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Teens sue S.F. police alleging ‘illegal’ arrests after skateboard event that turned chaotic

Excerpt from The San Francisco Chronicle

By David Hernandez | Read the full article here.

Four teens filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking class-action status against San Francisco police alleging they wrongfully arrested a group of young participants and revelers after a summer skateboarding event known as the “Dolores Hill Bomb” turned chaotic.

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco federal court, alleges officers in riot gear needlessly “corralled” teens and young adults and detained them for hours in the cold without legal grounds. The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, claims the police response violated the group’s constitutional rights to gather in public and be free of unreasonable arrests, searches and seizures, among other claims.

The lawsuit was announced Tuesday afternoon during a news conference at Dolores Park. Standing on the corner of Dolores and 18th streets, attorney Rachel Lederman said police were supposedly concerned about safety during the event, but “it was police that endangered these youth.” She called the ordeal an “illegal mass arrest.” 

According to the lawsuit, the Police Department was aware of plans for the event and did not connect with the skateboarding community to discuss safety concerns. Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, whose district includes the area where the young people were detained, previously said there were several community meetings before the event.

On the afternoon of the event, police and the Municipal Transportation Agency set up barriers but did not post signs that the event was prohibited, according to the lawsuit. The suit claims officers confined teens and young adults and didn’t allow them to leave. According to the lawsuit, a 15-year-old girl, Carmel Lopez, who is named as a plaintiff, heard police order attendees to leave the park, but did not hear specific instructions about how to leave.

The lawsuit claims there was no probable cause to arrest the teens and young adults, many of whom are Latino and Black. The lawsuit alleges officers violated a department policy requiring officers to give crowds some time to leave an area and designate a safe and clear route for crowds to disperse. 

According to the lawsuit, those arrested were detained for hours as the night turned cold and windy. Officers turned down their requests for access to bathrooms and refused to release them to their parents until hours later, the lawsuit says.