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San Francisco Sued Over Police Crackdown on Dolores Park Skating Event

Excerpt from The San Francisco Standard

By Jennifer Wadsworth | Read the full story here.

A group of teenagers are suing over San Francisco’s police crackdown on the Dolores Park Hill Bomb, a yearly skating event that this past summer led to mass arrests of more than 100 people—most of them children. 

Filed Tuesday and first reported by Mission Local, the federal class-action lawsuit claims police swept up scores of kids in an illegal dragnet and subjected them to “prolonged, inhumane outdoor detention.”

Parents of the four young plaintiffs, aged 13 to 17, say the widely publicized ordeal—which unfolded from the day of the hill bomb on July 8 into the wee hours the next day—left their kids traumatized and never even resulted in criminal charges. 

Rachel Lederman—a senior attorney with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund who’s representing the plaintiffs with fellow lawyers Bobbie Stein and Gabriela Lopez—called the San Francisco Police Department’s response to the skating event striking for a number of reasons. 

For one thing, she said the tactics were heavy-handed and outdated. 

“It’s been ages since the San Francisco police have conducted a sweep, mass arrests like this one,” she told The Standard in a phone call Tuesday evening. “They used to do this in the 1980s and ‘90s … and I had done some cases with some mass arrests, where they sealed off blocks and just gathered up everyone indiscriminately. But they had pretty much stopped doing that for quite a long time.”

Then there’s the age of everyone involved.

“I don’t ever remember there ever being a mass arrest that included anywhere close to this many minors,” Lederman added. “More than 80 were under 18 and almost all the rest were 18 or 19 years old.”

And yet, she said, officers didn’t seem to know what to do with them.

Eighty-three of the 117 people arrested were children, Lederman noted. Many of them were kept for several hours without food, denied access to toilets and barred from contacting their parents, the lawsuit alleges. Many of the kids were dressed for a sunny day when police arrested them, Lederman said, and then left handcuffed in the cold as the night wore on, temperatures dropped and winds picked up. 

“Parents were showing up because they were tracking their kids’ phones,” she said, “but police refused to let them talk to their kids and wouldn’t let them give their kids jackets.” 

The last child wasn’t released until after 4 the next morning, Lederman said. One young teenager walked home by themselves at 2 or 3 in the morning, she added, and police released some of the kids to their parents without verifying legal guardianship. 

“Pretty much every policy for detention of juveniles went out the window,” Lederman said.