Politically motivated police violence in the San Francisco Bay Area

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

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

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

July ’98 update: Channel 5 ignores the eyewitnesses to a police motorcycle 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 website 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.

September 26, 1997 – Entirely peaceful riders harassed, intimidated, and assaulted (again)

August 29, 1997 – The riders demonstrate their good will

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

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 on July 25th in San Francisco?

“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

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