By Erin McElroy
JUNE 30, 2014 — Seven queer activists were arrested on Saturday night, June 28th, following a protest against a San Francisco Pride prison-themed Kink.com party.
The seven arrested included a National Lawyers’ Guild Legal Observer, four people of color, and one trans woman.
Several protesters were clubbed and beaten to the ground after a protest numbering several hundred marched to the Armory Building at 14th and Mission Streets in the Mission District. As of Monday morning, four of the arrestees have been released, and three are being held waiting an arraignment that will most likely take place on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Sheriff’s Department personnel confirmed that Rebecca Luisa Ruiz-Lichter, Prisca Carpenter, and Sarai Robles-Mendez are in custody. The charges are ones historically used to repress protesters, such as lynching (which in today’s legal terms has been removed from its racist legacy and is now congruent to resisting arrest).
The march, organized by Gay Shame (www.gayshamesf.org) and LAGAI (www.lagai.org), left the 16th Street BART Plaza at 10:20pm following a series of festive dance parties, and headed two blocks to the Armory Building, where Kink.com was hosting a party fetishizing the prison industrial complex.
Promoters of the party invited guests to “get arrested” and enjoy “solitary confinement, showers, jailbreak, love and lust, freedom and confinement” in what was called “Pride at the Armory | WE Party Prison of Love – SF.”
The protesters argued that the party was an insensitive event that profited off of the brutality suffered by trans women and gender nonconforming people of color, who are so often funneled into the prison industrial complex. As one of the banners read, “There are no prisons in a queer paradise.” Another explained, “The Police State Ain’t Sexy.” The Brass Liberation Orchestra played protest music, as activists chanted, danced, and projected statistics about the prison industrial complex upon the walls of the Armory.
As far as I saw, the protest was peaceful, and no one was hurt.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine that a protest could be a threat to the people at Kink’s party – Kink.com is, literally, a fortress, with thick brick walls. The doors are locked and guarded.
Kink.com spokesperson Mike Stabile said that while most of the protest was peaceful, “a handful” of activists were using a slingshot to fling projectiles at the Armory and throwing fruits and vegetables. He said some of the people entering and leaving the party were harassed; at one point, he said, protesters tried to enter the party and that a security guard was punched in the stomach. “At that point, we decided it was too violent and called the police,” he said.
I saw no slingshot or projectiles and I didn’t see anyone punch a guard, although with several hundred people on the scene it was impossible to witness everything. In fact, after the protest broke up, people were talking about how peaceful it had been.
After an hour of protesting the party, activists marched back to the 16th Street BART Plaza to regroup, debrief, and bid each other goodnight. Within ten minutes, police cars stormed the area. Several protesters were tackled by the police, seemingly randomly, much to their surprise.
Carpenter was arrested first, and was thrown violently onto the ground by six officers. A legal observer was picked out of the crowd and arrested, as were other activists of color. A trans woman, peacefully minding her bicycle on the corner next to me, was pointed to and then approached by the police, who instantly handcuffed her much to her confusion.
When I asked on what grounds they were arresting her, numerous police officers stated that they did not know. When I finally spoke to their commanding officer, I was told that she had been identified by Kink.com as a provocateur.
According to the officers on the scene, a security guard working for Kink had described those he recalled seeing at the protest to the police. For instance, he described Carpenter, who identifies as genderqueer, as “an Asian woman with short hair.”
The only grounds for arresting the trans woman described above was that she was with a bicycle, and police were looking for someone with a bicycle. Needless to say, countless people had bicycles at the protest.
Later in the night, after being detained for hours at the Mission Police Station, she was released with no charges or a citation, and only an apology.
Stabile said he’s still trying to track down the details, since much of the Kink.com staff was working all weekend and as of this morning not all of them were available. SFPD Public Affairs hasn’t gotten back to us either.
But we do know that the incident has landed three activists in jail, two of them facing bail of more than $50,000.
“This is a travesty–on the anniversary of the famed Stonewall Rebellion, where trans and queer people rose up against police brutality, that seven people would be arrested for protesting an SF Pride-sanctioned party that celebrated state violence and prison rape,” said Mary Lou Ratchet, an affiliate of Gay Shame.
It is ironic that those targeted by the police during this action – trans and POC queer abolitionists – were protesting the very system that led to their arrest. While Kink.com was hosting fantasy prison enactments within its brick walls, queers protesting the fetishization of prison were violently tackled by the police and jailed. Those who participated in the Kink.com party entered and exited the prison party with free will. The three incarcerated protesters have no free will in exiting the jail that now nonconsensually ensconces them.
Organizers are asking supports to call District Attorney George Gascón (415 553-1751) and demand the dropping of all charges against Rebecca Ruiz-Lichter, Prisca Carpenter, and Sarai Robles-Mendez.
There is also an online petition: https://www.change.org/petitions/office-of-san-francisco-district-attorney-george-gasc%C3%B3n-drop-the-charges-against-rebecca-ruiz-lichter-prisca-carpenter-sarai-robles-mendez?utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_facebook_mobile&recruiter=1204453