Mission Local reporter Julian Mark was briefly detained by San Francisco police while covering a Bay Area protest on June 3, 2020.
The protest was part of a wave of Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality demonstrations across the country. The demonstrations were sparked by the release of a video showing a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest. Floyd was later pronounced dead in a hospital.
Mark told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he had been covering the San Francisco protests all day as about 10,000 people marched through the city. He had returned to Mission Local’s office at 2489 Mission St. to file his story when he saw dozens of officers outside the office window. The officers were moving down Mission Street and closing in on dozens of protesters, including 23 who were later arrested.
Mark said he went back outside wearing his press badge, issued by the San Francisco Police Department, around his neck. When he began filming police, he said he held his press badge up so officers could see it. While recording, Mark got in front of the officers as they closed in on some of the protesters.
“I was putting myself in the middle of the circle and as I was doing this I was making it known that I was press and I was also filming,” Mark told the Tracker. One of the officers told Mark to move back. “I tried to get out of the circle and I tried to get onto the sidewalk,” Mark said, but other officers – at odds with the original instruction – kept him in the circle of protesters on Mission Street.
“I was definitely forcibly moved into the circle of protesters and told to lay on my stomach even though I had clearly displayed my press badge,” Mark said.
At 10:53 p.m. Mark tweeted, “Lying on the ground here with a dozen protesters. Completely surrounded on mission st.” In the video accompanying the tweet, dozens of officers are visible. Capt. Gaetano Caltagirone of SFPD can be heard saying, “This is Capt. Gaetano from the San Francisco Police Department. You are all under arrest for unlawful assembly.”
Mark continued to tweet updates from the ground. “Show them my press pass and they just pushed me into the circle and made [me] lie down on my stomach,” he tweeted five minutes later. The last tweet in Mark’s thread was sent at 11:47 p.m. “I was detained and then released. I’m okay. Thanks, all, for following. There are around 20 seemingly peaceful protesters on their way to the police station, including a 14-year-old [boy].”
The certificate of release provided by the San Francisco Police Department lists Mark’s time in custody from 11 p.m. to 11:41 p.m. The next day Mark reported on his detainment, writing that he was released after an editor at Mission Local reached out to Capt. Caltagirone.
On June 4, Mark also received an invitation from San Francisco Police Chief William “Bill” Scott to come to his office and review the body camera footage from the incident.
“He explicitly said that he was sorry that it had happened,” Mark told the Tracker. “He asked for feedback from me about how the police department would improve its processes with how they deal with journalists in situations where officers feel they are under pressure to enforce the law. I really think that the effort was genuine on his part.”
SFPD spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak gave the following statement to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker: “The Department is aware of these incidents and we have either met with or spoken to the journalists involved in order to gain a better picture of what transpired and how we can work to prevent similar events from happening in the future.”
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or had their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country related to the death of George Floyd while in police custody. Find all of these cases here.