Massive Crowd Marches Across City For Peaceful San Francisco George Floyd Protest
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A huge crowd gathered near Mission High School in San Francisco Wednesday afternoon before heading to the Hall of Justice and City Hall during one of the Bay Area's biggest George Floyd protests yet.
The gathering of what appeared to be thousands of protesters filled part of Mission Dolores Park and spilled across multiple city blocks around Mission High on 18th Street.
The massive crowd protesting the death of George Floyd and calling for an end to police brutality gathered hours after a bombshell development that found all four officers involved in the violent arrest now facing charges.
The demonstration was organized by the group Nopeacenojustice San Francisco, is part of nationwide protests over Floyd's death and began at 4 p.m. on 18th Street, just outside the high school.
San Francisco police were estimating the crowd to be about 10,000 as of 5 p.m.
The protesters are set to march to the Mission Police Station at 17th
and Valencia streets, according to organizers. 17th Street was closed to vehicle traffic between Valencia and Guerrero streets in anticipation.
The SF Department of Emergency Management tweeted that SF Muni was rerouting service around the area of the protest in the Mission District.
The protesters began to move down Dolores Street towards 17th Street at around 5:15 p.m. and soon filled the area around the police station.
At one point, the crowd by the police station roared it's approval when a line of officers took a knee on the Valencia Street sidewalk. The scene would be repeated several times.
While a large crowd stayed at 17th and Valencia, with many also taking a knee, another group marched on, heading down 16th Street reportedly with the destination of the Hall of Justice at 8th Street and Bryant.
Arriving at the building, the majority of the protest march found San Francisco police behind a barricade at the entrance to the building to prevent protesters from going inside the locked up Hall of Justice.
So far, the crowd was refraining from taunting police, instead choosing to dance in the streets to music being played on several sound systems that had traveled with the protesters.
At one point, protesters burned a piñata of President Trump's head as a troupe of percussionists played their drums and protesters danced and clapped along.
The protest organizers said before the event started that they are aware of the curfew, but would allow participants to make their own decision as far as whether to leave the protest at 8 p.m.
At just before 7:30 p.m., a half an hour before the curfew, one large truck that was in front of the Hall of Justice started to leave full of protesters, reportedly to head back to the Mission District.
So far, the crowd had been vocal and enthusiastic, but outside of some tagging and graffiti seen in the area of 17th and Valencia, the protesters were well behaved.
One large group that left the Hall of Justice headed over to San Francisco's City Hall, where the almost celebratory protest continued.
The protest led BART to briefly shutdown the 16th Street station in the Mission at around 8:15 p.m., but the station reopened a short time later.
As of about 9:15 p.m., there were still several hundred protesters outside of City Hall. Another group had marched back to the Mission District via 14th Street.
Hundreds of demonstrators stayed at City Hall for hours. At one point, they projected words of protest on the walls. The crowd was in a much more festive mood today than seen in the last week.
Several demonstrators said that the arrests of the other officers in the George Floyd case announced earlier Wednesday made quite a difference and took some of the frustration out of the air.
"The fact that they arrested the three officers is amazing," said San Francisco resident Candace Cromer. "I think it is the step in the right direction. But we want to see prosecution before we are done protesting."
"It gave me so much hope that maybe something could change. And I hope it will," said Sophia Salahuddin of San Francisco.
Earlier Wednesday, businesses in the Mission were quickly working to board up their stores anticipating what could be a long night, leaving area residents on edge.
"There's a lot of small businesses here. There are people here that can't afford to have things torn up," said area resident Paulette Otten. "They're not gonna be able to open up again if you tear up their stuff or steal their stuff."
As store owners secured up their shops, the young people who organized the protest got ready in a different way.
"The Mission has already been so heavily affected by our city that sold it out to gentrification and we're not gonna make any more disruption here," said protest organizer Simone Jacque.
"Doing what I can to end systemic racism in this country. Think everyone should be doing what they can to help out," said a protester who gave his name as Sam.
On Valencia Street, more stores down the street from the Mission District Police Station were boarding up windows in advance of the protest.
Neighbors say they understand and support the ongoing demonstrations.
"I think that people are upset about the way that policing has been conducted. Police need to be servants of the people rather than the militarized way they've increasingly become," said a San Francisco resident who gave his name as Tom.
At the Mission Station, barricades were up and lashed together right on the edge of the curb in anticipation of the protest.
In the end, the concerns over destructive behavior Wednesday were largely unfounded. SFPD Chief Bill Scott said there were a couple of instances of people throwing objects at officers and one case of graffiti, but the huge march was otherwise without incident.
There were reports of a group arrest happening in the Mission at around 11:20 p.m.
The largest protest that San Francisco has seen over the death of George Floyd so far was also the most peaceful.
Andria Borba, Kenny Choi and Joe Vazquez contributed to this report.
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