USA: 175 Arrested at Hotel Protest Against Youth Crime Initiative

Publisher Name: 
San Francisco Examiner

Hundreds irate over passage of Prop. 21 rally near Hilton, Powell BART station

More than 175 noisy but nonviolent protesters, outraged by the passage of Proposition 21 on Tuesday, were hauled away by police after taking over the lobby of the Hilton hotel and refusing to leave.

The protesters were among 350 demonstrators who flooded the Hilton San Francisco & Towers about a block south of Union Square on Wednesday night, chanting slogans, carrying signs, staging a peaceful sit-in and ignoring police orders to disperse. Their anger was over the passage of the so-called juvenile crime initiative that, among other things, gives prosecutors rather than judges the discretion to try juveniles between 14 and 17 in adult court for serious crimes.

As dozens of cops stood watch, the demonstrators -- most of them ranging in age from their mid-teens to mid-20s -- took up most of the hotel's ornate lobby chanting, "Fund our education, not incarceration" and "The youth united will never be defeated."

After about 30 minutes, police ordered the protesters to clear out or they would be arrested for trespassing and obstruction. Nearly half the crowd dispersed, but those who remained were handcuffed and taken into custody.

The protest was organized by a multiracial youth group that calls itself Third Eye Movement. Several members of the group said they had targeted the hotel because Hilton Hotels Corp. contributed about $10,000 to help pass Prop. 21.

Hilton hotel managers declined to comment Wednesday.

The measure was approved by 62 percent of California voters Tuesday, though violent crime rates are at a 10-year low.

Shortly before he was arrested, Kiko Lee, 18, of Santa Cruz, said he was willing to be arrested to show how serious youths were about fighting Prop. 21.

"We're not going to sit around and take it," Lee said.

Jia Cheng Chen, 27, of San Francisco, was also arrested. "We're exercising our voice for democracy," he said. "It's about the criminalization and incarceration of an entire generation of young people of color. And we're not going to take it."

Marisol Arriola, 25, of Oakland, also refused to leave the lobby and was arrested.

"The government says crime is down, but Proposition 21 will only create more chances for young people to go to jail," she said.

The rally began earlier in the evening at Powell and Market streets, but by 6 p.m. the demonstrators were marching on the Hilton at 333 O'Farrell St.

At least 80 officers from various police stations in The City were called in to keep order. Inside the hotel, the officers formed a line in front of the demonstrators with instructions to make arrests if the intruders didn't leave.

Lt. Larry Minasian, on a bullhorn, repeated several warnings to the crowd. Dozens of the protesters began filtering out into the street.

The estimated 175 who remained were tied with plastic arrest straps and put into police holding wagons. As they were driven away, the wagons could be seen swaying as the chanting demonstrators jumped and stomped their feet.

The 23 who were under age were taken to a holding facility at Mission and Valencia streets, Minasian said. The adults were taken to the main jail at the Hall of Justice.

He said they would be cited and released late Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

Dozens of protesters who chose not be arrested scattered into The City.

Some joined another protest against Prop. 21 at the Powell Street BART station. About 500 demonstrators there snarled traffic. There were no arrests.

Others marched to a Mission District police station, where their counterparts were being booked. They stood out outside chanting slogans. By about 11 p.m. there were still about 50 protesters there, but no arrests had been made.

AMP Section Name:CorpWatch