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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: San Francisco | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice
Racial Harssment & Arrest in Bernal Heights Today
Two African-American men arrested for using the Bank of America on Cortland Ave.
At approximately 4 o' clock today I was passing by my local Bank of America branch in Bernal Heights. There were two African American youth speaking a cop outside and so I went over to take a look at what was going. I was especially worried since I know this neighborhood can be especially hostile to people of color through my past experiences.
The cop was fairly calm at first and asked nicely if he could 'frisk' them. They agreed since they seem to know they committed no crime and that racial profiling was occurring. They consented to a full search and asked to see the officer's badge number because they were going to make a complaint-- something you don't see very often coming from someone about to get arrested.
While I was recording, one of the young men (who said his name was Frank Harris I believe), said he had gone into the bank to charge his phone. He also said something about is other friend, a young Filipino coming out of the bank now, was checking his bank account. The two African-American men where then asked to stand against the wall.
The cop manhandled them abit and the other African-American youth (I didn't get his name) really had had enough. He cussed at the cop and said things like "you know who [police chiefs name] is? Thats my fucking uncle." He was venting with words, no weapons, no threats. But the cop decided to make it physical, grabbing his arm and pushing him against the wall. You can see this all in the video as I kept saying "be cool, be cool." But who could blame him? As Frank said in the video, "Black man can't even use the bank in this town." How many times have these kids been harassed and rough-housed for their skin color? After a while I would vent and cuss at police too.
With the cuss words, the cop called for backup (having two unarmed black men being a serious threat and all), and two cop cars, one undercover, came speeding like a bat out of hell down Cortland ave. As far as I'm concerned, that was a lot bigger threat to the community. There are many crosswalks here and a senior center one block up. The cop cars also blocked all traffic down one lane on Cortland ave. for some time.
After 3 more cops came up to help stop this horrible criminal activity of charging the cell phone, one of them started interrogating the Filipino, who said his name was Armando. He was peeved, but keeping his cool at least. The cop asked him his phone number, ID, etc. etc. Armando asked if he needed his bag searched too and the cop said, "I'm asking the questions here." The cop told tArmando they were responding to a bank robbery call, which is (as you can tell from the video) an incredible lie. My guess is they will stick to that lie because they have nothing else. If it was a robbery, why did he call for backup only AFTER questioning, frisking, and starting the arrest?
Around this point a man began actively blocking my camera. You can see me talking to him in the third video. I don't know if he was one of the undercover cops, or just a local racist, but it was disturbing. Why would you want to obstruct someone simply documenting evidence?
See the videos and make your own opinion. I for one have used this bank for years and have seen an African-American in there maybe once or twice. Now I know why Bernal stays so white. Sure, they had baggy pants, talked differently, and even used some swear words. That doesnt give police the right to rough them up and throw them in jail.