A much-discussed video of a protester being punched by San Francisco police has brought renewed attention to the anti-brutality protests in the Bay Area in 2016.
Chinatown Task Force Chair Harry Chen recounted to CNN how he and a group of Chinatown protesters met with a police officer in March 2016 on the pretext of wanting to resolve a ticket situation but were mistreated by officers and eventually arrested. When he tried to file a complaint with police, Chen said he was told to meet with a commission on Asian Pacific Islander concerns but he did not show up. He alleged that officers also refused to follow standard procedure of releasing him from police custody.
The commission was never convened.
Video of that time shows that after being punched on the ground by police and taking about two dozen punches and kicks in the head, Chen was taken away in a police vehicle. He was never questioned by police.
On Friday, a San Francisco Chronicle report on the incident brought a sense of deja vu. The video of the encounter continues to haunt national headlines as a video of two San Francisco officers punching a man last month was released, sparking violent protests.
Officers at the scene of Chen’s run-in with police claimed they were forced to try to gain control of the crowd — where many protesters and musicians congregated and heckled the officers. They cited a 1999 misdemeanor ordinance, which requires sidewalks to be cleared of public defecation and urine. Protesters and others say officers used excessive force as the crowd grew larger. Chen has complained his initial legal right to free speech was violated and he was jailed and charged with misdemeanors for not complying with the illegal order to leave the sidewalks. He ended up pleading no contest to the initial charge of failure to obey a lawful order.
The protest caught national attention — and Chen received widespread criticism from those who say his family has suffered discrimination because of their Chinese heritage — in part because of the particularly violent video, in which police are visible hitting and kicking him.
CNN, in its 2016 report, said that at the time of the incident, police sought charges against more than two dozen people, including Chen, but because most were released, only Chen ended up paying a fine. The charges were dismissed the day he showed up in court, and he paid his fine within hours. He denied the arrest was racially motivated.
With the footage of the San Francisco officers and the timing of their reaction during the tense protest and the subsequent unprovoked attacks, critics suggest the cops may have been responding on race grounds — particularly Chen.
CNN did not offer a concrete conclusion as to the specifics of the charges that were dropped against Chen, but said he had rejected the department’s apologies and that officials had launched an internal investigation.
Read the full story at CNN.
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