Mayor London Breed announced a curfew Saturday night and asked the National Guard to be on standby in the wake of an initially peaceful anti police-brutality protest that ended in looting and vandalism in downtown San Francisco.
The protest, triggered by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, was part of a nationwide wave of outrage that also prompted actions in Oakland, San Jose and Los Angeles, among many other cities across the country.
Speaking at a press briefing late Saturday, Breed said that she understood the anger and hurt protesters were feeling in the wake of Floyd’s death, which occurred when an officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes in a horrific scene that was captured on video by a bystander.
“What we have seen earlier, with the peaceful protest, with the expressions of hurt and anger, they are understandable,” Breed said. “Especially during this time when we are socially distancing ourselves from others, that pain is real.”
“But what we are seeing tonight, the violence, the vandalism, the crimes that are committed in our city, not just against property but against other people, that’s something that we will not tolerate.”
Breed said The City would implement an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, effective immediately, and she has reached out to the governor to have the National Guard on standby.
“To be clear, this is the last thing I want to do as mayor. I want peace, I want protest, but I don’t want the kind of violence we have seen,” Breed said.
Saturday’s protest began with a gathering at Civic Center around noon. A largely peaceful, racially diverse crowd marched through The City over the course of the afternoon and into the evening, traveling east down Market Street, pausing for a standoff with police at the on-ramps to the Bay Bridge, and later gathering outside the Mission Police Station at 17th and Valencia Streets.
Organizers of the daytime march announced they were formally ending it at that point, according to those at the scene.
As evening fell, however, the group moved back toward Market Street and on to Union Square, where police guarded businesses.
It was there that some in the crowd began tagging buildings and ATM machines, pulling down signs and barriers, stacking trash bins in the street and smashing windows.
Others in the crowd could be seen at various points trying to stop the vandalism.
Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson said firefighters had responded to multiple fires that were intentionally set. Police Chief Bill Scott said officers were dealing with looting, broken windows and assaults, and were making arrests.
“We get it, there’s frustration. We can take the profanity, we can take the frustration,” Scott said, but warned “First Amendment activity is one thing. Criminal activity is a totally different thing.”
#SanFrancisco protest has been stopped in front of Mission PD for about 30 minutes.
No signs of violence or escalation on our end, but police just went back inside the station to pull out larger weapons. pic.twitter.com/AiqngujUVQ
— Sasha Perigo (@sashaperigo) May 31, 2020
— Kevin N. Hume (@KevinNHume) May 31, 2020
— Kevin N. Hume (@KevinNHume) May 31, 2020
The protest, one of several scheduled in The City over the next few days, came after a night of often-destructive protests in a number of cities.
In downtown Oakland, Friday night’s march, which drew an estimated 8,000 people, began peacefully but by the end of the night, car fires had been set, rocks and Molotov cocktails thrown, storefront windows shattered and some shelves looted.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf decried the damage at a press conference Saturday afternoon, noting that many businesses are already struggling to recover from closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Protest and free speech are part of Oakland’s DNA,” Schaaf said. “But these vandals, these violent actors are using peaceful protesters as a shield to hide behind.”
Police and businesses were gearing up Saturday for another possible night of protests.
“We want to make clear that this will not be tolerated,” Schaaf said. “Tonight we ask you to stay home.”
Police arrested 17 people and detained another 40. More arrests may come following investigations; a review of surveillance video may also identify some 40 to 60 looters, said Interim Police Chief Susan Manheimer. One person was cited, and one vehicle was towed.
Seventeen Oakland officers, two Oakland firefighters and seven officers from outside agencies were injured, the chief said.
Manheimer released a statement via the police department’s Twitter account pleading with demonstrators to remain peaceful and respectful.
Derek Chauvin, the officer who allegedly killed Floyd, and three other arresting officers involved in the incident were fired the next day. On Friday, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Examiner staff photographer Kevin Hume and Bay City News contributed to this report
— Jules. (@jules_caron) May 30, 2020