SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott offered an update Monday on the weekend’s protests and looting across the city, along with a new tally on arrests.
Scott said while the protests over the weekend were by and large peaceful, there were groups who were bent on confrontation and destruction who used the cover of the protests to engage in vandalism and other crime. Among those arrested were several people who launched explosives and had others in a backpack on Sunday night.
Two police officers were assaulted on Sunday, one with a skateboard and a second with a stun gun-like device, Scott said. Two suspects were arrested in those attacks. A loaded gun was also recovered, Scott said.
On Saturday, 33 people were arrested for looting and the district attorney’s office was preparing to file charges against 19 of them, Scott said. Another 87 people were arrested for curfew violations Sunday night, 34 of those in front of City Hall.
Scott said there were times Saturday when his officers were overwhelmed by the amount looting and violence exhibited throughout the city, and he lamented the destruction of private property during the ongoing public health emergency.
Raw Video: San Francisco Officials Provide Update Weekend Protests, Looting, Arrests
“The last few days have been very trying. Saturday night as was reported we had looting, we had massive vandalism damage in our city. The downtown area, Union Square, Westfield Mall, there were stores across the city that were looted, and it was a very trying time. We didn’t have enough resources. Officers felt overwhelmed,” said Scott. “I went out Saturday night and talked to officers and it was pretty sobering. Because we were overwhelmed. Yet we did all we could and we were able to do some things very successfully … we didn’t have any structures burned … but a lot of people lost a lot. Businesses were destroyed, businesses were looted, property was lost, those are real economic challenges that now people who have spent their lives building their livelihood have to restart and take yet another hit on top of what they had to take on with the COVID.”
Scott said Mayor London Breed asked for additional help from the state of California and Governor Gavin Newsom’s office and the state responded with 208 additional law enforcement officers on Sunday.
“They were a tremendous help,” said Scott. “I told you Saturday night it was just a feeling of being overwhelmed, Last night, the officers had a sparkle in their eyes because they were given the resources and given the support by the mayor’s curfew order to do what was needed to keep our city safe.”
Scott said the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew would remain in effect for now, with no one except people performing essential services being allowed on the street.
“We embrace peaceful protests. We embrace in the city of San Francisco people to express themselves. We will not embrace violence against anyone, against other protesters, against police officers, against property, we will not accept that,” said Scott. “We’ve been given the tools to do our jobs and the curfew is another tool. And I understand believe me how restrictive this is, this is almost unprecedented in this city. But this is something that we have to do to keep order in the city at these current times.”
Scott also acknowledged the city’s Police Department has work to do itself on police reforms outlined by the U.S. Department of Justice back in 2016 amid a spate of controversial police shootings, including Mario Woods in 2015 and Jessica Williams in 2016.
“I understand what got us here,” he said. “For the people who want to express themselves, you are welcome in San Francisco. But we need you to do it peacefully.”
Sheriff Paul Miyamoto thanked the protest’s organizers and the majority of protestors for adhering to the curfew Sunday. He said while the city’s jail population remains low due to the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home order, it rose slightly over the weekend. As of Monday, 64 of the 87 people arrested Sunday have been released, while 23 remain in custody.
San Francisco Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson said that on Sunday, the department received 140 emergency medical calls and 50 fire-related calls, with firefighters extinguishing a total of 20 fires. “Saturday was much higher than that,” she said.
Nicholson also reminded protesters to continue wearing their masks and practice social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Scott encouraged protesters or members of the public wishing to file a complaint against any a law enforcement staff to do so with the city’s
Department of Police Accountability at (415) 241-7711 or at sfgov.org/dpa.
Sunday night as San Francisco police began imposing the city’s dusk-to-dawn curfew, a loud explosion echoed through Market Street, prompting the arrest of a group of protesters, authorities said.
It took place at Market and 2nd Streets, as police were following the group. Police Cmdr. Teresa Ewins said a group of people were arrested walking along Market and 2nd Streets after 8 p.m.; at least five of them were throwing what she described as Molotov cocktails.
Other explosive devices were also found in the possession of some of the protesters and at least one handgun was seized, police said.
“There was a huge explosion and fire came out of a tub because of something they threw in there,” Ewins said. “It’s pretty shocking people would do that…all the way down (the street) there were about four more explosions.”
Ewins said the incident was still under investigation, but that they made a stunning discovery when they looked inside one of the protester’s backpack.
“We’re still investigating it,” she said. “We’re not really sure, but we have a backpack with items in it, possibly fireworks, and also M80s or Molotov cocktails.”
Arson fires were a problem in the city throughout the violence-filled weekend. On Sunday, Mayor Breed told reporters that the San Francisco fire department was “inundated” with 911 calls during reporting fire Saturday night.
“They (the fire department) were inundated with calls about fires that were deliberately set,” she said. “With Molotov cocktails that were thrown and ignited fires. They were inundated.”
Fortunately, none of the dozens of calls the SFFD responded to developed into a major fire.
“The San Francisco Fire Department responded to scores of incidents in the downtown area between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, often for small fires that were quickly contained,” said Nicholson on Sunday.
Just after 8 p.m. at City Hall, police officers told a crowd of several hundred demonstrators that they were in violation of the curfew. They told the crowd they were in an unlawful assembly and were subject to arrest.
Some water bottles flew through the air at police, but otherwise there were no major confrontations. By 8:30, that crowd scattered, but not before police began making arrests.
Police say most of the demonstrators will probably escape jail. They will likely be given citations for violating the curfew and then released.