San Francisco Police claim that some of the 20 individuals arrested as part of a protest this past weekend are likely members of the same anarchist "black bloc" responsible for causing property damage during a series of similar demonstrations in the Mission earlier this year.
This latest protest occurred on Saturday afternoon, when about 100 demonstrators amassed near Justin Herman Plaza before heading down Market Street. The crowd eventually moved into the Financial District, where it was surrounded by police near the intersection of California and Battery Streets.
Police have accused the arrested protestors of pelting them with bags filled with rocks and paint as well as road flares. A video of the protest posted online shows police shoving and tackling demonstrators as they marched through downtown.
One officer was injured in the altercation.
The 20 suspects were booked on charges including conspiracy, refusing to obey a lawful order from a peace officer, resisting, delaying or obstructing a peace officer and assault and battery on a peace officer. And police believe this isn't their first offense.
"It was the tactics of these individuals," SFPD Officer Gordon Shyy told the San Francisco Chronicle. "The masks, the hammers and some of the other weapons they had were consistent with the other protests we had encountered in the Mission."
The Mission protest occurred in September after an SFPD officer opened fire on an alleged gang member. It resulted in significant damage to cars and buildings, including the Mission Police Station, and drew the ire of neighborhood merchants who felt that the police weren't doing enough to keep their storefronts safe from vandalism.
The term "black bloc" refers as much to a tactic as it does to a specific group of individuals. An anarchist outgrowth of the Occupy movement, the black bloc often obscures their faces with black bandannas and has been widely blamed for harming the reputation of the largely peaceful movement.
"In Oakland, the Black Bloc, which made up a large portion of the May Day General Strike, displayed a coordinated tactical philosophy," read a recent article in Adbusters, the anti-capitalist magazine that sparked the entire Occupy movement, "including the de-arresting of comrades, throwing eggs filled with paint, using homemade smoke-creating incendiaries to confuse police, and the rejection of media--that suggests prior planning, ongoing innovation and increasing sophistication."
HuffPost blogger Carl Gibson had some harsh words for the black bloc following their disruption of a Veterans For Peace protest during a NATO summit in Chicago earlier this year:
I'm willing to accept that there were likely several agent provocateurs working with the police inside of a Black Bloc to incite violence. I'll acknowledge that even within your ranks, some differ with others using the most extreme tactics. And I'll denounce police for kettling and beating protesters with unforgiving brutality. But I'm still going to say it: your tactics do our movement more harm than good, and you need to just cut it out already.
The thing is, Black Bloc tactics actually serve the cause of the 0.1 percent. By making the dominant message about protesters vs. police instead of 99 percent vs. 0.1 percent, your tactics divide public opinion and turn it against the majority of those in the movement who don't believe in violence of any kind, including property destruction. Infantile behavior taken by some of you, like taunting police, blowing cigarette smoke in their faces and throwing rocks through the windows of small businesses takes the moral high ground away from the movement, legitimizes the rule of the 0.1 percent and justifies the existence of an oppressive police state to the average American whom we're trying to reach.
SFPD has released the mugshots of the 20 people arrested at the protest. Check them out here:
Correction: The slideshow originally identified the people arrested as potential members of the black bloc. Definitive connection between those arrested and participation in prior black bloc actions has not been proven. One of the individuals arrested, Michael Pellagatti, was not a protestor and is instead a journalist covering the protest who was swept up by police during the arrests.