George Floyd Looting in The San Francisco Bay Area
I've never seen looting in my life until Saturday May 30th 2020, from my apartment window in San Francisco. The George Floyd protests began in Minneapolis on May 26. I'd seen some footage of the riots, but I had no idea it would spread from there to Oakland (where an officer was shot dead) and then to the relatively quiet little neighborhood we have at Bush and Mason Street in Lower Nob Hill.
Pictures Tell The Story
These images tell the story:
- To see all my videos I have a public google album.
A Plea Against All Form of Racism
Society is full of the have and the have nots. It's easy for the 'haves' to say 'this is not the right way to react'.... But in this case, black people have witnessed that even cops can be above the law and kill someone without lifting an eyebrow. Black Americans watch themselves being looted every day in America - looted of the right to feel safe - and this statement isn't targeted at any particular business owner... it's largely a statement that that "have" population of America has not upheld a fair social contract. So why can't they, for just a few nights, act out and break their social contract. Are people just supposed to suffer persecution and racism and stay as good little angels. How would you feel if your community or family were targeted. In the shoes of these people you might have behaved much worse. I fully own that I could have been on the other side of these camera photos, under different circumstances.
This feeling of unsafely we might feel right now, might be new to some of us, but it's everyday life for people who have been prejudiced against. I hope this article isn't to one sided. I'm not a perfect human... in that I pass my own judgment on the (white) skateboards who stole from a good family store.... but maybe they have their own side of the story also.
Reading this article, please don't condemn anyone because that's a vicious cycle... this is a great video by Trevor Noah explaining how people are justifiably angry and there is really no good leadership in this country right now.
What Went Down on May 30th
I was on the phone when I heard commotion outside. There are often crazy or drunk people yelling outside, nightly in fact, but this felt different. I looked outside and there were about 4 vehicles pull up.. lots of yelling, then they moved along. About 10 minutes later, I heard more commotion. A black sedan pulled into an empty parking spot just opposite the Cottage Market & Corner Store owned by friendly resident Loui. That's when these ~10 pen pulled out two baseball bats from the trunk of a sedan, and I ended my call to take footage. They smashed two windows and only then did I noticed the car didn't have license plates. That happened at 10:35 pm. To the police's credit, they drove past pretty quickly. They stopped just behind the black car (I didn't see this part, but saw it on another video), and even though a citizen pointed at the guys with bats... well the police were not allowed to do anything. Police brutality against a black man started these protests-turned-bad, and they have strict instructions they can't interfere. They basically said it's up to the business owners to protect their stores.
I grabbed my friend Adam, who lives on the same floor to go downstairs. Ours is a friendly building - I know everyone on my floor and a few others. At least 10-20 concerned citizens came downstairs. One of the employees at the tacorea (diagonally opposite) had already called all the business owners. They were all appeared pretty quickly, and they were all scared that these guys might come back.
Rewind two months, at the start of COVID lockdown, I was watching more and more outlets in SF put plywood boards over their storefronts. I thought this was probably an over-reaction to COVID.... but now with these George Floyd protests, these businesses may have been the lucky ones. Not all of them though. What started as seeming peaceful on Market Street (one of the main streets in San Francisco) turned ugly... where the bulk of the crowd remained and even teared down plywood boards. Our little street isn't far away. The race was suddenly on to put up plywood fast so looters at very least wouldn't be able to see inside.
At about midnight, Adam and I were helping Davi, Ken, Eric and some others from out neighborhood put the plywood board he had bought over his storefront. Luckily I had a cordless circular saw and drill kit to help out a little. Across the road is an amazing little corner store called "Bush Market", where Press and his wife showed up.... we chatted to them, they had just called to ask someone to put up boards, but he wouldn't arrive till ~2am.
Another building resident, Eric, asked to keep the saw, because it could be used to scare away people. I said that seemed like a terrible idea for many reasons - least of which is that a circular saw comes with a protective cover meaning it's not even a weapon.
Loui and a small group of his friends and employees arrived last - the only had enough plywood to just cover the smashed windows.... I went over to chat. It was late, and they went back to stay safe at home. Press remained, and David and his friends went into the Tacorea where they luckily have metal bars to cover the front to protect again ~5 break in attempts over the last few years. Fortunately the owners of the building (not the business) finally had caved and installed these metal bars just before covid. That might have saved them. Press's store had no protection, but just him standing by might have saved him.
I stayed outside for a couple of hours as moral support, All the skateboards were out... but there was also a huge populate of people in cars driving past. I feel like most were not from the neighborhood. And yes, many were black, and at that stage I actually felt very self conscious as a tall white guy. I went upstairs jut to change into a hoodie to cover my head up a little. I'm fairly aware of the privilege white men have, but at that moment I got a taste of people staring at me with unjustified prejudice. I'm a good person... but at that moment I was about the only clearly white guy around, my friend is hispanic by ethnicity.
I was about to witness how damn f**king random and crude mobs can be. I was honestly about to go to sleep, when I hear commotion. I looked outside at 12:42 and started recording from my window. It started as ~10 people... then suddenly ~40 more started running up the store. Lots of them were honestly just skaties... lots of them white - probably the same skateboarders that I've seen around the Ferry Market building because they don't have much else to do - especially during COVID, than to practice tricks. A guy at the front started kicking on the door and it quickly gave way. Suddenly they all rushed in. Crazy opportunists, I wish I had filmed just a little earlier, because they way they rushed in was the scariest part. Flock mentality. Idiots. Opportunists. This had nothing to with George Floyd. If Loui were black, it wouldn't have mattered. They wanted to steal anything valuable.
I have a photo of a concerned black man from our street watching the looting... behind him... three white skateboarders counting the bottles they had just stolen from Loui. I'll post it below, because sadly my footage I didn't capture license plates clearly, but about 8 full vehicles vehicles stopped and both men and women poured out to quickly loot and them move on. I don't know how hopefully it is to capture license plates, but I'm sure I could pull a few from other people who took video.
Honestly, at that point I with I had my loudspeaker nearby... or a drone to fly out and just well... do these people have no f**king shame. Times are hard enough with COVID.
At 12:47 three cops arrived on motorbikes, which were pretty effective in scaring away any remaining looters. Just the noise helps. Maybe Eric was right about my saw. I'm hopefully a little too smart to get involved. Playing hero would be a bad idea.... especially with 40 looters and me being tall and white. The cops couldn't arrest anyone obviously... most of the looters had already moved on. I went down to check on David and made a big cardboard sign "Please leave us be, we are good people" for Press, but fortunately the plywood board installers had already arrived. Phew.
Loui came back in to survey the damage. He was holding it together, but I could tell there were a close knit group and pretty shaken. My adrenaline was pretty high, but eventually I returned to go to sleep..... the following morning I knew I wanted to write this article right away. To share it with my mum in Australia so she can remind me not to be a hero. I kept pretty safe last night, but one of the scary moments was realizing Americans do own guns..... and there were lots of cars driving by... probably just out for looting really. One gangbanger rolled the window down and yellow out: "what's in that place" and pointed at David's tacorea. I had my covid mask on, so I realized it would be a bad idea to reply... I just stared at him. Didn't matter that there were ~5 of us to protect that place... if a mob of people wants to break it... well how the fuck do you scare them off?
- Weapons? - terrible idea, some of these people are looking for a fight, and that's how people die. I wouldn't be apposed to pepper spray though, kind of wish I owned some. I don't even know if it's legal.
- Drones? - these are technically illegal, but I feel like a few flying around is a good way to do surveillance and still be safe - you could get close enough to lift license plates. I don't own one - I thought that was for the really nerdy people, but right now it seems like a good way to stay safe.
- Signs? - Appeal to people's good will? Well if they are really angry, I don't know if a love heart symbol stops them... there are a few really bad people out there.... and a group of 40 idiots who run behind them as opportunists apparently. But at least a sign could say "we are a good community, and we rally together to film you and put your faces and license plates on social media". Helps a little, but the really bad people wear masks and cover their plates. The police won't get involve unless there is an actual shooting.
- Speaker - I actually think yelling on a loud speaker, keeping a cool head and pleading might help. "Hey, can you please leave us alone.... we get that you are angry, but good people own that store, and right now I'm asking any good people out there to take out their cell phones and film the really bad person leading this mob so we identify him, plus all your car license plates... now listen to some Enya and think about how you are hurting yourself right now".
Crazy ideas? Maybe. But I feel like used together #2 - #4 could be really effective. Tear gas would be too much, but wow.... this was a pretty scary human behavior to witness. It's one thing to see on TV... it's another to be close to it as it's going down... to see how quickly things turn, and on any other day in their lives some of these skateboarders might be good people. But last night? Last night they were really awful.
- CNN crew released from police custody after they were arrested live on air in Minneapolis - Some of these videos are sad.
- Trevor Noah talks about George Floyd and Minneapolis Protests - Great video.
- COVID-19 - My article about COVID.
- Covid Mask Challenge - A challenge I'm still developing (it's a survey tool which will tie into Google Maps API.