Two hundred state law enforcement officers will head into San Francisco to help enforce a curfew Sunday night that the mayor implemented in the aftermath of peaceful protests Saturday that were later marred by vandalism and looting.
Mayor London Breed said Sunday morning that she made the request last night as first responders answered calls to dozens of fires and vandalism across The City after a peaceful protest against the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, a black man. Breed said the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will remain in effect as needed.
Breed said Sunday during a virtual press conference that she understands the anger and hurt people feel over Floyd’s death after a police officer knelt on his neck for eight to nine minutes as bystanders pleaded for him to stop, a horrific scene captured on video. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, respectively considered unintentional and consciously taking unreasonable risk of causing death.
“It’s hard not to have a reaction, it’s hard not to feel the pain,” Breed said. “When it rises to the level of a crime, we have an obligation. We will do what we need to do so people are safe.”
Protesters held a peaceful rally at the steps of City Hall Saturday afternoon and marched down Market Street. By the nighttime, responders were answering to calls about fires being intentionally set on the street, in businesses and vehicles and vandalism concentrated around downtown San Francisco.
Police made 10 felony arrests for looting and detained several more Saturday night, Chief Bill Scott said. SFPD will “enhance” the charges for breaking into businesses during the coronavirus state of emergency, he added.
The curfew will apply to everyone except healthcare workers and other frontline workers, “authorized” media representatives, and unhoused people sleeping on the street. This means businesses must also be closed starting at 8 p.m., though the reopening timeline will continue.
State law enforcement is in the process of being assigned to help enforce the curfew but some are expected to come from California Highway Patrol, Scott said.
“If you’re not supposed to be out, you’re subject to being stopped, you’re subject to being cited,” Scott said. “If you’re one of those people and you get stopped, you must understand we are just doing our jobs. We are doing what you pay us to do.”
Scott, who became a bit emotional in recalling when he worked as a police officer in Los Angeles urged people to think about the more than 60 people who died during the April 26, 1992 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. “Stay at home, ” he said.
But the curfew led to fears that it would further escalate police conflict. Both Minneapolis and Los Angeles have implemented curfews and there have been reports of cases of bystanders and journalists being hit with rubber bullets.
“A curfew will just escalate things by giving cops an excuse to hurt peaceful protesters, journalists, and observers,” said Scott Feeney, a San Francisco housing activist, on Twitter. “Rethink this before people die.”