Dayton, an RUF Member was recently arrested at a protest against gentrification in San Fransisco. His arrest was a clear instance of racial profiling in which the police apprehended him and one other activist on the word of a drunk counter-demonstrator. After the arrest they were hit with a series of absurd charges including numerous felonies. These charges were eventually dropped, but the arrest and charges reveal how the police and the court system operate to protect the interests of powerful developers and businesses.
Dayton (left) and Max (right) were both arrested by the San Francisco police and framed on phony charges. Dayton is a member of RUF.
Dayton, an RUF activist, was recently arrested on a series of trumped up charges and held for almost seventeen hours. The SFPD used the testimony of a single person to slap Dayton and another activist with 5 charges (4 of them felonies) and held them on $75,000 bail each.
But what were they doing?
The Bay Area RUF Branch has been actively opposing gentrification and the related displacement and criminalization of working people in the cities in the Bay Area. A large part of this struggle has been clarifying how city governments help businesses and capitalists push poor people out of the city, and how they are constantly developing more draconian methods to harass homeless people who are forced to live in their vehicles or on the streets.
In West Oakland, activists have worked with local residents to resist evictions of homeless people, mobilizing to confront the police and expose the policies of the local administration. This has included rallying in front of City Halls, tow yards which tow the vehicles that people live in, and local police stations to demand that they return property—such as important documents like green cards and clothes—that the city steals from the homeless during legal and illegal evictions. RUF members have also worked to form picket lines with local residents, refusing to allow police to evict folks from their informal settlements. Part of building this resistance has been working to link local struggle in different cities surrounding the Bay Area. It’s all too easy for individuals and groups to get caught up in a form of localism that see problems in San Francisco as unrelated from those in Oakland and vice versa. However, the reality is that the capitalist pigs who profit off of homelessness and gentrification are working together to “develop” the whole area. Therefore, we need to build a movement that unites anti-displacement struggles across the Bay Area, and ultimately around the whole country.
In San Francisco, RUF has been clear in our critiques of City Hall and its departments tasked with “solving homelessness.” We have worked to expose how the city government works hand-in-glove with capitalists and real estate developers to cause gentrification. This is important because the city puts on a progressive facade and has a series of departments that claim to help homeless people, without actually doing much of anything for their cause. San Franciso has very large shelter system as the homeless population is the largest in the area. However this system only provides nightly housing for people, and despite its size, there are still not nearly enough beds for all the homeless people in the city. This is because entrenched business interests that have been aggressively pushing working people out of the city for decades.
Rents in San Francisco have gotten so absurdly expensive that it’s almost imposible to find a one bedroom apartment for under $2,500 a month.
Of the cities in the Bay Area, San Francisco has been the most aggressive with shoving homeless people out of public view and using threats of property confiscation and arrest to force people to comply with evictions and displacement at gunpoint. When working in SF we have also done a lot of work to link these struggles to those across the Bay. This has included getting many San Francisco based activists to attend events in homeless encampments in Oakland and join in our organizing efforts there.
These efforts have been the first major step in building a larger united front against displacement in the Bay Area. This work has required linking together multiple different struggles against the same enemies of the people, the city officials and businesses. We have also done a lot of work to clarify how the police, departments of public works, and even nominally progressive ‘non-profit’ organizations all collude with the government and capitalists interests to displace the people.
In line with these efforts, RUF members joined in a rally in front of Manny’s, a ‘trendy’ new bar located in the Mission District. This business was given a lease for its location by the Mission Housing Development Corporation (MHDC). The MHDC is a ‘non-profit’ organization with the stated mission of providing housing opportunities to the poor and working class residents of the Mission. It may seem odd that this ‘non-profit’ which is supposed to serve the poor would instead provide an out-of-town business with a lease at reduced rent subsidized by the city tax-payers. It seems like the MHDC should instead be using these buildings to house some of the tens of thousands of homeless people in the area, especially since the existing shelter system is way over capacity. However, these sorts of back-door deals are typical in the Bay Area and around the country. They show how ‘non-profit’ organizations work closely with developers and other capitalists for their profit, all at the expense of working people.
Manny’s is a business that claims to also function as a “social justice space,” and the owner has been quick to invite all kinds of nominally progressive figureheads, politicians, and even celebrities to hold events there. This progressive facade helps to cover over what Manny’s is really doing: Gentrifying San Francisco by stealing low income housing from the people and making a ‘trendy’ new bar for the petty-bourgeoisie, the middle class. Businesses like Manny’s—which is owned by a prominent Zionist and open supporter of the occupation of Palestine—help to white-wash the process of gentrification.
The city can claim that it helped to open a new “social justice space,” when really it stole low income housing from the people and gave it to a wealthy developer to make a bar. This sort of outrage helps to clarify how little the city governments in the Bay Area care about poor and working class people. With over 55,000 homeless in the Bay Area, the city of San Francisco is giving handouts to the wealthy while they simultaneously send the police out to harass, beat, and arrest the homeless.
A typical event at Manny’s where state-sponsored “activists” schmooze and socialize with politicians and capitalists while drinking expensive wine.
The Night of the Rally and the Arrest
On the night of the rally, Manny’s was hosting Keff Kositsky, the Executive Director of the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH). A new department created in 2016 (with a staff of over 120 people) to manage the city of San Francisco’s system of shelters and supportive housing units. This department was presented by the city as “the key” to “solving homelessness,” but the reality is that homelessness in San Francisco has grown by over 27% since the department was founded. Additionally while this department claims to provide almost 150 “exits from homelessness” into housing every week, they hide the fact that almost half of those ‘exits’ are in the form of bus tickets out of the city. These tickets are part of a larger policy that cities across the country adopt. This is in line with a long-standing policy in San Francisco. Between 2006 and 2017, the city bused 10,570 homeless people out of the city.1
Other than busing people out of the city, the bulk of what HSH does is coordinate with the Department of Public Works and SFPD to harass the homeless people and evict them from their encampments and shelters when they become a public “nuisance.” With at least 24,000 homeless in the city of San Francisco alone, and over 1,000 waiting every night to access the shelter system, HSH really operates as a front for the city’s actual goal, to cater to businesses and abuse poor people who have become a speed-bump to fast-paced transformation of the city into a playground for the rich.
This is why businesses like Manny’s are so important to the city of San Francisco. They allow the city to associate their policies with progressive buzzwords and images, by claiming that this business is a “community space.” Manny’s also provides a ‘trendy’ location for the city to promote this progressive image and white wash its actual policies of harassing the homeless and gentrifying the poor neighborhoods.
The city government supports Manny’s because the business directly aids the city in its gentrification efforts. Manny’s also helps to create a platform normalizing a particular brand of activism that the government and developers want. This sort of activism sees cozying up to power and elected officials as the main or even only task that activists should pursue. So, instead of working to build solidarity among working people, activists are encouraged to get drunk with local politicians and developers at ‘trendy’ bars that present themselves as “social justice space.” So, in protesting this bar, the RUF chapter hoped to expose all of this hypocrisy and highlight that the power of the people is not built by rubbing elbows with the city’s hypocritical elite at a trendy gentrification bar. Instead, this power is built through protests, revolutionary education, and organizing.
Protests against Manny’s have been going on for months, and focus on gentrification as well as the owner’s Zionist politics.
The rally was largely without incident until a drunk patron exited Manny’s and started to attack the demonstrators. With a camera in hand, the man tried to film the demonstrators and strike at the crowd. A fight broke out as demonstrators defended themselves. The man circled around the crowd for almost an hour, trying to antagonize people before finally calling the police on the protesters.
When the cops showed up they moved in and arrested Dayton and another activist, without questioning the narrative of this counter-protester. Dayton and the other activist who was arrested were not even near the man when he was attacking the crowd, but the police did not even bother to investigate the situation. Instead they adopted the “arrest first, ask questions later” approach. This is typical of the police, they often identify with right wing counter-demonstrators, and treat progressive activists as potential criminals and terrorists. So it’s really no surprise that they would arrest Dayton and the other activists even though they were not involved in any altercation with the drunk patron.
After being detained at the local station for over three hours, the two activists were informed that they were not only being moved to the county jail, but that they were to be slapped with five charges. Upon being processed at the County Jail, their bail was set at $75,000 each. Fortunately other RUF members and activists sprang into action and managed to gather enough money to post their bond, a “mere” $5,000 a piece.
Protesters confronted the police and chanted “Free Palestine!” as Dayton and Max were arrested.
These arrests serve as an important reminder that the police serve the interests of the rich. Even by their own standards, this response was incredibly excessive, police didn’t even check the demonstrators for any signs of a fight (a standard procedure when being charged with a violent office), yet both Dayton and Max were charged with Felony Assault and Misdemeanor Battery.
This is likely part of a national trend as Senator Ted Cruz recently introduced Senate Resolution 279, which would label activists or groups associated with ‘antifa’ as domestic terrorist organizations. In short, those who organize against fascism may soon be labeled as terrorists in this country. While the resolution has not yet been signed into law, local police departments could very easily take this as a signal that excessive methods against activists should become the norm. Additionally, of all the protestors in the crowd, the police selected one of two Black people for arrest. We see that without any evidence, police resort to age old tactics such as racial profiling.
These arrests are likely an attempt to intimidate activists and keep them from being involved in any militant protests and organizing. In this case the activists in question were lucky that the charges were dropped, but in many other cases people have been encouraged to take terrible plea deals that keep them out of jail, but place numerous restrictions on them. Many of these “deals” include provisions that can reinstate all the charges if the defendants get arrested for something as minor as jaywalking. So they effectively function as a means to keep people from protesting by having potential jail time hanging over their heads for the duration of the deal, which can be years. In this case, although the charges were dropped, the District Attorney used an arcane legal concept known as “Code 27” which admits that the state does not have enough evidence to convict the defendants, but allows the DA to refile the charges anytime within the statue of limitation, in this case three years.
The absurd list of charges that the police tried to frame Dayton and Max with.
As popular struggle deepens in this country, these attacks on activists and revolutionaries will only intensify. There is a real need for revolutionaries and activists to stay out of jail; however, as this case shows, even attending a basic demonstration can lead to arrest and phony charges by the state. Ultimately, our efforts must build a revolutionary movement and organizations capable of withstanding attacks from the police including harassment, arrests, and even worse. We know that these attacks are just the beginning and we will likely face more in the future.
So, in order to be prepared for these eventual attacks, we need to develop well organized and disciplined chapters of RUF across the country. Comrades need to study and learn from the sucesses and failures of past revolutionary movements in combatting state repression. We can then apply these lessons to our particular situation to avoid repression as much as possible, and handle it well when we do face it. Through these efforts we can out maneuver state attempts to destroy or work through one for of repression or another.