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human & civil rights | police / legal

Sun-shining on Activists Brutalized by SF Sheriff's Dept.

On Feb 22, The Sunshine Taskforce unanimously found the sheriff's department in violation of three sections of the sunshine ordinance. The Sunshine Task force stated that "the sheriff's Department shall release all records" related to the violent cell extraction, which seriously injured activists, arrested on June 8th during the Reclaim the Common's (RTC) biotech protests.
On Feb 22, The Sunshine Taskforce unanimously found the sheriff's department in violation of three sections of the sunshine ordinance. The Sunshine Task force stated that "the sheriff's Department shall release all records" related to the violent cell extraction, which seriously injured activists, arrested on June 8th during the Reclaim the Common's (RTC) biotech protests.
Civil Rights attorney Ben Rosenfeld, community members, and seven activists arrested during RTC, challenged the Sheriff for "keeping an iron grip on information." The Taskforce is intended to uphold San Francisco's Sunshine Ordnance and address issues of citizen access and participation in local government.
The complaint was filed in relation to the events of June 8th when, at the end of the reclaim the commons protest, over one hundred activists were corralled in a mass arrest during a Reclaim the Streets (mutant street party) against the G8 meeting in Georgia. Thirty-Eight of activists arrested chose to withhold their names in continuing protest against their illegal arrest and violation of their First Amendment rights. The sheriff's department attempted to break their solidarity by violently extracting them from their cells and subjecting them to pain compliance which resulted in serious injuries ranging from, broken bones, nerve damage, and torn ligaments to bruises and psychological trauma. Their charges were eventually dismissed "in the interests of Justice".
In order to investigate a potential lawsuit against the SF Sheriff's Dept, Rosenfeld filed a request for production and preservation of records, specifically citing video of the extraction. The Sheriff's Department, released a couple of documents but maintained a tight grip on information stating the video, among other documents, was not public information.
The Sunshine Taskforce committee meeting delved into many privacy, freedom of information issues, and legal technicalities, ultimately finding the Sheriff's position in violation of sections 67.21, 67.24b, 67.27 of the Sunshine Ordinance. The Taskforce unanimously agreed that activists and their lawyers should have access to the videotapes and other specific documents regarding their time in jail.
The group of activists calling themselves the DOE Family (as in Jane and John Doe), and their supporters, spoke at the hearing. Artemas, one of those arrested, claimed it is "quite simple what I have to say, we were systematically brutalized by the sheriff's department, they have records of this and of course they don't want to give them up." John Viola, community member and civil and criminal defense lawyer, said that the case had "significant first amendment" and police practice issues concerning demonstration disemination. The Sunshine Taskforce's decision is a step towards ensuring public access to records.