Politically motivated police violence in the
San Francisco Bay Area

July 25, 1997

July 31, 1998

UPDATE: October 15, 1999 - Sgt. John Fewer, one of the participants in attacks on Critical Mass cyclists, is charged by 73 year old Ya Fang Li with assaulting her in the parking lot of 49er stadium. According to Li, Fewer grabbed her in a chokehold, kicked her legs out from under her, slammed her to the pavement, and then yanked and twisted her arm behind her back: the very same techniques SFPD have used regularly against cyclists.

Ms. Li was charged "misdemeanor commercial trespassing" after she was released from the hospital. She committed the "crime" of removing empty cans from a dumpster to help feed her family. - The Examiner story

For more about law and order in San Francisco...

The realities of the First Amendment:
A realpolitik primer for protesters

  • What a police riot looks like and how they are staged to discredit protesters: one well documented example
  • A documented example of police/media cooperation in misrepresenting police harassment operations
  • How the US news media demonizes dissent
  • What to do when the hammer falls in your community
  • News media and police cooperate in the cover up of the death of a bicycle messengeron behalf of a corporate client

  • Willie Brown Responds to
    Critics of His Transit Policy

    12 months of police violence against Critical Mass cyclists in San Francisco: Initiated by Mayor Willie Brown in the summer of 1997 and tolerated continuously by Chief Fred Lau and the Police Commission ever since

    Left. Young woman attacked during the Market Street police riot. (7-25-97). In spite of numerous witnesses to the contrary, she was charged with assaulting a police officer. Charges were dropped without comment or apology by District Attorney Hallinan nearly nine months later when it became clear the police reports of the incident were falsified. Right. Young man accused of running a red light on a bicycle (7-31-98) A bystander, a 21 year old woman, was assaulted by police in this same incident.

    Witness: "I saw (the policeman) punch her in the head
    for absolutley no reason."

    Last summer, Mayor Willie Brown gave the green light to a program of systematic police harassment of cyclists. The incident which initiated this program, a premeditated mass assault on an entirely peaceful group of pedestrians and cyclists on Market Street, was directed by high level police officials including Chief Fred Lau, who personally authorized the use of riot bats via police radio; Deputy Chief Dick Holder, a long time friend of Willie Brown; and Commander John Portoni, who was promoted to his new position the day before the July '97 Critical Mass ride.

    Witness: "I have never before witnessed such brutality
    outside of war documentaries."

    Note the weight of the officers leaning onto the unprotected necks of their victims. These holds are considered "last resort" and "potentially lethal" by hand-to-hand combat experts, yet they are used regularly by SFPD on Critical Mass riders. No police officer has ever been investigated for his conduct at a Critical Mass event in spite of scores of reports and complaints of violence, some of it documented on video.

    UPDATE: March 27, 1999 - UC Berkeley and UCLA faculty member Howard Besser sues the city of San Francisco for its conduct during the July 25, 1997 ride and wins a judgement. For a press release and copy of Besser's brief

    A recommended resource for pedestrians, cyclists, and mass transit users seeking justice: Conservation Law Foundation

  • Critical Mass essays, flyers, images from San Francisco, 1992-1998 by Chris Carlsson, Jim Swanson, Hugh D'Andrade and friends

  • Human Rights Watch report on the San Francisco Police Department

  • Order the video: "July 25: The Secret is Out"

  • Methods for cyclists to protect themselves from SFPD officers who violate the law

  • The rights and safety of cyclists and pedestrians are ignored in most U.S. cities

  • The $20 million auto industry plan to "influence" social policy in the UK

    The story of the July 25, 1997 police riot on Market Street has been completely censoredby local news outlets

    July '98 update: Channel 5 ignores the eye witnesses to police motorcyle accident and runs its own version of events instead.

    Who orders the violence - and why?

    This site is dedicated to victims of police violence as well as to the many good officers who operate with integrity and professionalism. The tolerance of criminal cops and their use by politicians is a grave blight on our society and injures us all.

    About Brasscheck, the producers of this site.

  • September 2, 1998 - Another SFPD/local news media misrepresenation of a cyclist fatality, this time involving a MUNI bus. Contrary to press reports, the San Francisco woman who was killed was wearing a helmet and did not "suddenly swerve" in front of the bus. The pattern of distortion is strikingly similar to the one used to falsify the record of the death of bike messenger Casey Moe including the fact that the story became markedly less accurate after the media was briefed by the SFPD.
  • July 27, 1998 - Recently published transcripts of police radio communication the night of the July 25 ride reveal extensive evidence of pre-meditation on the part of the SFPD, the SFFD, and the mayor's office to create traffic congestion and chaos and use these conditions as the pretense for mass arrests.
  • July 8, 1998 - Human Rights Watch publishes a 450 page study on out-of-control police departments and cites San Francisco as a prime example.
  • How one group defied the odds and got one bad cop removed from the San Francisco police force - MUST READING for people who are serious about addressing the problem of police violence
  • About attacks against this web site by operatives of the Mayor's press relations office (the libel lawsuit)

    All charges dropped. Just as we predicted on July 25, 1997. It took the local newspapers, which had full access to the witnesses and photographic evidence, until April 3, 1998 to begin to start reporting some of the facts about the mayhem they helped create and then covered up.

    Police misconduct in your community? Some suggestions about what you can do about it.

    July 7, 1998 - Bennett Hall and Eugene Hill, two of the pedestrians injured in the police riot on Market Street, filed suit today against the City of San Francisco and the San Francisco Police Department.

    April 2, 1998 - The last case against the last defendant from the Critical Mass event in July 1997 was finally dismissed today due to the lack of credibility of the police reports. The defendant was prosecuted for nine months until District Attorney Hallinan finally admitted there was no case.
    February 27, 1998 - Charges against the woman in this photo were finally dropped today after nearly nine months of prosecution by DA Hallinan. As in previous cases, the police reports were suspected of being perjured.
    February 26, 1998 - Reluctant to present obviously perjured police reports in court, the San Francisco District Attorney's office finally drops charges against photographer Bennett Hall who was harassed, assaulted, and arrested for taking pictures of police assaults on cyclists and pedestrians.

  • Background
  • Statement from Bennett Hall
    September 26, 1997 - Entirely peaceful riders harassed, intimidated, and assaulted (again)

  • VIDEO stills from the Broadway Tunnel - Riot police under the command of Deputy Chief Dick Holder harass and assault cyclists
  • At the Broadway Tunnel: Police misconduct
  • The 5th Anniverary Newspaper
  • September 26th - Critical Mass is Five Years Old

    August 29, 1997 - The riders demonstrate their good will

  • Report: The August 29, 1997 Ride
  • Audio files featuring local media propaganda and the pompous and dishonest statements of Deputy Chief "Dick" Holder plus 14 photos of the August ride
    August 28, 1997 - Changing the facts of a young man's death to please a patron

  • Bike messenger Casey Moe killed by driver with a suspended license. Chronicle's story changes details in a manner consistently favorable to the vehicle's corportate owner, Brown-favorite JC Decaux.

    July 25, 1997 - The riders set up and bashed

  • Police violence against cyclists and pedestrians: 7/25/97
  • Police ignored attacks on cyclists by motorists
  • Cyclist hit from behind by club and then held in club choke hold
  • Bay Area attorneys come to the aid of the cyclists
  • Additional eye witnesses photos, and video sought
  • Do you know these people?
  • How you can help
    Follow the ride - The Photos of Matthew Udall

    Reporters from the old Internet Gazette regroup to come to the aid of San Franciscan bicyclists

    What happened July 25th in San Francisco?

  • Chronology of events leading to the July 25th ride - and an answer to the question: "why now?"
  • Unprovoked assaults on cyclists and pedestrians by police on Market near Powell
  • Pedestrian attacked by police for taking pictures
  • The eye witness accounts the local media didn't report
  • The disturbing record of the San Francisco Police Department
  • Maps of the Market Street police riot
  • About the local news media blackout
  • The world is watching - letters from around the world
  • Bay Area attorneys come to the aid of the cyclists

    Aid for the injured

  • Free legal assistance for victims of physical assault and/or illegal arrest
  • Action: How you can help
  • Do you know these people?
  • For e-mail updates


  • Five years of Critical Mass
  • Contact information for San Franicisco officials
  • The cover up of the true cause of Willie Brown's August 28th limousine accident
  • Links for researchers

    "Six million Americans bike to work. That includes, for the first time in U.S. cycling history, growing numbers of low-income workers. A 1995 Harris poll found that another 21 million would bike to work if conditions were right, meaning if it were safe and they had a place to park.

    That's not an outlandish number. Half the national labor force lives within a 30-minute bike ride of work. Almost two-thirds of all automobile trips in this country are five miles or less." USA Today

    Resources for media analysis

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