California Highway Patrol Break Up a Peaceful Protest and a Wheelchair

By John Taylor Wildfeuer

   jt.wildfeuer@gmail.com

A coalition of advocacy groups clashed with the San Francisco Police Department on Aug. 21 during a national rally protesting Police violence. Protesters were allegedly injured and had their personal items confiscated without cause, According to a petition to “Hold SFPD Accountable”.

 

Since the death of George Floyd, many including City College students have taken to the streets to protest the use of excessive force by police in America. Bay Area students have a long history of protest, notably the Third World Liberation Strikes of 1968, which fought for more inclusion and diversity on the campuses of San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley.

 

Human Empowerment (through) Radical Optimism, HERO Tent, is a Bay Area non-profit organization that was present at the day’s events and documented the events through video and photographs on their Instagram page. 

HERO Tent’s members and supporters showed up at “March For The Dead” near Gold Gate Bridge, San Francisco on August 21, 2020. March for The Dead is one of a number of marches across the country this day to memorialize those who have died of COVID-19 and to demand changes in the national leadership that significantly exacerbated the pandemic. The people pictured wish not to be named. Photo by Terry Scussel/Courtesy of Pro Bono Photo.

In the footage, police officers and protesters can be seen pushing against each other. Officers are seen occasionally throwing shields or signs from within the crowd, and shouting can be heard throughout. 

 

“[A member of HERO Tent] had their wrist sprained. Another was punched in the face by an officer. Another was shoved to the ground by an officer. Unfortunately, these instances were not recorded, and conveniently the police were not wearing their body cameras.”

 

The California Highway Patrol, CHP, was the lead agency facilitating the demonstration, according to the San Francisco Police Department. CHP has not responded to two requests for comment as of Sep. 1.

 

HERO Tent’s president and CEO Kiana Simmons founded the organization in late May after participating in protests after the death of George Floyd, “I started this out of passion for the movement around racial inequality in the United States and it has turned into a grassroots community non-profit.”

“On the very first day of protests in San Jose I watched SJPD fire into a crowd of unarmed people. I was tear-gassed, pushed with batons, chased down in the street, not for breaking any laws but for exercising my constitutionally protected right of free speech,” Simmons added. “Another board member of H.E.R.O, who is physically disabled and was in a wheelchair for much of the summer had her wheelchair broken by police at multiple protests. One of these high-intensity protests being the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge Protest.”

 

On Aug. 30, several City College students attended a counter-protest as supporters of President Donald Trump marched across the Golden Gate Bridge into the city to “save San Francisco” as a part of Brandon Straka’s “Walk Away” campaign.

 

Brandon Straka, a New York hairstylist, gained a following on social media when, during the 2018 midterm elections, he started the WalkAway campaign to encourage others to leave the Democratic Party for the Republican Party, as he did himself.

 

Simmons says “A week after this protest there was a MAGA counter-protest that walked across the Golden Gate Bridge. They were not met with any resistance from the police.”

 

Students who protest may face many obstacles, from the COVID-19 pandemic to complications with city and state authorities

 

A protestor and City College student Skylar Viss, said this about her experience, “It’s a different world out there, but the same struggle. Between issues of policing and racial inequality, the biggest changes, I would say, are the masks.”

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