By accident or by design:
the police riot on Market Street

This series of photos and video stills
documents the sequence of events that led to violent attacks on pedestrians and cyclists by employees of the San Francisco Police Department on Market Street near Powell at approximately 7:30 PM on July 25, 1997

Maps of the Market Street police riot

The disturbing record of the
San Francisco Police Department

(9) Eye Witness Reports

Report 1

The Bennett Hall Case: A pedestrian and professional photographer assaulted and arrested for taking pictures at Market Street near Powell.

Report 2

Witnesses Needed
"The Camera Caper"

If you were at Market and Powell streets near the Cable Car Turnaround on Friday, July 29, about 7:00 PM, during the Critical Mass Ride and witnessed the actions surrounding:

The assault and arrest by police of photographer Bennett Hall while he was taking pictures of the bicycle ride.

The detention and arrest of Amber Colliton who was trying to protect Bennett Hall and the camera from the police.

The arrest of Eugene Hill who was tackled, beaten with a night stick and sprayed with pepper spray, by police after recovering the camera from the sidewalk.

Please contact one of the following persons to help us in our legal efforts, and to help prevent this type of behavior by the SFPD.

Bennett Hall - (415) 434-8745
Eugene Hill - (415) 957-1788

Atty. Frank Winston - (415) 989-9300
Atty. Randolph Daar - (415) 986-5591
Atty. Kristen B. Wohadlo - (415) 986-5591
Atty. Matthew Kumin - (415) 434-8454

Additional legal information for people injured or unlawfully detained by police on the night of July 25th, 1997 in San Francisco.

Report 3

Source: Steve Bodzin

My friend was not arrested, but he was thrown to the ground and his bike was damaged while we were obeying the law and obeying an illegal police order to "clear the street".

Report 4

Source: Jim Herron Zamora (Examiner Staff - article July 26th, 1997)

Although my press card was dangling from my neck, one officer nearly tackled me. But he tripped and another cyclist almost collided with him. He decided to grab that one instead: she was already in his hands as I pedaled just outside the quickly closing dragnet.

Report 5

Source: Beth Kohn

I am writing as a commuter cyclist who participated in Friday's Critical Mass & was shocked by the brutal actions of the police. I am an attorney and I know police misconduct when I see it.

Contrary to the majority of the media coverage, I witnessed no belligerent behavior by cyclists, and relatively few hostile motorists. The shameful behavior I witnessed was from police officers present. At 7:30, I was on Market Street (across the street from Macy's) with one offshoot of the Mass. Without provocation or warning, police officers approached riders and began lunging at them with clubs. I saw one officer grab a cyclist in a chokehold and throw him to the ground. There was no order to disperse, and no one knew why the cyclists present were being attacked.

When I was able to escape from the horrendous scene and continue home down Market Street, a police car followed and warned that if we didn't get off the street, we would be arrested.

Report 6

Source: Tom Kiernan

I rode in this event (my first) and can say that I saw police at Justin Herman Plaza, but at 6:30 there was no police escort and no one directing the crowd as to the correct route. Once I saw the ride had begun, I joined the crowd and just followed.

Subsequently, the only police activity I saw was more to the detriment of public safety rather than to "to serve and protect." I saw police cars ride head on into the crowds of cyclists nearly running many of us over. I saw police manhandle riders and their bikes without any resistance by the riders to police orders. I saw police on motorbikes racing along sidewalks paying no attention to pedestrians. I saw police threaten riders with their billy clubs. I definitely saw arrests without reasonable cause. Many of us were stopped at a light by police on Market Street. They would not allow us to pass. After a large group had collected, they grabbed a few riders who were peacefully standing at the light waiting for direction from the police and threw them violently into a van.

If you have any questions on this, I would be happy to answer them. I also swear that all of the above information is accurate and that I witnessed it all with my own eyes. You can feel free to publish any of this information including my name.

Report 7

Source: Raman Boucher

Previous Critical Mass rides were accompanied by bicycle cops and only a few armed motorcycle cops. This time there were several cop cars (a first in my memory), many motorcycles (10 to 20), and a multitude of heavily armed officers. Why was such an army necessary at a peaceful event?

Why did squared cars and riot vans with officers in riot gear surround peaceful bicyclists riding down the street? I was there, I saw the bikers trying to ride, but being blocked by cops. One cop was quoted as saying War is hell as he took the bicycle of a participant (she had been standing on the sidewalk). As far as any violence on the part of motorists or bikers, such things are not suitable for the discussion of why Critical Mass is being targeted by the government. There was not any widespread violence by bicyclists, but only altercations between pairs of human beings. These would have happened with or without Critical Mass, and must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. There wasnt even wide-spread dissent among motorists for our cause. For every angry motorist, there were at least 5 cheering, supportive motorists.

Report 8

Source: Justin R.K. Fitzsimons

And the police did nothing to help the situation, every time there seemed to even be the slightest sign of a problem there were 4 or 5 of them standing there with there batons out, seeming like they were just inviting us to make the first move. This is not a way to diffuse a situation, it is a way to create one. Tracey Iglehart quoted a cop as telling her "war is hell" when she told him that her impounded bike was her main method of transport. They were at war, we weren't. At least I don't think that all of us were at war, and I think that those who were should leave this movement alone.

Report 9

Source: Amanda Beecher Hickman

I want to encourage anyone who saw the police violence on Market near Civic Center to write to the Police Review Commission. I saw very little violence on the part of the cops most of the Friday CM, but this pack was really out of control, and it is my understanding that at least one of them has a record of violence. If you saw anyone's badge, or even if you saw what was going on at all and were upset about it, you should write in.

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