One of the demonstrators at last night's protest of Super Bowl City at the Embarcadero was detained by police and cited with a misdemeanor after taking photographs of police at the event, officials confirmed today.
Amir Varick was walking to the Tackle Homelessness protest at about 4:30 p.m. yesterday with his friend Alexandra Berliner, an organizer with All of Us or None, and Alexandra's mother Joanna Berliner.
The trio chose to enter security checkpoints in order to walk through Super Bowl City at Justin Herman Plaza rather than go around it, and Varick took notice of the snipers posted on rooftops of One Market and other buildings. He started taking photos — and that's when he drew the attention of police, who detained him.
Police say it was because he was taking an interest in the snipers' nests; Joanna Berliner has another theory. “It's because he [Varick] is black,” she told SF Weekly.
According to police, an unidentified man was detained at 6:11 p.m. near the Super Bowl City area. That person, whose name was not immediately available, was cited for “delaying a police investigation,” San Francisco police Officer Albie Esparza said.
“The officers that were there noticed that he kept on focusing on the law enforcement officials, and kept on taking pictures of our police and snipers,” Esparza said. “That presented a concern, because of the time we live in.”
As per Berliner's side of the story: “Everyone was taking pictures,” Joanna told SF Weekly. “I was taking pictures.”
“They swooped in on him,” she added, and after about a 5-to-10 minute interaction, “took him away.”
That appeared to be the lone police action taken at last night's protest, which — under heavy police guard — demonstrated at the Embarcadero in front of the Ferry Building before moving up towards Market Street through the Financial District.
So: are pictures of police now verboten, or is it a question of taking too many pictures, or being the right kind of picture-taker? It seems things are particularly sensitive with the NFL in town.
“It's one thing to take a picture… it's another thing to be focused and take multiple pictures,” Esparza said. “We have to act accordingly and do our job, which is to provide public safety… we won't be second guessed. It's better to be safe than sorry.”