San Francisco Police Corral, Zip-Tie Over 80 Young People in Mass Arrest Near Dolores Park

Saturday night around 8:45 p.m., SFPD officers in riot gear trapped dozens of teenagers during the annual “Hill Bomb” event near Dolores Park, thereupon processing skaters and spectators for arrest.

San Francisco’s yearly Hill Bomb — an event that sees hundreds of predominantly school-age kids zoom down Dolores Street in the same-named skateboarding maneuver — is counterculture, personified. It’s a quintessential San Francisco happening, an important part of SF’s storied history of skate culture

Over the years, the City has adamantly attempted to stop the unauthorized summer event from ensuing. During the pandemic, San Francisco attempted to block the occurrence by installing bott’s dots — non-reflective raised pavement traffic markers used for multiple reasons, including speed control — on Dolores Street, between 21st and 19th streets, which proved futile; skaters returned anyway that same year. 

Hill Bomb, though illegal, is something San Francisco police have, more or less, turned a large blind eye to in years past. (We can all agree there are bigger fish to fry than punishing a group of minors for enjoying their fleeting youth.) But the 2023 iteration on Saturday, July 8th, proved different. 

Last night around 8 p.m., SFPD officers in riot gear descended near Dolores Park in an attempt to responsibly control the scene. Apparently, in their minds, this meant trapping groups of youths between grown-ups wielding batons, allegedly attempting to strike fleeing kids, per Mission Local.

The unchecked law enforcement power display at this year’s Hill Bomb came to light on Twitter with users sharing footage of police congregating at Dolores Park, evidently after SFPD spent hours prior attempting to shut down the event.

This is when the “kenneling” began.

“SFPD has kenneled several dozen seemingly young kids & skaters at Dolores Park after an hours-long slow-moving chase to shut down the annual hill bomb,’” reads the first in a series of tweets from Mission Local editor Joe Rivano Barros. “Cops have trapped the group between rows of officers. The group is being forced to sit, it is unclear if they are under arrest.”


Tweets and videos documenting the scene, which would later evolve into a mass arrest, show kids — visibly shaken and unquestionably scared — running from officers, attempting to escape containment. 

Siren-flashing SFPD vans later arrived to haul off individuals in anticipation of the mass arrest to follow. It’s at this time an image of large white, yet-used placed zip ties, also known as flex cuffs, were observed in a pile on the ground. 

Per Mission Local, onlookers, many of whom were adults watching the mass arrest transpired, were heard shouting “Those are kids” as SFPD loaded the flex-cuffed minors inside vans for transport; two Muni buses were also used as transport. The arrested individuals were, again, mostly teenagers; SFPD shared in a Sunday statement that 81 of the 113 charged individuals were under 18 years old.

Mind you, these juveniles — doing kid shit, albeit dumb shit… but, again, kid shit — were not driven far. SFPD informed parents and guardians of the arrested minors that their children could be found at the Mission police station… literally two blocks away from where they were arrested.

As one Muni bus drove away with detained minors, a shouldering group of kids and adults can be heard laughing, poking fun that SFPD used such means of transportation to effectively move this group of child skateboarders about 600 feet for processing and detainment.

Others who were 18 years or older were taken to 850 Bryant, the Hall of Justice, where police have said they will “likely be held overnight.”

Rivano Barros stayed at the Mission police station at 630 Valencia Street until the early morning hours Sunday; the last minor arrested at this year’s hill bomb event was apparently reunited with his family, who live an hour away, around 4 a.m. Sunday.

We’re not going to mince words here: It’s incredibly shameful, chauvinistic, and outright abominable how San Francisco police handled minors participating in what’s largely considered an accepted July happening. In recent years, research has come out from peer-reviewed studies that show how the effects of juvenile arrest, including witnessing a parental arrest, are detrimental to child development. 

Minors involved in such scenarios have documented emotional regulation issues and lower scores in regard to both sensory vocabularies and articulate capacities, as well as having increased levels of anxiety and depressive behaviors. There’s growing research too that supports the link between early childhood trauma and increased rates of addiction later in life.

Child psychologists put minor arrests and the witnessing of parental arrest under the umbrella of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Trauma erodes our inherent self-worth; eats away at our ability to differentiate between accountable guilt — “I did something bad” — and self-identifiable shame — “I am bad”; infringes our ability to establish and maintain healthy relationships in our lives; opens up the body to feel in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight; believes us into thinking vulnerability is a weakness when it’s, in fact, one of our greatest strengths. Above all, traumas of any sort, including PTSD, chip away at our very humanity.

For the dozens of teenagers arrested yesterday, and the hundreds of child onlookers who witnessed these captures, the trauma of it all cuts deep — in ways they may not even have the language to convey.

*Update: The headline of this article has been change to reflect new details around the mass arrest, which includes information shared in a Sunday morning statement by SFPD, saying that a total of 113 people were arrested — 81 juveniles and 32 adults over 18.

Feature image: Courtesy of Twitter via [at]Kyle_Martin35, who photographed much of the initial moment of SFPD’s descent on Hill Bomb this year

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