custody and criminal threats. She also faces misdemeanor resisting arrest.
Ruiz Lichter was arrested on suspicion of taking a prisoner from police, which is a felony. Her $50,000 bail was posted, but she refused it and remained in jail.
Robles-Mendez was also arrested on suspicion of taking a prisoner from police custody.
A news conference is scheduled at the 16th Street BART station at 6 p.m. Wednesday.