For immediate release – November 2, 2011

  Bates, et al. v. CCSF, et al.




Paul Miyamoto directed the use of excessive force on peaceful protesters

As police consider raiding Occupy SF, questions raised about Sheriff candidate’s past record

The attorney for a group of peaceful protesters who sued the City of San Francisco for using excessive force during unnecessary “cell extractions” charges that Paul Miyamoto’s role in the extractions should disqualify him from becoming Sheriff, especially given that the incoming Sheriff likely will be responsible for the safety in the jails of many more protesters in the months to come as the Occupy movement gains traction.

“In June 2004, Paul Miyamoto planned, directed and supervised the unnecessary and violent jail cell extractions of numerous peaceful demonstrators, causing injuries,” said Ben Rosenfeld. “Given his track record of using excessive force on vulnerable detainees, Miyamoto is the very last person San Francisco should elect as our next Sheriff.”

Miyamoto, among others, was the target of a 2005 lawsuit that alleged unnecessary and excessive use of force, sexual harassment, deprivation of food, medicine, beds, blankets, access to bathrooms, and forcible cell extraction that caused injuries to detainees including torn tendons and ligaments, a herniated disc, and at least one broken bone.

Although denying any wrongdoing, Miyamoto stated in legal proceedings at the time that he “directed a team that conducted cell extraction,” that he “became physically involved in the cell extractions on more than one occasion,” and that “my primary role was to supervise.”  Miyamoto is visible in a video depicting the cell extractions.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit were protesting a bio-technology convention at Moscone Center in 2004, including by conducting a colorful, “mutant march.”  The San Francisco Chronicle described the protest as “largely peaceful.”  (SF Chronicle, “At least 25 arrested in biotech protests,” 6/9/04.)

After they were arrested, the group was taken to the jail at 850 Bryant Street by Sheriff’s Deputies. Of the more than one hundred arrested, 38 engaged in “jail solidarity” and declined to identify themselves or submit themselves individually for booking, out of fear for their safety, while their lawyers on the outside negotiated with officials on their behalf. The protesters were afraid of being separated as a result of the mistreatment they were receiving at the hands of the Sheriff’s Deputies. Rather than give the legal negotiations a chance to work, Deputies clad in riot gear repeatedly stormed the holding cells, ripped the demonstrators apart from one another amid their screams, and dragged them off individually to be booked.

Miyamoto planned and helped direct these forcible cell extractions. The violence was completely unnecessary, not only because the protesters were already in jail, but because a solution could have been worked out with their attorneys. All charges against the protestors were dropped. They later filed a lawsuit claiming excessive force. After years of expensive litigation, the City settled the lawsuit for about $25,000 in damages without acknowledging wrongdoing.

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More information:

The biotech protesters, who were afraid to be separated as a result of their mistreatment, did not refuse to be booked, but asked that they be kept at least in groups of two.  Sheriff’s officials warned them that if they did not submit individually to booking, the Department would tack on an extra charge of Penal Code § 148 (resisting, delaying, interfering).

The groups of men and women (held separately) asked questions of their jailers, considered the sanction, and decided by consensus that they would risk the extra charge in order to remain together for their safety.  Their lawyers advised them that the charge would be untenable.  In fact, the Court soon agreed, finding that it could not be imposed as a matter of law.

Miyamoto and other Sheriff’s officials NEVER warned the protesters that deputies were planning to use force, i.e. strap on Robocop uniforms, storm into the cells, and bodily rip the protesters apart from one another — injuring them, terrifying them, and dramatically compounding the mistreatment they had already suffered.

It is a basic tenet of civil rights law that force which is unnecessary in the first place is unreasonable. “[W]here there is no need for force, any force used is constitutionally unreasonable.”  Fontana v. Haskin, 262 F.3d 871, 880 (9th Cir. 2001). “The force which was applied must be balanced against the need for that force:  it is the need for force which is at the heart of the Graham factors.”  Liston v. County of Riverside, 120 F.3d 965, 976 (9th Cir. 1997), quoting Alexander v. City and County of San Francisco, 29 F.3d 1355, 1367 (9th Cir. 1994).

San Francisco is a crucible for political, social and artistic expression and innovation.  Arrests of protesters are common here, especially now in the midst of the national Occupy movement’s challenge to corporate dominance and economic disparity. San Francisco must be kept safe for free expression. Sheriff’s candidate Paul Miyamoto has shown that he has no compunction against using totally gratuitous violence on peaceful protesters. A vote for him is a vote for further police repression. His “experience” is anathema to San Francisco, and to the most exciting grassroots challenge to authoritarianism and repression in decades.

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