Attorneys for four young people arrested during the Dolores Hill Bomb skateboard event last June filed suit today in federal court asking for substantial damages after police swept up 113 people, held many for as long as seven hours in the cold without food or water or bathroom facilities, and violated the city’s own rules on parental notification.
The federal case seeks class action status, which would allow the attorneys to represent all of the young people arrested at the event.
Rachel Lederman, the lead counsel in the case, announced at a press conference today that “the police didn’t follow any of their policies” and that the plaintiffs were seeking not only money damages but a court order declaring them innocent of any crimes and sealing all arrest records.
Remember, the majority of the people arrested were under 18. These are local high school kids who are applying to college, looking for jobs, and thinking about the future—and a criminal record, or even a record of an arrests, can be an impediment.
Although none of them face charges at this point, the district attorney could still file against them until next June.
“We want their records cleansed,” she said.
The SFPD reported that a Muni train was vandalized that night, and it appears District Attorney Brook Jenkins is filing charges in connection with that incident.
But that happened at 18th and Church, and Lederman said that none of the people caught up in the mass arrests at 17th and Dolores have been connected to any criminal activity.
In fact, the complaint states, some of the people arrested weren’t involved in any way in the skateboarding event; they were just teenagers in the Mission trying to get home:
Plaintiff LUCY RIOS, age fifteen, ate dinner at her fifteen-year-old friend Deven’s home on Potrero Hill before she and Deven and another friend rented scooters at 8:18pm to go across town to a friend’s house, taking the bike lane on 17th Street. At 17th and Guerrero, they paused for a few minutes to chat with someone they knew. Suddenly, SAN FRANCISCO police officers came running toward them on Guerrero Street, yelling at them to go the other way on 17th Street, toward Dolores. When Lucy and her friends complied and moved west up 17th as instructed, they saw a large number of young people coming east on 17th toward them. They tried to get off 17th Street and go north on Guerrero, but they were stopped by police.
“My friends and I didn’t even know about the Dolores Street Bomb and were just using the bike lane on 17th Street when out of nowhere, police surrounded us,” Rios said in a press statement.
Approximately 113 people were trapped and arrested in the 3500 block of 17th Street, between Dolores and Guerrero Streets, including the plaintiffs. Approximately 81 minors, and 32 adults were arrested. About half the minors were children under sixteen. The vast majority of the adults were eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds. 33. There was no probable cause for the arrests of the plaintiffs and the approximately 109 others who were trapped and arrested with them. 34. The majority of the arrestees were youth of color including 57 Latinx children, youth and adults, and 20 Black children, youth and adults. In comparison, San Francisco’s population is only 15.9% Latinx and 5.7% Black. whatever was happening, the SFPD officers told them to go back toward Dolores Street. When they complied, they were trapped between police lines.
Meanwhile, Eriberto and the other boys were handcuffed and searched, and detained on the street until additional buses arrived. Lucy’s friend Deven and others were cold and asked the officers to zip up their jackets and put up their hoods because their hands were ziptied behind their backs, but they refused. Deven asked to use the bathroom but was refused. Many of the skaters were wearing baggy pants, and after their belts were taken, Eriberto and some of the other boys’ pants were falling down and they struggled to hold them up while ziptied. One boy vomited, but the SFPD officers just told the children to move that boy away from the rest of the group and left them to care for their peer on the street. Eriberto gave the boy his water bottle. The police did not provide any water or food.
Naomi Lopez, whose daughter was arrested, said she and many other parents arrived on the scene to try to get their children released, but the police refused. Police wouldn’t allow most parents to pass warm clothing to the kids, who were held outside as the evening grew colder and the wind picked up.
“It’s sad and disappointing that these kids had to go through such a traumatic experience,” Lopez, who is a Dolores Park neighbor, said.
Lederman told me that under SFPD policy, when a juvenile is arrested, the police need to notify the parents and contact the Juvenile Unit of the Public Defender’s Office. That did not happen.
[48hills doesn’t normally use the names or statements of people under 18 in legal proceedings, but Lederman, as their attorney, told us today that we had consent and permission.]
So now the city is going to have to spend a lot of money fighting this case, or a lot of money settling it—and with a class of 113 people, settlement would almost certainly run into the millions of dollars.
“This shouldn’t even be a police issue,” Lederman said. The Recreation and Parks Department knew this was going to happen many weeks in advance, and could have worked with the skateboard community to find a way to sanction a fun event.
“Skateboarding,” she said, “is not a crime.”