Skaters, Cops, San Francisco
You more than likely saw the footage.
A cop and a skater made contact as the skater came down a hill, sending the skater flying and no doubt resulting in serious injuries.
It's a hard clip to watch, and it opens up a lot of questions right away. There was plenty of news coverage of the incident at the time, but very little media coverage has surfaced afterwards. To help clear up what happened, and since no major news outlets seem to have complied the full story, we dug through news reports and reached out to a few contacts in San Francisco to get their takes on the situation. Here's what we know:
Several hundred skaters assembled at Dolores Park on June 11th for a hill bomb contest, similar to a contest that was held last year. This year's contest was just getting started when police arrived a little after 7pm, after receiving a call reporting that skaters were hanging on to the back of cars to get up the hill, according to KRON 4 TV.
Last year, police were surprisingly accommodating toward the contest. According to one San Francisco source, during last year's contest police officers talked to skaters at the start of the contest and blocked off the streets perpendicular to the hill to ensure that no traffic could get through, allowing skaters to bomb the hill without worrying about cars.
This year things were obviously different, possibly because the police were alerted to the contest in a different way. In an effort to dissuade skaters from continuing to bomb the hill, police blocked the center of the hill by walking and standing directly in the skaters' paths, and eventually parking squad cars on the hill to further dissuade skating. Skaters continued to skate the hill using the sidewalk in defiance of the police, as seen in the video below.
Tensions escalated, and police moved in further in an attempt to stop the skaters. It was at this point that the skater and the police officer made contact. According to an eyewitness account from Joel Hamill, the flimer of the now-famous video, the contact was intentional on the part of the cop. From his statement to KPIX, a San Francisco CBS affiliate:
“It was an intentional act that could have easily have killed the kid. I mean he was flipped into the air.” Hamill also recorded an officer armed with a shotgun on the scene after the incident.
According to a now-removed post on his Instagram page, the skater has suffered a broken ankle, a torn tendon in the knee and sprained fingers. San Francisco police are still investigating what happened, and according to San Francisco Police spokesperson Grace Gatpandan, “It’s very difficult to get the entire picture from a few seconds of video.” Gatpandan stated in another interview that “The officers were just trying to keep them safe when this all happened,”
A conflict between skaters and police broke out later that evening, leaving one officer injured and two police cruisers damaged. No information on skaters being arrested or injuries to skaters could be found.
Given what's happened in this country in the last six months, it's not hard to link the heavy-handedness of the SFPD to the rhetoric of 'law and order' being espoused by some in our government and on our police forces. That being said, it's also important to recognize that although the police had an overall more antagonistic approach to the contest this year, the tragic actions that caused a skater to be injured were the actions of one officer in particular.